In this piece, we summarise a few good ideas we’ve come across to improve productivity.
Have the right technology, properly implemented to support the end-to-end process.
Solutions which enable teams to plan, discuss, execute, and track work centrally can encourage better collaboration and improve productivity. However, it is not just about the features of the technology, important though they are. Success depends on ensuring the technology is implemented to support the business process and has the buy-in of end users. To identify areas that could be improved through automation, a good idea is to ask staff where they feel a task could be automated – some of the best ideas can come from frontline personnel. We have successfully implemented the Mattersmith Productivity Centre to improve the speed and efficiency with which legal teams can work internally and deliver their service to internal and external clients. Automated playbooks ensure accuracy and consistency, and management information is delivered via the dashboard.
Flexible working – a 2020 University of Essex report indicates that in sectors where home working is practical and supported, productivity during the pandemic’s lockdown not only remained stable but often increased.
As staff return to the office, consideration is being given to flexible working. Remote working with centralised technology can help teams deal with clients and colleagues in a flexible and agile manner. The Doc-Tracker tool of our Productivity Centre can act as a repository of key documents and incorporates a messaging feature which allows team members to communicate both internally and with clients. The Knowledge tool is a unique way of creating a visual single point of truth of key documents and assets.
Varying deliverable output – where practicable, vary your employees’ tasks. Variation from their usual tasks can be a positive motivator to prevent boredom or feeling stifled and so increase productivity.
Varied tasks (even if only occasional) can encourage employees to:
- see things from a different perspective which can be refreshing and so encourage engagement and productivity;
- improve personally and professionally;
- expand their skillsets; and
- gain a better understanding of your business.
By way of example, Mattersmith analysts are encouraged to expand their skills in legal ontology engineering to create automated playbooks and visualise complex contracts using the graph database underpinning our Knowledge tool, in addition to their work of reviewing NDAs and other everyday contracts.
Training programmes – teach new skills but importantly, refresh old skills too, which can lead to small repeated mistakes being eliminated and improve employee confidence.
Designing a training programme can highlight to employees that your business cares about their personal development. A survey by PwC revealed that millennial respondents named training and development (and flexible working opportunities) over financial benefits. Satisfaction is essential for a productive workplace. Employees are satisfied when they’re given the skills and knowledge they need to best perform their duties. Training is an important step in providing the skills your employees need to perform their best and to develop as professionals. The Mattersmith Platform is ideal for training junior staff about the content of contracts, the interrelationship of clauses within them, and the variations that commonly exist. Automated playbooks and guidance fosters self-confidence and minimises the risk of mistakes.
According to the Harvard Business Review, resumption of productive work after a break can take 15 minutes, and reducing meeting load can release additional time over and above the time saved on meetings themselves.
A few simple but often overlooked steps can reduce meeting overload appreciably. Keep meetings short and focused. Make the purpose of the meeting clear to manage expectations and keep attendees on point. Ensure every meeting has an agenda and where possible a time allocation for each item. Stick to it, allocating one attendee with the role of timekeeper if necessary.
Realistic goal setting – outline clear objectives and paths for the most important productivity variables.
The now widely accepted practices suggested by Locke and Latham including ‘SMART’ goals in their 1990 book ‘A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance’, summarised here, confirm this principle (and some of the other points in this piece). Be realistic in setting goals to avoid disenchanting staff. Compare outcomes with goals set and analyse with staff to see where elements can be improved. Set larger goals and smaller ones. Break the larger goals down in to smaller segments to make them more attainable. Compare outcomes to the goals set to analyse what was and what was not achieved to see where improvements can be made. Use SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based) to help set goals. For example, instead of the vague goal ‘Help the team communicate better’, Using SMART, you might say, ‘Improve team communication and free up wasted time by implementing a team messaging solution within two weeks, with the aim of cutting time spent on messaging from an average of 1 hour to 30 minutes per day, per team member, within 1 month.’
Engaging with employees – happy employees are better engaged and help to create better outputs.
Not always about financial reward, employees are more likely to be engaged if they find their work personally rewarding and feel like they are being listened to on a human level. Gallup’s 2021 State of the Global Workplace Report says that only 15% of the full-time workforce are ‘engaged’ (involved in and enthusiastic about their work). It should go without saying that taking an interest in what some is doing shows you value them, but not all managers are good at doing so. Seek employee opinions on how they might approach a challenge you have. Reward with praise and encouragement and constructive criticism. Listen to employee aims and see how you can set out a plan to help them achieve their goals. Where appropriate, try to let employees manage aspects of their roles themselves where presently such aspects may be the responsibility of their line manager. This frees up management time and gives the employee a sense of autonomy. This also ties in with the importance of managers delegating unimportant tasks and replacing them with value-added ones: Harvard Business Review research indicates that this can free up as much as much as 20% of workday time.