Occasionally when speaking to folks about Employee Engagement and Leadership I get asked questions like this (and I'm paraphrasing of course)
"In addition to our focused Employee Engagement efforts, where else can we tweak day-to-day activities to benefit the workforce and the business"
Organizations, leadership, middle managers and employees should always be on the lookout for ways to make the workplace a better place to work. Whether it's tweaking a process, upgrading equipment, using better software or other
So I've put together a few discombobulated ideas that are either my own, I've plagiarized from others or are products/services that I have previously used.
In Part 1 I look at a couple of workplace activities and traits that I think hinder success and in Part 2 I'll recommend some office software (Note – I have zero affiliation with any product or service I mention in the second part of this article. I am simply either a current/prior user of it)
Part 1 - Activities and Traits
An unfortunate necessity in almost all lines of business. Critiqued them for being too long or short, too many or too few attendees, are poorly run and loose focus, etc... I could write for days on these topics but one thing that always amazes me is the days and times people schedule meetings (and are then surprised by the lack of attendance and participation)
Let's start with the timing. Even in organizations that adhere to specific business hours, people still have personal items to take care of such as doctor visits, kids doctors, etc.. and usually try to schedule these for mornings or evenings. Mornings are even more susceptible to people being unavailable due to car trouble, commuting delays, etc...
Therefore, try to start meetings no earlier than 1 hour after expected start of business day, nor end a meeting in the last hour of the business day. For example, no meetings commence before 10:00 AM or conclude after 4:00 PM. It's not always possible but certainly bear it in mind for frequent or recurring meetings.
Also, don't forget to take time zones into account. Your 2:30 PM meeting in L.A. is a major drag on the dinner/evening plans of attendees in New York, Atlanta and Miami.
Not all days are created equally. The best days of the week to have meetings are Tuesdays and Wednesdays as both are mid-week when people are usually in work. They also allow follow up activities and action items to occur the very next day.
Thursday is Ok but the risk of people being out the following day still exists and hence can limit your 'follow-up' and immediate action items.
Monday has the potential for people being out of the office for a long weekend or not totally focused on work following the weekend (especially the morning).
Friday sucks for a number of reasons. People frequently to take Friday's off for a 3 (or 4) day weekend, cannot work on actions items the next day and will likely forget things by Monday, ...and let's face it... who likes meetings on a Friday?
To recap the best days to have meetings (in order of effectiveness) are; Tuesday » Wednesday » Thursday » Monday » Friday
Multi-Tasking (Time Management)
OK...we've all seen job postings where "the ideal candidate will be able to multi-task in a fast-paced environment"
Give me a break...please. Multi-Tasking is a stupid buzzword form the 80's that has no formal place in the work environment.
If you want multiple things done poorly or take longer than you expect...then by all means multi-task till your heart's content.
Try this simple test if to see how inefficient multi-tasking is...
Spell your name out loud while writing in uppercase I LOVE ZESTY SPAGHETTI
In reality, an efficient person will do things sequentially OR can focus on one and switch to the other in an orderly fashion. Yes of course there will be times when something crops up that you have to address, but this should not be the norm.
It's a good idea to determine the 3 or more things that you need to focus on and set deadlines to do them. You can keep a longer list for sure, but better to prioritize no more than 5 at a time.
Part 2 - Business Tools
Having the right tools for any job will improve the chances of success. While the people part of any effort is still the most important aspect, if they have the tools to succeed they probably will.
I have always been a huge fan of Microsoft SharePoint. Even the free version is full of great features that let everyone work together and share ideas.
It's great for document management and revision control rather than saving documents on file servers or (horror of horrors) using email to send versions back and forth between the team. You can set up blogs and wikis, and use lists for all sorts of cool things like action items, contacts, open issues, sales leads, etc... There are also surveys, workspaces and shared calendars. And of course, it integrates masterfully with your favorite MS Office applications.
G Suite by Google (formerly known as Google Apps) is also a good option. While not as robust as SharePoint it still offers plenty in the way of document sharing, conferencing, calendars and more.
Let's go back to meetings for a second. We all know online meetings or webinars have become extremely popular and bring remote or dispersed coworkers within easy reach of each other. Two of my favorite tools for this are Skype and Freeconferencecall.com. I personally also like Google hangouts...but have a harder time convincing others to jump on board with that one.
Basically, every website I've built for the better part of a decade (I'm also a former programmer/developer) has been built on the Joomla CMS framework. Not only is it incredibly easy to setup and start publishing pages and articles such as this one, but there is a huge amount of 3rd party components (free and paid) that you simply install and configure. You can create an online store, photo gallery, real estate listings and much more.
There is a very active online community always eager to help each other out with questions or just asking for ideas on how to best implement something.
I've tried several hosting solutions over the years but have been with BlueHost for over 5 years now. Not only is their uptime and performance level high, they are very responsive to any questions or issues I occasionally have. The control panel is well laid out and full of useful tools. They also have a plethora of applications that you can install with just a few clicks which helps make your tech life easier.
For everyday accounting, invoicing, payroll etc... my personal preference is QuickBooks invoicing tool from Intuit. Having tried many others (and most are decent) I found the variety of options to fit differing business sizes to be a deciding factor. The ability to quickly set everything up based on a few questions and connect to my business banking accounts was extremely welcome. It was simple to start invoicing, make payments, run payroll and manage taxes.
In addition, the very clean and modern interface made it easy to use...even for me who has always found the world of accounting to be quite bizarre.
PayPal also makes my list as a business tool. What was once a mechanism to send money between family and friends has now become a valuable addition to any organization. In fact, you probably see many online stores or charities now have an option to pay/donate via PayPal.
They have decent rates for credit card processing and you can get their mobile card readers to accept in person payments at your store, trade show or wherever simply by using it with a phone or tablet.
Marketing and Design
For years I used very basic graphics tools and was hesitant to make the splash for anything too intricate or complex (not to mention costlier). However, in the past few years I have jumped in with PhotoShop and boy am I glad I did.
Yes, there certainly is a learning curve but there is an endless supply of online users willing to help and plenty of YouTube videos that walk you through what initially appears to be very daunting. Once you start to get to grips with it, things start to fall into place and your creativity starts to take over.
I produce most of the videos that you see on this website and I use Cyberlink Powerdirector. It may not be up there with Apple Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, but I'm not working on something for the Cannes Film Festival. I find the features of Powerdirector to be fine for what I need (Greenscreen, transition effects, audio editing, etc...) and it is pretty easy to pick up.
For royalty free stock images that I use online and in articles I recommend 123rf.com Many of the images on here can be found on other sites but I just like the ease of use of their site and they have also been responsive whenever I've had a query.
So there you have it. A few (very personal) recommendations on bringing higher efficiency to the workplace. By thinking about and implementing ways to become more effecient (preferably with the teams input) you help reinforce your commitment to the team and the organizations objectives. This is one (of mny) good ways to build culture and engagement.
I would love to hear your own ideas or even counterpoints to anythign I've written above. Please drop me a note or comment below.