Jan 072015
 

Without your staff, you would not have a product to sell or a service to deliver to your customers. Yet they are also one of the biggest costs to your business and you’ll want to increase the return on your investment. One way is to increase your team’sproductivity.

There are many ways in which you can achieve this and here are some of the best.

1. Increase Employee Efficiency

One of the best ways that you can improve your employee’s productivity is to increase their effectiveness and utilisation. This should be done by enabling them to complete tasks effectively, i.e. on their first attempt and within a reasonable timeframe. This will create greater capacity and add value to your business without the need to increase the headcount.

To do this you need to understand the tasks of your employees and how long it should take for your staff to complete each task. Then you should monitor their output to ensure that they are keeping up with the time limits that you’ve setup.

If your team is not able to complete the work in time, you need to understand the cause and discover how you can facilitate a more efficient way to complete the tasks.

This can help you increase your staff’s productivity by up to 40%; giving you significant potential for increasing revenue and profit.

2. Employee Engagement

Maintaining your employees happiness is actually one of the best ways you can increase their productivity. According to research from the University of Warwick, making employees happy can improve production by 12%. In creative industries, happy workers can be as much as 50% more productive. In addition, another piece of academic research has found that workers who are happy, will perform their least favourite tasks better.

There are many ways to make employees feel appreciated, such as offering competitive compensation packages, training and rewarding them for good work. Building a relationship where communication is two-way can also create a happy environment.

3. Regular, Balanced and Objective Feedback

For production to improve, you’ll need to ensure your staff are being efficient in their working habits. They may be doing some tasks out of the most effective order. To improve their performance, provide regular meetings to offer guidance and support. At the same time, offer praise for jobs well done.

Here are some tips on how to provide the best feedback:

  • Demonstrate that you care about your employee and you want them to succeed.
  • Ask permission before you provide suggestions.
  • Don’t use negative language.
  • Be specific in your feedback.
  • Be quick. When you’ve noticed something that needs to be addressed, speak to your member of staff promptly.
  • Pick the right time and place to give the feedback to your staff member.

4. Promote Team Working

Team work is one of the best ways to increase productivity within your organisation. By combining your best staff, so they can complement each other’s strengths and provide support for individual weaknesses, you will gain a highly skilled team.

Research has also shown, that in the manufacturing industry, low skilled employees working as a team can have powerful problem solving capability.

5. Working Conditions

Your workers’ mood and productivity levels will make a difference to their productivity. Studies have demonstrated that cold temperatures decrease happiness levels and increase loneliness. This can have a serious impact on your team’s productivity.

Other research has found that maintaining your room temperature between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius will keep employees happy and productive.

Lighting is also important. Low lighting can cause headaches and eye strain that can lower production levels. In fact, 68% of employees consider lighting in their offices to be insufficient. It is important to ensure your staff have access to natural light as this has more benefit than artificial light.

At the same time you should reduce the noise levels within your office. Too much noise has been found to inhibit recall and performance of basic tasks. Therefore, limit noise to only that which is necessary.

Conclusion

You want your teams to be productive. This is the only way you can keep costs the same while improving your profits. Therefore, finding ways to increase your teams’ productivity is essential. Use some of the tips above to increase their production, your revenue and profit.

For further support use our business improvement service. Our clients have found improvement in their staff production of between 10 and 40% and their engagement levels to increase by up to 20%; supporting revenue and profit growth.

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Jan 072015
 

gearsExperts generally advise companies to seek productivity gains continually, not through concentrated productivity-improvement programs. Programs focused on short-term gains tend to be short-lived, especially if they do not achieve quick results. Moreover, experts say it can take as long as five years before measurable improvements are apparent.

Some practices that employers should consider when attempting to improve productivity include:

• managing productivity improvement,

• incorporating technological advances,

• providing training,

• ensuring a safe workplace, and

• improving employee morale.

Each of these efforts is discussed below.

Managing Productivity Improvement

Most experts counsel that increasing productivity is an ongoing process. With that in mind, companies can adopt a number of management practices that, over time, can result in continuing productivity gains. Such management practices include:

Performing a workflow assessment. Before any changes are made, current practices involved in the production of the goods and services should be examined. Reviewing the flow of work can uncover unnecessary steps in the production process, causes of recurring problems, and whether certain resources are being over or underused. Information uncovered in the examination can be used as the basis for goal-setting.

Setting goals. Goals should be clearly defined on an organizational, divisional, departmental, and unit level. Goals become the basis for action plans and periodic evaluations of progress. Productivity goals should be linked to other organizational goals, for example, increasing market share and improving quality.

Communicating goals and policies. Workers need to know what goals have been set and what role employees have in meeting those goals. A mission or policy statement is one way of disseminating that information. Whatever communication vehicle is selected, it should describe management’s commitment and views, assign responsibilities throughout the organization, and state goals clearly. If a time frame has been established as part of the productivity improvement effort, that information should be made known. If an incentive pay system is established, employees must be able to understand the performance measures that will be used and how compensation will be distributed.

Enlisting employee support. Employee cooperation is crucial to any productivity improvement effort. Employees sometimes question management’s motives in implementing changes because they fear productivity improvements will lead to downsizing or other measures harmful to their interests. Employees should be informed about how their efforts contribute to the overall health and competitiveness of the company.

Recognizing improvements. Monetary and nonmonetary recognition of employees’ contributions to increasing productivity is important. If incentive pay is used, separating it from base pay helps to emphasize the benefits of superior performance. Nonmonetary awards should be presented in public with suitable formality and be commensurate with achievements.

Incorporating Technological Advances

Productivity growth can be affected by how readily companies incorporate technological advances into their operations.

Providing Training and Development

Rapid technological changes in many industries, shortages of certain kinds of skilled labor, and literacy deficiencies all contribute to the need for job-related instruction and development.

Employers should establish or make available formal education and training programs that have the following objectives:

Teach employees how to perform new or unfamiliar jobs. This goal can be accomplished through pre-employment training, apprenticeships and internships, skill-based training, cross-training, and retraining.

Help employees improve current job performance. Close monitoring, regular performance evaluations and feedback, and opportunities to participate in on- and off-site training programs and workshops help employees to maintain and improve their skills and subject knowledge.

Ensuring a Safe Workplace

A safe and secure work environment is a fundamental concern of both employers and employees. Consideration of ventilation, noise, lighting, hazard abatement, accident prevention, and security is necessary to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and conducive to high productivity.

Implementing engineering controls to eliminate or minimize workers’ exposure to the potential hazards associated with the workplace environment is essential to maintain productivity and prevent health problems. Problems can be avoided or minimized if employers:

• closely monitor workers’ physical surroundings;

• respond promptly to employees’ complaints about the work environment; and

• correct identified problems.

Improving Morale

Most behavioral scientists view morale as a key to motivation and performance. Creating an environment that motivates employees to perform at high levels requires considering numerous issues, including:

Work environment. The physical conditions of a workplace can influence how employees feel about their jobs and how well they perform. A clean, safe, and secure work environment can promote efficiency and give employees a psychological lift. Personal work space, equipment and furnishings, lighting and acoustics, temperature and air quality, and privacy all figure into the design of a work environment.

Work-life programs. Benefits and services that have no direct relation to basic wages or salaries—so-called work-life programs—are offered by many employers. Providing such benefits and services can demonstrate the employer’s concern about employees’ welfare and improve workforce morale. Examples of programs that help employees juggle work and life responsibilities include employee assistance programs, child and elder care programs and services, alternative work schedules, and legal and financial services.

Job design and enrichment. Designing jobs so that they offer opportunities to excel and challenge employees to acquire and apply skills valued by the organization is important because it can affect, positively or negatively, job performance, job satisfaction, and even physical and mental health. Job enrichment might entail adding more variety to the work being performed, sharing power and control, assigning more significant tasks, or promoting greater self-direction and autonomy.

Moving forward

As mentioned above it can take years before measurable improvements are apparent. It can seem daunting to start a process today and perhaps not realized the desired results for a long period of time. A business owner needs to make sure that the long term realization of results does not prevent the business from making the initial steps required for success.

We suggest that clients begin by setting goal dates for implementing plans related to the five categories mentioned above; managing productivity improvement, incorporating technological advances, providing training, ensuring a safe workplace, and  improving employee morale.

Perhaps meeting with your management group and discussing the five categories is the next best step. Making a good first step can lead to continual and consistent productivity gains.

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Jan 062015
 

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Boost Employee Morale image september2 moraleYou already know that you need a high rate of productivity to keep up with the competition. But how much effort are you putting into rewarding those employees that go above and beyond the call of duty for your company? What incentives are you offering to encourage even better performance? While you may be a small business and don’t have an extensive budget for incentives, there are several low-cost ways to boost employee morale and motivate your staff to want to work harder towards your company’s success.

1. Show Your Appreciation

There are many ways to show employees your appreciation. When they perform well, they do expect some sort of recognition in return for that hard work. If you have an employee or multiple employees excelling at their jobs, make sure their performance is recognized. And never wait until their annual review to let them know you appreciate them. A few affordable ways you can show your appreciation includes:

  • Offer them a gift card
  • Provide small bonuses
  • Give them an extra paid day off
  • Take them to lunch

Or just give your employee a card saying “thank you.” It’s a low-cost but effective way of letting him or her know that you recognize and appreciate their dedication to meeting your company’s goals.

2. Have An Open Door Policy With Your Employees

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Having an open door policy is another way to boost employee morale within your small business. Actively communicate with your staff, notify them of changes, and give them the opportunity to express themselves. When your employees feel like they’re in the dark, they may not feel as though the company and/or their job is stable, and may not work as hard to help you improve your business.

3. Make Schedule Changes Easier

Morale suffers when employees feel that they’re stuck in a specific schedule with no flexibility. While you cannot cater to everyone, try to make your scheduling tactics as flexible as possible. For example, allow employees who have young children to be able to take their kids to school and pick them up afterwards. Offer multiple shift types so that employees are able to pick a schedule that works for them.

4. Don’t Be So Critical

While constructive criticism is important for your employees to learn and grow, too much criticism could be taken the wrong way. Keep communication lines open, but avoid being overly critical. The fastest way to crush employee morale is to always focus on the negative without ever acknowledging small accomplishments as they happen every day. Provide positive feedback whenever possible.

5. Promote From Within

Employees will always be more motivated and will work harder if they know they have a chance to advance within your business. When managerial positions open up, offer it to existing employees before looking outside your company. Also, offer employees adequate training programs so that they have an opportunity to move into higher positions in the future. And, if there aren’t opportunities for advancement in your company, every employee appreciates growing and improving their skills. Reward them for exceptional performance by furthering their skills.

Improving employee morale isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t take a lot of money either. The higher your employee morale is, the lower your turnover rate will be as well. To unlock more secrets on how you can boost employee morale and reduce turnover rates, get your copy of Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover today.

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Jan 052015
 

The key to your growth and success as a corporation has one engraving on it. No, it’s not sales. It’s not marketing and advertising. It’s not even information technology, although that maintains efficiency on a high level. It’s this: workforce.

Your employees matter the most. Consequently, the right employees matter even more, if that is possible. I’d wager to say that in the corporate world, the right employees are first and foremost the highest priority! Sadly, though, it seems that entrepreneurs, budding CEOs and managers out there have a problem, in that they have a hard time spotting the right ones, only going for the wrong ones.

Stop whining

We Can Help You Spot the Wrong Employees Out There

These are the employees breaking companies left and right. They’re the unprofessionals of our industry, the downers, the toxic avengers of failure.

Take note, because if you can’t spot the bad ones out there, the employees you absolutely need to fire before it’s too late, you won’t find the right workforce for your company, propelling your initiatives toward prosperity. We start with….

The Dramatic One

We’ve heard of gossip. That’s fine if you’re Carrie Bradshaw in New York’s “Sex and the City,” but in just an everyday corporate field, drama and gossip needs to left at the door.

What you’ve got to watch out for is the gossip, rumors and other needless banter that can cause dissension, bitterness and complaints throughout your company. What you might end up seeing is an inevitable voluntary termination of your good employees because of the bad dramatic ones.

Maintain peace in your work environment. You do that by immediately firing Mister or Missus Dramatic.

The Skeptic

Generally, we are frustrated with this type of person. He or she doesn’t want to believe in anything.

Oftentimes, too, this is an individual believing that the glass is always half empty versus half full. Positivity is key. Look for the employers out there with the ability to not only have a half full glass, but is willing to accept a cup running over. That way, business ideas are kept fresh, free flowing and never shot down. That’s healthy for business.

The Loner

Look at any industry out there, and you’ll find — without a shadow of a doubt — some sense of a team within the workforce. No one solely works alone, and there’s always communication involved. Businesses work better that way.

The loner, though, hates teams. The loner doesn’t want to work with anyone. The loner believes that the loner has all the skills necessary to complete the job all on his or her own. Guess what: the loner is wrong.

The “Unique One”

You’ve got your Howard Sterns, Bill Gates’s and Steve Jobs’s out there; and, yes, they were all uncompromisingly unique, but don’t get confused. When I say “unique,” I don’t mean someone with one-of-a-kind and essential skills, changing the game in the industry forever. Rather, I mean someone who is so incredibly different to the point that they can’t seem to accept anyone else in the office!

Culture and variety is good. Keep that in mind. If you have someone who’s so different, unable to “fit in,” not necessarily because no one accepts him or her, but because he or she is unwilling to accept the entire office, you might have this kind of “unique one” on staff. Get rid of him or her. Quite possibly, the only person the “unique one” can ever identify with is the “loner.” Even then, that’s a losing business relationship, to be honest.

The Excuse

Remember this guy? This is the guy who showed up late to McDonald’s, stating that he had a flat tire. The next day he showed up late again saying his transmission blew. He was then late again a week later because the wheels fell off the car

And, yet, this is a guy who seemed to make it to work — albeit late — anyway in the same car that seemed to be falling apart at the seams. This guy makes excuses.

He decreases the productivity so bad that you end up losing money. What does he have to say for it? An excuse. That’s actually why he has the name he has — his reasons for not doing the work up to expectation are so terrible and so constant that he is, in fact, the excuse!

The Brick Wall

Make no mistake about this: the oak in your office represents the sturdiness and stalwart steadfastness of the company. He or she shall not be moved. They’re bound by their loyalties, their routines, their procedure and their correct way of going about the business. In a way, they’re policy enforcers.

Know, though, that if times change in the corporate arena, you’ve got to have someone on staff who is able and willing to change with it. If not, this may be an employer you have to let go.

