Many smaller businesses have successfully weathered the storm of the pandemic so far but no one can afford to let productivity slip in these uncertain times. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of embracing constant innovation and agility for survival in business.
David McLaughlin, Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Chartered Management Consultant, argues now is the time to at least carry out a “quick and dirty review” of the health of your business and make the changes to strengthen and improve productivity.
He says: “Keeping customers is more vital than ever, so you need to re-evaluate your business goals. Use social media, your website, technology and every feedback tool at your disposal to determine your customers’ needs and to see if you are meeting them in productive ways. Be prepared to drop products and services no longer wanted and offer different products and services where you can be more productive.”
Supply chain security
Of course, it’s vital to have a sound, reliable supply chain to maintain productivity, particularly when they’re based outside the UK. Dr Elaine Garcia, Senior Programme Leader at the London School of Business and Finance, recommends diversifying your supply chain as soon as possible. “It’s wise to identify and select more than one supplier for essential products or services as a back-up so you’re not left stranded if they let you down, or fold.
“In these volatile times you need to anticipate both shortages of products and potential surges in demand, so good communications with suppliers is essential to ensure that you can have what you need to remain productive.”
Keeping employees engaged is vital too, Elaine argues. “A worried workforce is not a productive workforce, so you must keep them on board and informed on the direction of the business.
David Mclaughlin agrees that productivity and employee engagement are intrinsically interlinked. “Employees need to know what outcomes the business needs, how they can deliver them, and how they’ll be supported in that,” he says.
The main reason people are unproductive is usually poor management, so evaluate your management team carefully and consider providing coaching and training to help them get the most out of your workforce, many of whom may now be working in very different environments, remotely or from home.
In the face of these new challenges, technology has an important role to play in improving productivity but this involves much more than giving everyone a laptop and asking them to work remotely.
Elaine advises: “Assess your needs and if technology can help increase your productivity, acquire it now. At the same time, see what you can access quickly, free or cheaply, particularly social media. For example, use Facebook to provide automatic answers when people message you, learn google analytics, exploit cloud systems and instant messaging, and make more effective use of phones and tablets.”
Entrepreneur Ben Michaels, MD of digital marketing agency ThinkEngine, has found that cloud-driven business chat software combined with project and task management software has improved internal productivity of his business during the Covid crisis. “Chat software replaces email, internally and with clients and business partners, who really like it. Chat is more immediate and responsive and has speeded up communications, leading to a 25% reduction in time spent emailing.
“Task management software allows us to manage projects in a collaborative way, improving efficiency by keeping projects moving at a greater rate, enhancing the overall pace of work by about 15%.” Both technologies fit together neatly to provide a joint productivity boost.
Summing up, he says: “Entrepreneurs should always be looking ahead to embrace the next new technologies that will make them more productive in the face of unforeseen challenges like Covid.”
The opinions expressed by third parties are their own and not necessarily shared by St. James’s Place Wealth Management.