In December, Director held a sponsored webinar sharing insights from three strong advocates of workplace efficiency. Here is a summary of the session, including their tips on improving productivity
Productivity growth among leading industrialised nations is weak – and the UK lags behind other advanced economies in terms of output per hour worked. A failure to improve productivity harms the global competitiveness of British firms, so what can their leaders do to make each hour worked really count?
In conjunction with Nuance Communications, a pioneering innovator in artificial intelligence, Director recently held a webinar to look more closely at efficiency. From effective prioritisation to the smarter use of email, can small changes add up to big savings?
Joining us to share their insights were Richard Maybury, an expert in workplace efficiency and director of Attitude Solutions; Gary May, MD of Freedom of Speech, a provider of speech-recognition software; and Graeme Blenkinsopp, MD of Wisemove Land and Property Consultants. Here are some of the highlights from their discussion.
Work smarter, not harder
People can’t simply be expected to work harder, Maybury argued in the opening presentation. They need to be helped to work in smarter ways, both individually and in teams. The workplace is often focused on collaboration, he added, but to make this work there needs to be a set of principles, processes and tools that unite a diverse group of people in working towards a common goal.
Maybury then outlined his productivity principles. These included encouraging proactive behaviour, such as setting email software to open on priority lists rather than an inbox; using fewer tools and integrating these better; and focusing on high-priority tasks.
Improve accessibility and efficiency
After describing how the Access to Work scheme can help employers obtain funding for software to help disabled employees and those with long-term health conditions remain productive, May explained how businesses can use IT such as voice-recognition software to improve their efficiency.
He cited the example of a GP’s surgery that had adopted voice-recognition software to complete a range of basic tasks by stringing together processes – for instance, creating referral letters – into voice-activated commands. This efficiency improvement enabled the surgery to see four more patients every day, May said.
Free people to add greater value
Blenkinsopp spoke of how adopting new technology had helped his consultancy to become more efficient.
Previously, he explained, consultants would dictate their reports on to audio tapes and then hand these to their secretaries to create the documents. These would not be sent out until 24 or even 48 hours later. This was too slow, so the business invested in voice-recognition and transcription software. Now he can dictate to the computer, watch the words appear on screen, make his changes and send the report.
The software has not only accelerated the reporting process; it has also given the secretaries more time to do other customer-centric, value-adding work, Blenkinsopp said. This factor has made his business even more productive.
The webinar audience asked the speakers for their thoughts on efficiency and workflow
What is the main productivity problem facing UK firms?
Richard Maybury: The biggest challenge is that not everyone works in the same way or uses the same technology. We must recognise individuality, but when we’re driving a project through the business towards the client we need to sacrifice some of the personal aspects for a common set of standards and an approach that the team can use to work better together.
A poll of the webinar audience asked: “What is the biggest barrier to improving your efficiency?” Nearly a third said “email”. Can you relate to that?
Graeme Blenkinsopp: Using email is a considerable part of our business. We receive bank value instructions via email and our service agreements oblige us to respond to these within 24 hours. Doing that with our old system was nigh-on impossible. Now, with our transcription software system, we have improved our productivity hugely.
Can you explain what voice-activated workflow is and what it can do for a business?
Gary May: In an application where a user would click for a procedure, such as opening a document or starting a workflow, what you’re doing is gluing processes together and strapping them in as a voice command. So, if I were to say “new document” or “date-stamp that”, it would go through those processes to save someone having to do them manually. With one word, you can undertake 15 processes. You can then say: “Send that email to Paul and copy in John.” When you add up all those processes, there is a definite time saving.