The Whiner

We had to save the best for last, for good reason, given the fact that no one likes this type of employee. Such an associate feels entitled to everything. When they’re not given what they want, they raise Hell. Not even the most effective business lawyer can help you with that.

This might be a great way to handle a home with parents, at least for some time until those parents lay down the law and tell you to go to your room without snack. There’s one problem, though: this isn’t home, but a business. And the whiner’s bad for it.

Yes, Be Firm

We normally don’t like to fire people. No one does, for that matter. Without a doubt, though, these types of employees aren’t hard to fire, or shouldn’t be hard to fire. Watch out for them. They might be the death of your company before you know it!

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Jan 052015
 

Kudani1You’re company is thriving and you’ve mapped out aggressive growth and expansion plans. At the same time, you are at a point where you can no longer do it yourself, or with your small team. It’s time to hire.

So, what should you look for in the ideal job candidate and how do you manage it on your tight staffing budget?

Whether you know it or not, when you started your business you also began creating your company culture. And with every employee you hire, that culture can either be reinforced or redefined.

Hiring Your First Employees

When I co-founded Edible Arrangements with my brother we had non-existent labor budgets. Every employee we hired had to be an extension of my brother and me. So, we hired for personality and potential—and it paid off.

Here are a few tips on how we approached hiring new employees—what we looked for—when we first started our business . . . back at the very beginning:

  • A Few Years Experience

    You’ll want to hire someone with a few years of experience that’s applicable to the position you’re looking to fill. In some instances, you just need to make sure the candidate has been in an office environment and understands business basics. If you need specific skills, look for someone who is emerging in that area. It’s beneficial to hire a team member who can be molded along with the company. When you interview, ask for examples of successfully managing projects, multitasking and how they’ve payed close attention to even the smallest of details.

  • Passion and Energy

    For startups, sometimes passion and energy are even more important than direct experience. These are two ingredients that are essential to any emerging company’s success. There’s no perfect test for these characteristics, but you’ll either notice them or you won’t. If you can’t get a good read, ask for examples of a project they’ve worked on that they’re most passionate about and why. Then ask if they’re passionate to be on your team and why. It’s hard to fake real passion and energy.

  • Excellent Communication Skills

    It doesn’t matter what position you’re hiring for, in this day and age, strong written and verbal communications skills are almost always essential. Require each candidate submit a cover letter sharing why they are the right fit for the role. You’ll be surprised at how many people don’t even read the job description and skip this step. This is a signal that you should skip over them too. After a successful interview you can request they re-write a page of your website or any other sales and marketing materials. It’s good to see their skills in action.

  • Flexibility

    Look for someone who has been in a startup role or has been in a position that requires flexibility and a go with the flow, all hands on deck mentality. This is absolutely essential in a startup where roles and responsibilities are going to change, sometimes daily. Ask about the organizational structure in their last job. Get clear examples of when they worked autonomously on an assignment. In your startup, you need someone who can take a project and run with it; and you should communicate this openly during the interview.

  • Passing the Stress Test

    Regardless of how passionate and energetic an employee is, startups are stressful. You need to get an idea of how the candidate reacts to stress and a great way to do that is by asking how you will know if they are stressed at work.

Use the interview experience to get to know each other better. Treat it like a conversation and in the end, ask yourself if they would pass the airport test (i.e. would you want to be stuck in the airport with this person). If your answer is no, they are probably not going to help you take your company to the next level.

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Dec 302014
 

kudFor many EMS providers, it’s hard to imagine responding to calls in this day and age without a GPS guiding them to the front door of a scene. Technology has, in many ways, vastly improved efficiency for EMS. Specialized vehicle identification programs like Ferno’s ACETECH system and ZOLL’s RescueNet Road Safety system have introduced new technologies that have taken EMS vehicle dynamics to the next level with innovative features, such as error reporting, asset tracking, engine idle recording and much more.

Financial Benefits
You might be asking yourself why your agency should implement a vehicle safety system when you’re already struggling to make ends meet with tight budgets and fewer personnel. Prevention of just one ambulance crash makes a vehicle safety program well worth the investment, says Rob Lawrence, chief operating officer of Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and user of RescueNet.

“The key benefit of the system is that it’s a ‘proven’ solution that helps us avoid injuries and even deaths by reducing aggressive driving actions, while increasing driver awareness through a proactive approach toward behavior modification,” says Lawrence. ZOLL estimates the system saves more than $1,500 in maintenance costs per vehicle per year; increases vehicle life expectancy by 20% for EMS providers and decreases costs tied to crash-related repairs by 30%. That can prove to be a major return on your investment.

The presence of RescueNet has also reduced insurance rates and vehicle maintenance costs in Richmond, Lawrence says. “The ability to look at vehicle idling, for example, alerted us to the fact that we could do a better job and control costs by reducing fuel usage,” says Lawrence. As a result, RAA developed a solar panel solution.

