Efficient Operations: How to Improve Business Workflows and Processes | Have you ever tried to have a spring clean at the office and found yourself wasting time? It’s the same every time. By the time you’ve finished, it’s back how it was before!
Well, chances are your business is suffering from a poor workflow. And, we aren’t only talking about your spring cleaning technique.
A well-run business with efficient business processes reduces your need to clean. Either you’re saving enough money to hire a cleaner, or you’re on top of everything!
So how can you improve your processes and streamline business workflows? Read on as we delve deeper into some tips and pointers.
Conduct Workflow Analysis
The first step in improving workplace efficiency is understanding your processes. That means conducting a thorough analysis of all aspects of the operation.
Factors include its purpose, who performs each task, or where and when those tasks take place. Once this is complete, then you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement.
For example, suppose one person takes longer than others to complete certain tasks. Suppose there could be more people doing them instead. Or someone isn’t performing their job well due to lack of training.
Whatever the case may be, once you know what needs changing, you can make improvements and streamline workflows as and when.
Check Your Competitors
Of course, you won’t be able to delve deep into a competitor’s entire workflow. But for the more visible parts, don’t forget to conduct a SWOT workflow analysis on your competitors. SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
It helps you understand why competitors might be successful while yours struggles. You can also use this information to help develop new products and services.
For example, suppose you find that your customer service scores are low. Thus, a competitor has won an award in this area.
Run an anonymous test call on both companies and look at the difference. Do they have a shorter switchboard message, for example?
Free Up Time and Money Will Follow
We’re taught from day one that minimizing costs is key to running a successful business. But what isn’t always clear is how to start the process. Well, freeing up time might be one of the most important things you’ll learn about improving your workflow.
Because by reducing time spent on tasks, you free up valuable resources such as staff members’ time. This frees up money, too, because if you save staff time, you reduce payroll expenses.
In addition, you’ll see better results overall. For instance, if you spend less time completing a project, you’ll get more done. So, you’ll finish sooner and thus save even more time.
This will lead to greater productivity and ultimately higher profits.
For Long-Term Gains, Streamline Onboarding
Once you’ve conducted your analysis, if it’s clear that any issues with your workflow are thanks to a poor onboarding structure, then prevention is better than the cure. So focus on your onboarding and HR processes first.
Think about the finer details that are causing staff to be unproductive or leave so early. Then try to fix these problems before hiring new employees.
You should aim to create a smooth transition between employee and company. And this includes everything from getting paid promptly to having access to office supplies.
If you do need to hire additional staff, ensure that they receive proper training and support. In other words, train them properly and give them the tools they need to succeed.
And finally, remember that good communication skills go hand in hand with effective onboarding.
Filter Work Processes
Unproductive business processes get in the way and cause backlogs in your flow. Do you need to file every document printed, or is having three backups on the cloud enough?
Analyzing your workflow helps you understand which flows need further attention. Suppose you find that certain steps don’t seem necessary anymore. Then you might want to consider removing these steps altogether.
An example of this can be having everyone sign off on documents before sending them out.
In the above example, you’ll save a ton of paper and money, as well as time. Plus, your staff will spend less time lingering around the photocopier. That in itself improves your work efficiency.
Improve Communication Between Staff Members
Better communication between employees also improves workflow. But often, you need to give them the tools to be more productive.
For instance, suppose you notice that certain members of staff tend to get stuck with tasks. Try assigning them different roles. You could assign specific duties to individuals based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Delegation in this way means no member of staff gets left behind. It also allows you to delegate responsibilities more efficiently. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that everything gets handled correctly.
Boost Team Morale
Much of this comes with improved communication, but it’s vital to note because there are many other ways you can boost team morale.
When employees feel valued by their employers, they’re happier and more productive. When you automate your workflow, it allows them to contribute meaningfully to your company while freeing up valuable time to innovate and grow.
If you want happy clients, then provide excellent customer service. If you need help managing client expectations, let them know how quickly you’ll respond to requests and follow up on issues. If you want happy customers, make sure you deliver what you promise.
And if you want happy employees, treat them like people first. They deserve respect and recognition.
Create Standard Operating Procedures
Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) means every aspect of your operations runs like clockwork. These SOPs should include details about the type of equipment used.
It should also include safety measures taken and quality control checks performed. They should also outline procedures actioned at every stage of the manufacturing process.
These guidelines allow you to keep track of important information. Such information includes deadlines, costs incurred, materials required, and other relevant data points.
Also, they provide a roadmap for future projects. These ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Always Have a Plan B
When an issue arises during production, having defined processes in place helps ensure that all parties know their role and responsibilities so everyone knows who should take care of which tasks when something goes wrong. It also ensures that no one has forgotten anything important.
Workflow diagrams allow you to quickly identify where things went awry and why. You can then determine if there was any miscommunication between team members or whether someone forgot to do something. This makes it easier to pinpoint what needs fixing.
If you have a plan B ready, you won’t waste valuable resources trying to fix a problem only to realize later that you didn’t have a backup solution.
If you can automate it, then automate it. Automation saves both time and resources. In doing so, it allows you to focus on higher-level activities rather than mundane ones.
There are many ways in which automation can improve business processes—these range from automating email responses to scheduling meetings via an online calendar.
The key thing here is to choose tools that work best for your organization. Some companies use software designed for managing large amounts of data.
Yet, others prefer simpler solutions. Either way, there’s bound to be something available that works for your operation.
The other advantage of automation is that you can automate your workflow analysis! Use time-tracking software, complaints, and conversion rates. These factors determine which areas of your workflow are causing backlogs.
They might not always be the most obvious ones behind the scenes. But often, they are something the customer notices at their end.
Review, Review, Review
Finally, review all aspects of your business often—this process includes reviewing how things have been going over the past few months or years. If anything seems out of place, make sure to fix it before it becomes too late.
You should schedule small reviews monthly. Consider a quarterly procedural review that’s more extensive. You’ll find any problems early enough so that they don’t become major issues later down the line.
You never know when someone else may come along who could take advantage of any gaps in your system. That can be either a new member of the team or leadership restructuring. Companies like Workiva are great at highlighting these, and they can improve your workflow in no time.
Improve Your Business Workflows Today
Suppose you’re willing to put some effort into streamlining your business workflows. You can expect significant gains concerning productivity.
In no time, you can reduce waste and boost profits. So go ahead and start implementing new ideas today! By making small changes to how things operate, you’ll notice a difference.
Keep checking our content for more advice to improve your business!