Despite advances in technology, productivity in Britain is still lagging behind the rest of Europe, with official statistics finding that workers in Britain are about 20 per cent less productive than the United States, Germany and France, and productivity has barely grown since the financial crisis.

Recent research also suggests that there’s a productivity perception gap, with many senior decision makers rating their processes as efficient, but over half still spending the equivalent of a working month on administrative tasks per year.

While it is unsurprising that business leaders assume their company processes are efficient, the findings suggest that they’re overestimating just how productive they are. And if business leaders are wasting this much time on admin, it is fair to say that this problem will run right through the organisation.  

Furthermore, if management and other employees are wasting time on inefficient processes, then attention will be diverted away from long term planning, strategy, personal development, and that of employees.

With an uncertain economic outlook, the UK finds itself at a crucial juncture for business, and in order to weather the tide, business leaders need to take charge of company productivity.

Identify the weak spots in productivity

Business leaders should conduct an audit of where they are spending their time, to build an honest picture of where improvements could be made. However, given the broad range of departments and processes carried out in the day to day running of a business, pinpointing what’s holding the company back can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Given this, and in light of the fact that business leaders are already over-estimating their company’s efficiency, it is clear that to get an accurate picture, they should be going directly to the source: their employees.

Whether it is deploying collaboration tools, transferring core functions to the cloud for real time progress reports, or simply appraising well-being culture, understanding what needs to be improved will put firms in a stronger position when weathering an unpredictable economic climate.

Invest in the right technology

As well as surveying employees in the business, it is also important to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the technology infrastructure already used within the business, to see where improvements and investments can be made. The good news is that there is a plethora of enterprise tools on the market for companies of all sizes, that aim to make processes more efficient.

For many businesses, it starts with moving data away from excel sheets (or even paper) and into a system such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to go a long way to building the productivity puzzle. ERP systems can also centralise a number of other business processes, including CRM, financials, stock levels and sales.

Technology-savvy organisations can easily enhance the ERP system by implementing advanced solutions such as AI-based chat bots, IoT sensors and more to further streamline and accelerate their operations.

However, new technology can also be daunting for some businesses, and is often put to one side, as concerns about costs or disruptions to the business are pushed to the forefront. According to a report from Bloor Research, 30 per cent of data migration projects fail, and 38 per cent run overtime, or over-budget, so it’s important to get it right.

It is also important to keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all solution might not work for everyone. The same analytics tool that’s used for a sales team in London might not be appropriate for the team in New York.

Arm employees with the tools to work remotely

While the productivity related benefits of mobile working are tangible, the unfortunate reality is that many companies are lagging behind. In a recent survey, over a third of senior decision makers did not have the correct technology to support mobile working, and 43 per cent could not perform business-critical functions on mobile application.

The good news is that the technology exists to make this possible. Modern ERP systems now support mobile application generators, which allows everyone from CEOs to HR to sales to to create a range of applications from their mobiles, and use them to access relevant data and perform core business processes no matter where they are.

They can be created in a matter of minutes, and don’t require high levels of IT knowledge. So, a sales rep can be in the field and still have the ability to check factory stock levels, get in touch with delivery drivers, and perform transactions, without having to be at a computer.  

Put your employees first

The happier your employees, the more productive they are going to be. Unfortunately there’s still a stigma within the UK that longer hours and working through lunch breaks equates to increased productivity. Indeed, a recent survey found that almost a third of senior decision makers were taking a full lunch break less than once per week. While this might create the illusion of productivity, working through lunch while wasting time on inefficient tasks points to poor time management, and ultimately, an unhappier and less efficient workforce.

It is also important to adopt a flexible working culture that permeates throughout the company, and isn’t just reserved for the elite, so that employees can work according to the schedules that work best for them.

Finally, business leaders should also take into account the importance of both mental and physical health, and ensure that the working environment does not cause either to suffer.

With so many trade bodies, think tanks and financial analysts all calling for a rise in enterprise productivity, it has never been more crucial for businesses to take action. Business leaders have a clear understanding of where processes are falling down, and should arm their employees with the tools they need to plug the gaps and work efficiently.