Modular Design
An important point is that agencies aren’t required to purchase all the system’s features if they don’t need them, or cannot initially afford them; instead, they can tailor the system to their needs, according to Pete Sansone, ACETECH account manager at Ferno.

“Four of five modules can be retrofitted to any vehicle. Only the Electronic Controller Unit (ECU) has to be installed during vehicle conversion/build.” Therefore, if an agency wants only the AVI (advanced vehicle informatics) system, for example, their total cost will reflect that.

Error Reporting
Perhaps the most valuable feature of vehicle safety programs is their ability to report errors that occur in the field, allowing staff at headquarters to know exactly what’s going on. The ACETECH system offers a real-time reporting feature, so key personnel can view a live map from their desk or mobile computer that displays icons showing each ambulance’s precise location, direction, speed and movement.

At the completion of a crew’s designated shift, an easy-to-review customized report is then automatically created. This tracks each provider’s speed levels, G-forces, and turning or accelerating forces, and then transmits a report. Each driver is then given an overall review of selected parameters established in advance that they and their managers can review, discuss or work to improve. Detailed reports rank overall performance, giving or a numeric ranking from 0 to 10 for RescueNet and a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon for ACETECH. The reports are transmitted wirelessly to the agency’s headquarters and can be accessed online by administrative staff, Sansone says. If an error occurs or a problem arises, an SMS text or e-mail alert can be sent directly to key personnel, so the issue can be addressed.

If administration is concerned with a specific provider’s performance based on their scores, they can address those issues and bring  them  back to prescribed, acceptable levels in accordance with operating procedures
or protocols.

“Using the weekly managed service report from ZOLL, we are able to publish, for all to see, driver ‘league tables,’ which show how staff members perform in a number of driving situations, such as emergency only or all driving activity. The driver is required to be above the quality line for each category of driving,” says Lawrence.

From there, personnel are able to determine which percentage of their drivers need additional training to put them above the minimum acceptance platform, according to Lawrence. For the ACETECH system, a quick overall snapshot of how a fleet is doing during the past 24 hours is presented on the system’s home page. Excess speeds and G-forces are recorded and ratings (scores) are presented.

Real-time technology also assists in identifying any mechanical problems that may occur—while they’re occurring. This is important because a problem found early is often much easier—and less expensive—to repair. If a vehicle’s engine is overheating or a battery is running low, the AVI module can create an exception report, Sansone says. “[ACETECH] can intercept the diagnostic code and relay information to an operations manager so they can take corrective
action immediately.”

The real-time data is also a valuable documentation and training tool. If a community member calls and complains that a crew was speeding or driving in a reckless manner at the intersection of “X and Y” at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, a manager can cue up the system and see not only the unit and its exact travel route on their screen, but they can also see speed and travel
patterns, such as G-forces, involved in vehicle stops, starts and turns—at the exact time specified.

The asset tracking system is another feature that uses real-time reporting, Sansone says. A radio frequency, tag, similar to a bar code, allows crews to track and keep an inventory of crucial vehicle equipment. If a crew member forgets to grab a defibrillator from a scene, an alert will let them know its missing. Similarly, this feature helps prevent theft, and it can not only track the various pieces of equipment housed on one rig, but it can also record the locations of items on multiple vehicles at once.

Lawrence highlights the value of the “train as you go” benefits of the system for crews because of the hands-on trial-and-error experience they receive as they respond to the various alerts about their driving performance while they’re running calls, while Sansone touts the visual playback capabilities as valuable for after-action evaluation and training.

Conclusion
Whether your agency seeks to decrease the carbon footprint of its fleet, reduce errors and increase the driving skills, cut costs, improve wireless communication capabilities or accomplish all of these goals, fleet management and vehicle safety systems offer innovative and user-friendly solutions. With the help of innovative programs like RescueNet and ACETECH, EMS agencies can increase their overall efficiency—and in so doing, make strides toward better patient care.

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Dec 292014
 

Michael Lewis’ 2003 book “Moneyball”—and the 2011 film adaptation—detailed how the Oakland Athletics used analytics, primarily derived from players’ on-base percentages, to assemble a competitive team despite financial constraints.

What if you could bring that type of analytics to the workplace? Now MIT spinout Sociometric Solutions is developing a system it calls “moneyball for business,” which uses sensor identification badges and analytics tools to track behavioral data on employees, providing insights that can increase productivity.

“‘Moneyball’ is putting numbers on behavior and using that data to build a baseball team. But what if I could say, ‘Here’s how you need to talk to customers, here’s how people need to collaborate with each other, and here are the things that lead to outcomes such as turnover, sales, and ,'” says Ben Waber PhD ’11, co-founder and president of Sociometric. “Individuals can use that data to boost performance, and a company can use that to help set up an environment where everybody’s going to succeed.”

Sociometric’s system—based on years of MIT research—consists of employee identification badges with built-in Bluetooth sensors that track location and which way someone’s facing. Other sensors show when employees lean in—signaling, for instance, engagement in a conversation—and accelerometers can track their speed (sensing bursts of lethargy and vigor). A built-in microphone records how often, fast, and loud individuals talk, as well as tone of voice (but not actual conversation). Increased speed and higher voice tones, for example, are strong indicators of high .

