Higher employee productivity via process improvement
Declining productivity of employees is a common organizational issue. Also common is a certain degree of oblivion as to how employee productivity is perceived. Most businessmen, managers, or supervisors focus on getting the most out of their employees whereas employee productivity is about getting their best performances and productivity levels. Secondly, most businesses misidentify the factors responsible for declining employee productivity.
In this article, we will try to assess how employee productivity can be improved and maintained consistently at desirable levels using process improvement.
Process Improvisation and Employee Productivity
Processes are the operational backbone of any business enterprise. It is clear and established beyond any doubt that process-oriented organizations perform better and more consistently than the ones which are not. Strong processes ensure strict adherence to laid-down operational roadmaps, planned resource utilization, and higher accuracy in terms of output. Keeping these considerations in mind, it becomes clear that business processes need to stay healthy and robust all the time.
And as we speak of employee productivity, business processes have a key role to play here. Processes not only keep the business operations and activities on track but they also constitute a solid platform for keeping employee productivity at check.
So, when we talk about process improvisation, four broad elements are involved which we shall briefly discuss to understand their correlation with employee productivity:
- Business Process Management
- Business Process Improvement
- SOP design and development
- IT-system integration
BPM (Business Process Management)
Business Process Management
is the science and art of building and improving business processes. It involves discovering, modeling, analyzing, measuring, improving, optimizing and automating the business processes of an organization.
BPM is not a technology or automation tool; rather it is a practice to achieve process efficiency across the organization. BPM works in different stages which are identifying weak areas, executing improvement, and then perpetual monitoring of these changes to analyze any difference from the status quo.
BPM is not a one-time activity but is rather a continuous activity which is why periodical process audits and process reviews are so important to keep the business processes fine-tuned to strategic business requirements and business environment.
Successful implementation of BPM
helps in better decision-making, reduced wastage and errors, achieving cost-efficiency and time-saving, process standardization, etc.
Since BPM is an organization-wide practice it can be implemented in all the departments of an organization viz. Finance, Marketing, HR, Sales, Production, Purchasing, etc.
Employee performance and productivity also depend upon the processes that they are supposed to follow. With the right processes in the organization, employees are better directed for improved performance and productivity.
Business Process Improvement (BPI)
infers a holistic and organization-wide effort towards having better business processes, BPI focuses on the improvement of business processes in isolation. Some common BPI techniques are Kaizen, PDCA, Six Sigma, 5S, TQM, etc.
The steps involved in BPI are mapping, analysis, redesign, implementation, reflection and benchmarking. An existing business process is mapped onto a flowchart to understand how it currently works. Then, the process is analyzed to check for any bottlenecks/flaws and to identify further scope for improvement. Thirdly, considering the identified loopholes and opportunities for improvement, the process is redesigned. Once the process design is approved, it goes to the field for implementation but still being under observation or monitoring for further fine-tuning.
To relate BPI with employee productivity, let us use the example of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese term that translates to continuous improvement (over time). Both processes and employees need time to mature and mold performance to get along with business and operational requirements which also change with time. If we are giving time to processes to mature, we must give the corresponding scope to employees as well.
SOP Design and Development
Meaningful and informed process improvisations are not possible in an undefined working environment. A good place to start working on detailed process improvisation is to take up the SOPs. If SOPs are not in place, they have to be designed first. If SOPs are already there, we can straightaway pick them up for analysis and betterment.
SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures
are written set of step-by-step instructions that are to be followed in the execution of a business process/operation. The advantage of framing these SOPs is that the scope of subjectivity gets eliminated. During a process/operation, employees get to know what to do, when to do, how to do, where to do, etc. and the operational standards and expectations to be met. SOPs define the Who, What, Why, Where, When, Whom, and How of a process/operation. It presents the operational roadmap and answers every apprehension an employee might have while working on a process. With the right SOPs in place, employees don’t have to spend time figuring out what needs to be done next, when to be done, who needs to be asked for supervision and approval, and so on. With all these operational priorities and variables addressed, employees can focus better on their job.
SOPs also reduce the burden of supervision, on the part of businessmen, departmental heads, managers, and supervisors; by ensuring that employees have a planned operational roadmap to be followed wherein the operational standards and expectations critical to business processes are already incorporated. SOPs
also make tracking employee productivity easier.
The fourth important element is the integration of process improvement inputs (BPM, BPI, and SOPs) with the IT-system in place. This integration is important because your business management software application needs to be told (programmed, redesigned) how it must process inputs and outputs and take forward the flow of work towards the desired results. This alignment will ensure that your IT-systems in place are in tune with your process design.
With SOPs integrated into the IT-systems of a business enterprise, it becomes far easier for the employees to focus on the quality of work without bothering much about the procedures which are taken care of by ERP or any other business management software application in place.
While the goal of BPM is to achieve organization-wide process excellence BPI nails the case of achieving excellence with individual processes. SOP fine-tunes the procedures to meet the operational standards of performance and output. With the integration of process improvement initiatives with the IT-system in place, the intended operational platform is set for the employees to follow.
In a process-driven organization, the productivity of an employee is embedded in its business processes. The skills, expertise, motivation and morale, or wages and salaries associated with employees would not be of much use if the work processes and procedures are flawed. It is like hiring a chauffeur in a city that is new to him and not letting him know the routes. Irrespective of his experience and skills, no matter how much you stress his productivity, without the route map he will not be able to perform his duties effectively.
On a generic note, process design thinking is critical for effective process development and process improvement.