In today’s economy, it has become expedient for organisations to take a deeper and more critical look at their operations with a view to achieving optimisation through the efficiency and effectiveness of its workforce. Why? Organisations with goals such as improved quality, better customer experience, reduced operational or overhead costs understand that their processes, and the people who drive those processes, are not a one-size-fits-all, thus giving room for improvement.
Where deficiencies are identified, it behoves management to seek out ways to improve on them. This could come in different ways and may be as varied as the business models, structures, processes and even external factors such as the industries where these organisations operate. One common denominator when optimising or revamping operations for better performance is the need to document and measure existing procedures and processes such that it forms the baseline from which assessment and improvement can be measured.
Measuring is a critical factor in the quest for improved operational efficiency. However, many organisations still struggle in this area and it is not for lack of trying. Measuring, as a tool for improving operational efficiency, is only as effective as the data processed. Where there is no baseline, there is nothing to measure current performance by; no ‘ground zero’, if you must. There must be a point from which you can say, “This is where we were before. This is where we are now”.
But having that baseline alone cannot bring the improvement every business craves. There must be periodic assessments. For instance, are we looking at employee performance? How can one ascertain if an employee is doing well if, for example, he was not given a job description when he joined the organisation, and such employee is not appraised at intervals to determine if they are indeed living up to the organisation’s expectations? How can we know if our products or services are what they should be if there is no quality control process in place to measure our delivery against our service promise?
Let’s consider an example such as employee time management vis-à-vis attendance records. In this clime where the ‘African Time’ paradigm is considered our own eccentricity, even fate, it is commonplace to find employees who clock in late passionately resist corrective measures. Unfortunately, the African Time syndrome is not restricted to late attendance alone. You often find it evident in late project delivery, shooting deadlines, missing appointments, or a worrisome apathy towards work in general.
In such scenarios, once a baseline is set, there are various ways one can then begin to measure the level of performance of the workforce. At this point, it is important that such baseline is communicated to all stakeholders to reduce allegations of witch-hunt; sadly, a common occurrence. Still on the matter of time management; attendance measurement is solved by a register, a movement log or a digital clock-in device. Where it has to do with project delivery, both in quality and timeliness, the baseline can be a detailed work plan which helps the team know what to do and when. Measurements, in this instance, can form daily or weekly reports indicating the percentage of completion alongside time spent. The deployment of scorecards to measure and improve the next phase or to measure the use of internal or external resources in order to reduce costs is also worth noting.
This type of measurement-cum-analysis is not limited to attendance or time management alone. It can also be done at an enterprise level to assess to what extent a new initiative, process or standard operating procedure has become acceptable, is being practised and its level of effectiveness.
Ill-defined processes and procedures, shabby staff training as well as weak reporting and appraisal systems often lead to a huge drop in operational efficiency. Organisations desperate to make a significant change must be prepared to carry out thorough reviews and assessments in order to determine their specific challenges and tackle them head-on.
By integrating workflows, reducing manual processes, becoming more employee-attentive, providing easy access to information, allowing for transparent processes, and leveraging on technology, many organisations have improved operational efficiency within their set-up. The good thing is that there are tools and IT solutions that make this a seamless process. The homegrown TAMS time-management focused biometric solution is one of the tools offering a wide variety of productivity and HRM solutions that have supported many organisations in their quest for excellence through its custom offerings.
The idea of achieving operational efficiency is at once enticing and daunting. However, tapping into proven methods can make it a lot easier. The battle to attain productivity at a consistent level is intense in Nigeria and may seem near impossible, but many organisations are quickly learning that with a framework for incremental improvement, they are nearer their desired target than ever before.
Omatseye Oti is the Chief Operating Officer at TRW Consult, a new generation marketing communications agency.