Readers placed around an office collect the data and push it to the cloud. (Individuals have access to their personal data via a Web dashboard or smartphone, but companies are only given anonymous, aggregated results of patterns and trends in behavior.) By combining this information with employee-performance data from surveys, interviews, and objective performance metrics, Sociometric can pinpoint areas where management can build more productive offices—in ways as surprising as providing larger lunch tables or moving coffee stations to increase interaction.

In one of its earliest studies, with a Bank of America call center, for instance, Sociometric tracked co-workers for three months. They predicted that allowing certain employees to take breaks together—to let off steam or share tips about customer service—would improve productivity. Sure enough, when the bank instituted the changes, Sociometric measured a 15 to 20 percent bump in productivity, a 19 percent drop in stress levels, and decreased turnover, from 40 to 12 percent.

All things considered, Waber says, these and other solutions produce a 20 percent rise, on average, in productivity and employee satisfaction, and a similar decrease in turnover.

More than 20 retail, sales, and consulting firms have used Sociometric’s system. Additionally, more than 60 research organizations across the globe are using the system on management, social psychology, medicine, computer science, and physical therapy, among other things.

Sociometric’s MIT co-founders, and co-inventors of its technology, include Alexander “Sandy” Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Science, who serves as scientific advisor; Daniel Olguin Olguin SM ’07, PhD ’11, who is chief operating officer; and Taemie Kim PhD ’11, who is chief scientist.

Natural transition for a company

Sociometric traces its origins to 2007, when students in Pentland’s Human Dynamics Group, including Waber, were approached to use behavioral analytics for a management study.

Peter Gloor, a researcher in the Center for Collective Intelligence, was using surveys of employees at a German bank, where the marketing division was split into four teams located across 10 rooms on two floors. The bank wanted to know how this physical layout affected productivity and job satisfaction.

Waber, Pentland, and other researchers developed and deployed 22 prototypes of Sociometric badges at the bank for a month, registering when two wearers were talking to one another and for how long.

Accumulating more than 2,000 hours of data—and comparing that data with survey results—they predicted, with 60 percent accuracy, that close-knit groups of workers who spoke frequently with one another were more satisfied and got more work done more efficiently. They also found evidence of communication overload, where high volumes of email—due to lack of face-to-face interaction—were causing some employees difficulty in concentrating, and decreasing their job satisfaction.

Armed with these results, the bank rearranged its layout to increase the proximity of the close-knit employees, and dropped from four teams to three to encourage stronger interaction.

Seeing potential, Waber, Pentland, and others started trialing the system with the Media Lab’s various corporate sponsors. From these early experiences—and with some advice from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service—the startup refined the system and learned how to pitch it to potential customers and deploy it efficiently. As word spread, companies started offering to pay.

“We thought, ‘If we could make an impact doing something so simple [as measuring face-to-face interactions], imagine what we could do with more sophisticated metrics,'” Waber says.

From there, Sociometric built out its analytics tools primarily through dozens of research collaborations. A study with Cornell University in 2013, for instance, allowed the startup to prove that it could accurately predict high levels of cortisol in someone’s saliva—an indicator of high stress—based on their tone of voice. “That suddenly became a metric we could use,” Waber says.

Longer lunch tables, better outcomes

Over the years, Sociometric has had some surprising findings. Waber points to his firm’s work with a major online travel company. While looking at the employees’ lunchtime interactions, they discovered one of the most predictive measures of good performance was the number of people an employee ate with—the more, the merrier.

But they saw that in the cafeteria, certain people only sat with three other people (at four-seat tables), while others sat with 11 people (at 12-seat tables). Those who sat at larger tables were 36 percent more productive during the week. When the company initiated layoffs during the study, the employees who sat at larger tables also had 30 percent lower stress levels than those who sat at smaller tables.

The idea is that these employees, Waber says, had been able to accumulate larger networks, knew what others were working on, and were more likely to reach out to specific people with questions and concerns. Surprisingly, after this finding went public, some technology firms began installing larger cafeteria tables, Waber says.

“It’s crazy that something as trivial as physical space, as the size of the lunch table, could affect productivity,” Waber says. “The CEO obviously wasn’t thinking about that, but those are the biggest drivers of how people communicate with one another.”

Waber says many of Sociometric’s results point to a need for more social interaction in the workplace. In sales, for instance, communication with colleagues has proven more predictive of sales outcomes than the ability to talk with customers, Waber says.

“If someone figures out a really good way to pitch to customers, you talk to them and learn how to make that pitch, which makes things more efficient,” he says. “Even if you’re competing on performance metrics, if you know each other well enough, you’ll share. That’s exactly what we see.”

Some major companies such as Google and Facebook, Waber says, are already promoting socializing by, for instance, building campuses, where all workers come to collaborate. “But the next step for Sociometric is to take everyone else to that same level of collaboration,” he says.

