From attending meetings and returning phone calls, to submitting expenses and replying to a constant barrage of emails, business leaders have a huge amount on their plate. And this is before we consider the amount of time it takes to actually lead a team or run a business!
Indeed, with so many administrative tasks to take care of on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that ‘productivity’ has become the buzzword it is today. Businesses in all industries are talking about how they can make their senior employees more productive, primarily by helping them work in smarter, more efficient ways.
In the UK specifically, it is a major issue, with British workers believed to be around 20 per cent less productive than those in the US, Germany and France.
Overcoming this discrepancy by finding ways to maximise efficiency and ensure long-term growth is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing UK businesses. So, where exactly are business leaders spending the bulk of their time and what tasks are causing them to fall down in their quest for perfect productivity?
The business impact of productivity drains
Despite the emphasis on solving the productivity problem, business leaders are still spending a significant portion of their days on time-consuming administrative tasks. In our recent survey of UK senior decision-makers, more than half (53 per cent) of respondents admitted to wasting between 2-4 hours a week on inefficient tasks such as paying bills, collecting customer information and inputting data into online systems. At worst, this adds up to 208 hours a year, equating to more than a whole working month (26 days) wasted on inefficient processes.
Calls and meeting are also proving to be major burdens, with 52 per cent of C-level executives spending more than five hours on external phone calls each week and 50 per cent spending more than ten hours a week in either internal or external meetings.
The issue is that these productivity drains have the potential to significantly impact the future growth and development of UK businesses.
The casualties of poor productivity
When asked what they would do if they had more time, respondents to our survey identified strategy and planning (30 per cent), growing the business (28 per cent) and personal development and self-training (28 per cent) as the top three activities. These are all things that are essential to the long-term success of any business, but are being neglected because senior decision-makers are instead directing their time towards inefficient processes.
Low-value tasks such as data entry, bill paying and inefficient meetings are simply taking up too much time. This is resulting in business leaders dedicating a disproportionate amount of their workloads to day-to-day tasks rather than forward-looking activities, which could result in companies being overtaken by their more industrious competitors.
However, all is not lost. With the rate of innovation and technological development showing no signs of slowing, there are several ways businesses can increase efficiencies and minimise the impact of poor employee productivity.
Plugging the gap
Now is clearly the time for business owners to take charge of their company’s output and this should start by conducting an audit of current activity to establish where employees are spending their time. Given that business leaders consistently overestimate the performance of their business, carrying out this audit will help to identify the weak spots and build an accurate picture of where future improvements can be made.
The next step is to arm employees at all levels with the tools they need to work efficiently and effectively. Businesses should assess their current technology infrastructure to work out where investments can be made, which might consist of deploying collaboration tools, transferring core functions to the cloud, or moving data away from spreadsheets into Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) systems.
However, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So, although there is a plethora of technologies available for businesses to help make processes more efficient, it’s vital that companies take the time to find the tools that best suit their way of working.
Linked to this is the need to exploit the productivity benefits of remote working by implementing technologies that enable employees to work from outside the office – an area where many businesses are still falling short. With the digital innovations available in today’s world, this goes beyond simply giving employees the option of taking a conference call on their phone.
Technology now enables employees at all levels to access relevant data, perform core businesses functions and collaborate with colleagues from wherever they are, without requiring high levels of technical IT knowledge.
The power of ERP
In terms of specific tools, one in particular is changing the game when it comes to productivity: ERP. From sharing company data, to streamlining workflows and unifying internal departments, ERP systems are designed to make business operations as efficient as possible.
For example, ERP software can centralise a number of key businesses processes, including the likes of CRM, financials, monitoring stock levels and tracking sales. Modern ERP systems also support mobile application generators, enabling organisations to easily create applications in a matter of minutes, allowing employees to access the data and documents they need to carry out their jobs outside of the office. What’s more, advanced technologies such as AI-based chatbots and IoT sensors can now enhance ERP systems, enabling businesses to further streamline and accelerate their operations.
Ultimately, our survey shows how important it is for UK businesses to recognise the impact that workplace inefficiencies can have on their future prospects. With long-term strategy, growth and personal development all being overlooked by senior executives in favour of administrative tasks, there is a clear efficiency issue that needs to be addressed.
From enhancing communication, to reducing manual tasks and improving decision-making, implementing the right technology will go a long way towards addressing the casualties of poor productivity and putting businesses in a strong position over the years to come.
Andres Richter, CEO, Priority Software
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock