Complex organizations and complex work processes are not uncommon. That they impact productivity, one way or the other, is a truism which management gurus have been grappling with, based on various business scenarios. And one mantra that has made a significant contribution to productivity is re-engineering the work processes or simply put – simplifying the workflow.
One critical input in this re-engineering process is the workforce. Invariably, employees are unaware of the complications they are dealing with, within the system. More often, poor processes, confusing role definitions or unclear responsibilities have a snowballing effect on individual productivity, in turn affecting the entire group or system. Focus on institutional intricacy at the expense of an individual can lead to wasted effort or even organizational damage. Hence, it is pre-requisite on the part of the human resources manager to understand what creates complexity for most employees and tailor work accordingly, discarding whatever that does not add value and channeling work to employees who can handle the intricacies effectively.
Process improvement comes from analyzing and re-engineering work processes to eliminate unnecessary steps and save time that instead could be used for other productive purposes. Leading managers committed to process improvement take the Six Sigma approach that defines, measures, analyzes, improves and controls, an approach that has guaranteed incremental results. Making the workforce understand and comply with the simplified processes aids in the smooth functioning of the system as opposed to a bureaucratic approach which creates unnecessary layers and controls, thus becoming cumbersome and sometimes unproductive. Innovative processes that bridge time and enhance productivity should be the focal point.
A true cultural shift like this can take its own time and may require enterprise-wide cooperation. There are steps around Learning & Development which can be incorporated into a team’s daily task list which factors in productivity.
1. Minimize employee onboarding processes - The long-winded orientations can be eliminated by offering on-demand learning during an employees’ onboarding. The orientation can be focused on the basics, with a brief Q&A meeting with the employees when they have a better grasp of their responsibilities.
2. Model job processes diligently - A job process can be designed in such a way so that it makes the employee more creative and have ample free time to pursue his/her other passions.
3. Phase out unnecessary meetings –To make the process less complex one should try to conduct his/her own meetings and audits without involving too many people in it. Give up meetings, events and team gatherings that don’t add value or have outlived their original objective.
4. Encourage evaluation in minimum loops - Post completing a benchmark event or milestone, the HR can send a mini-review to participants requesting a tweet-length answer about their team or peers on the initiative, performance or critical skills, and seek advice on what should be improved for the next time round.
5. Regulate an email-free time zone – Morning emails should be moderated in organizations so that employees focus and allocate time for ideating or completing tasks.
6. Phase out or reassess annual performance reviews – Many organizations are doing away with paperwork. Instead of reserving feedback for a once-a-year exercise, HR managers are interacting in a frequent and less formal ways for real-time improvement. For example, consider linking assessment criteria to strategy, so that employees can understand how their performance affects the business from a strategic standpoint.
7. End meetings 15 minutes before the hour - Standardize the 45-minute meeting schedule, enabling employees to make their next meeting or call in a timely manner.
8. Introduce meeting-free day at work – Many organizations have started encouraging meeting free days/day in a week so that employees can devote uninterrupted time for valuable work.
9. Deviate weekly calls to bimonthly - The frequency of weekly touch-point calls with senior leadership can be turned to bimonthly, saving time and increasing the quality of information exchanged.
These tips can encourage simplification at the workplace, thus helping promote a less complex mindset and improving productivity. Rewarding employees who embrace simplicity or who propose new ways to cut the clutter opens up a window of opportunity for the organization.