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Dec 292014
 

wiwblog-06Productivity is a key metric in any business situation.  When you and your employees are productive you:

  • Cut payroll costs by getting more done in less time
  • Make more money by increasing profit margins
  • Enthuse customers by staying on track, on time, and on budget
  • Have more time for expansion, growth, and internal revisions

And much more!

But improving productivity can be a hard thing to do (especially if you’re coming into an already existing work dynamic).  Employees—people in general—are resistant to change and you’ll be slapped with the old “if it ain’t broke” adage more times than you’d like.  But to be the best manager you can be you have to actively increase productivity.

Here are some helpful tips:

Keep Them Focused

Focus is a key component of productivity.  If your employees are constantly distracted by intra-office politics, their personal lives, or even clingy and annoying customers, it’s hard for them to stay on task and get their job done.  Therefore, it’s essential that you do what you can to eliminate any unnecessary distractions without becoming a draconian manager that nobody likes.

Start small by eliminating or better managing personal phone calls.  Build up with intra-office policies about gossip and “smack talk.”  Analyze the time spent on project and (especially) the time spent on non-productive behaviors in order to weed the latter out.  You may even want to cut ties with customers and clients (even long-time ones) when their value is overshadowed by the burden they place on your employees.

Additionally, you should constantly be on the lookout for solutions (such as upgraded software) that will allow your employees to get more done in the same amount of time.  By giving your workers the tools they need to get the job done, you’re not only improving effectiveness, you’re building their own sense of self-esteem and job satisfaction.

Keep Them Loyal

Employees are people. Their personal lives probably carry more weight than their dedication to work. However, you should expect a certain level of loyalty from every employee.  While they’re on the clock, they should be working for you—not simply sucking up the hours to earn a paycheck.

Employee loyalty isn’t something you can mandate in a memo or write into the company’s employee handbook.  You have to earn that loyalty.  How do you do that?

You can increase employee loyalty in a number of ways:

1)    Become a Better Manager—by increasing the confidence your employees have in your ability to lead, you’ll not only become a solid role model but will create a sense that you’re working for them.  Encourage feedback (and act upon it), take advantage of ongoing education, analyze the effect of every action, and use this input to make yourself better at what you do.

2)    Improve Company Culture—your employees won’t give their all if they feel like their job is simply a job.  Worse yet, they won’t even bother engaging fully if they feel that their workplace is hostile or the least bit offensive.  That’s why it’s important that you use your influence to create the best environment possible.  Minimize the nay-sayers, give employees the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, nip problems in the bud before they can fester.

3)    Maintain Neutrality—your employees shouldn’t see you as an equal—no matter how much you want to be their friend.  You should always be in charge but that doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant.  By giving everyone the same respect and attention you can maintain neutrality and avoid creating a situation where employees feel like they’re outsiders.

And if necessary, cull the herd to get rid of the bad employees.

Keep Them Happy

A happy employee is a productive employee.  It’s simple as that.  And there are tons of ways to keep your best employees happy at work and beyond.

  • Promote a solid work/life balance and streamlining their work experience
  • Listen and respond to feedback about the company, their day-to-day tasks, and any interpersonal conflicts
  • Create a company culture through the use of team building, tradition, and mutual respect
  • Reward outstanding behaviors and remember special occasions
  • Give them an outlet to vent their frustrations (anonymously if necessary)
  • Give them the responsibility they crave and the guidance they need
  • Showcase and celebrate personal success—it goes so far beyond employee of the month.
  • Schedule them according to their needs without sacrificing yours

Your employee’s happiness really does rest in your hands.  While there are some individuals out there who aren’t a good fit for your business, most of the people on your payroll actually want to be there—take advantage of that.

Be The Boss They Want to Work For

The number one way you can increase employee productivity is to increase your own.  By modeling excellent behavior, managing your expectations, and leveraging the emotional intelligence you either inherently possess or work hard to cultivate you can be the manager your employees want to work for rather than just their boss.

If you can achieve that, the hard work is already done.  The rest is just housekeeping.

Embrace Tools & Tech

Mobile technology solutions like When I Work have streamlined the workplace.  If you’re not taking full advantage of this new wave of simplistic technology, you’re wasting valuable time and resources.  By reinvesting in your business’s infrastructure, you’ll reap rewards in no time.  Not to mention your employees will come away with a better impression if your company keeps up with trends instead of stagnating in the past.  

Revisit Internal Operations

It may be your internal operations that are holding you back.  Are you still relying on processes that were devised a decade ago?  Are your employees still inventorying by hand?  Do you still require paper documentation (in triplicate)?  Do you use filing cabinets?  Are most of your sales people cold calling?  Take a real hard look at how your business runs on a daily basis and try to spot the processes that really slow you down.

Rethink

Don’t be afraid to tweak things.  Even if your new ideas don’t work, trial and error is an excellent way to grow, improve, and be more productive.  You can’t simply expect your employees to work harder.  That only gets you so far (and can lead to hard feelings, burnout, and bad situations).  You have to take an active approach toward improving efficiency and effectiveness if you ever want to really improve your productivity.

Read Between the Lines

One of the most effective skills you can develop as a manager is reading between the lines of the feedback your employees give you.  First, they should feel free to speak candidly with you or through an anonymous medium such as an online forum.  Next, you have to actively listen to that feedback.  Lastly, see if you can spot the underlying problem behind the feedback.  For instance, if an employee is complaining about the new production goals you’ve set forth, the real issue may not be the goals but the manner in which you expect them to be met.

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Dec 182014
 

– Roy H. Williams, Author of the Wizard of Ads

For most organizations, just meeting their customer’s expectations would provide a good experience. To create a great experience you have to define which areas customers value most and exceed these aspects of the customer experience. Defining these areas implies knowing what the customer’s expectations are.

In this post, we will take a closer look at customer expectations, and how they affect your organization’s ability to deliver a customer-centric customer experience.

Most organizations know what their customer rational expectations are. They know how quickly they want a delivery, how much people are willing to pay for their product and what features it needs to have. What they don’t know is what their customer emotional expectations are, a massive gap in their understanding of their customers. When you understand a customer’s emotional expectations, you can design an emotionally-based experience.

The four actions needed to exceed customer expectations

Four actions must accompany the design of an experience that exceeds customer expectations: Managing, Researching, Reviewing, and Supporting. Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how the most customer-centric organizations use them to exceed customer expectations:

Managing: Decisions about how to manage the emotional expectations of the customer must be made, including which ones are most important and how these will be exceeded. How this is done and why it’s important are well known to all involved in the most customer-centric companies

Researching: When a company is looking to exceed emotional expectations for a customer, they need to know what their emotional expectations are for each moment in the experience. To get this information, they need to research and document these expectations in their current experience. This technique can require detailed research including Implicit-Association Tests (IAT), which is a test that measures the strength of the association between concepts and memory, or a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a technique for measuring brain activity in response to stimulus

Reviewing: One thing all customer-centric companies know is that customer expectations change. What might have been enough last year, is not enough this year. As a result, Customer-centric organizations review their customer expectations regularly and frequently, and at the very least annually

Supporting: Organizations that are mindful of customer expectation include budget to exceed them. This budget is earmarked to exceed customer expectations. These resources enable the team to take action in cases where it is needed to surprise and delight customers

The only expectations that matter in customer experience design

One of the biggest dangers an organization faces is the people that ‘know’ what a customer expects. The conversation normally goes like this, “I know what our customers want, I have been doing this job for years.” Or, “I have been a customer of our product for years, so I know what customers want.” NO, YOU DON’T. Please don’t fall into that trap. To find out a customer’s expectations you must ask them! They might not be not what your management would like them to be.

Sometimes this can be a tough sell to your senior management. First it requires them to let go of their preconceived ideas.

However, our history creating these types of experiences shows that when you exceed the emotional expectations of what customers want, the time, resources, and commitment are all well spent. Furthermore, your organization’s business goals are met—and exceeded!

So I ask you… whose expectations are at the center of your customer experience design today?

Article Source: http://www.newvoicemedia.com/blog/four-actions-to-exceed-customer-expectations/

Mar 052013
 

We have all experienced chaos in the work environment at one time or another. One minute you’re working at a smooth pace and things are going just fine; for Balanced Planning the most part. The next moment you have management flying by the seat of their pants trying to complete a project, assigning tasks to pretty much anyone they can find to complete this idea they thought about a day earlier. Whether it’s generating new leads for the sales team, a new website, or planning a holiday party, unplanned projects that aren’t thought through lead to disaster. In many cases your company will slowly start becoming less profitable and less productive.

Not having processes or procedures in place can lead to many issues across you organization. Slowly your teams morale, competitiveness, and productivity start dropping and the trust in one another fades. It’s like a virus that starts to eat away at your workforce and once something like this occurs, it’s very hard to stop it let alone reverse it!

Management and staff members are running around putting out fires and fixing problems instead of being more effective in their day-to-day jobs. This will always have an impact on your customer in some way or another and they will surely notice that there are problems or a lack of procedures and policies internally. Many people think they can hide these things from the customer or that the customer will not notice. Those people are wrong, the customer can and will notice the slightest change in the service they are getting, the attitude they receive from your front line employees and even the tone in their voice. These are all things that can and will cause you to lose customers and sometimes, by the time you or anyone notice what’s going on it’s too late to make any changes. These customers will take their business elsewhere and are left with a bad taste in their mouth due to something that easily could have been avoided.

Most companies are reacting to situations like this and not being proactive about it and preventing the problem before it occurs. So if you would like to overcome this challenge or even learn how it can be avoided, we can teach you how other companies have learned to manage their business and employees successfully. Furthermore this will help your company and it’s employees be more profitable and productive moving forward!