By Kathy Gibson – The economy is under pressure, so companies are having to work harder than ever to stay relevant – and this means that every employee must be performing to the very best of his/her ability.
But in the changing workplace environment, managers are realising that work doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity or efficiency, and are having to come up with new ways of making sure employees are making the most of each day.
The simple truth – hard as it is to come to grips with – is that people are just not as productive as they imagine they are.
“Whenever we start measuring productivity, people are always surprised to see how poorly they measure,” says Graham Fry, founder of local software development company Saucecode.
There are many reasons for this: people get distracted or they spend time figuring out how to do things; they could be using applications or doing work that doesn’t add to their productivity, replying to emails or more.
Productivity is often impacted by interruptions from email, phone calls or other employees.
“But the bottom line is that companies need to understand what their workers do each day, and figure out how to measure that in order to ensure they are making the most productive use of their time,” Fry explains.
He stresses that productivity is about way more than being busy all day. “It can be measured by two things: outcome and efficiency.
“The physical output gives us a result (outcome), but we also need to ensure the work was efficiently executed.”
In most companies, there is a huge disconnect between what employees spend their days doing, and the most efficient way of doing it.
“Traditionally, we would measure how long people were at work and that there was sufficient output – not whether they were efficient or productive. We need to start measuring on a much more granular level that shows us what people are working on, and whether they are being efficient,” Fry explains.
Saucecode has developed an agent-based tool, Tistro, that allows companies to measure productivity and efficiency, and generates reports that helps them to monitor and improve both metrics.
Before companies can measure productivity, though, they need to know precisely what work goes into the desired outcomes, and how much of it is efficient.
There’s no magic formula for doing this, Fry says. “Every customer is different. Even different divisions within the same company are different.”
To start setting meaningful KPIs, the employee profile needs to be examined, and the company can then define what is relevant and required in that profile, and what isn’t.
“So for a developer and investment analyst, for instance, you are going to get completely different profiles.” However a developer within an investment company’s profile may vary quite differently to a developer in a development house.
To set the parameters defining productivity and efficiency, Saucecode uses Tistro to collect the necessary data about what employees spend their days doing.
“We then look at the various people in the organisation or department and group them into profiles. Once you’ve created these profiles, you can decide what activities are relevant or not. Importantly, these can change over time.”
He cites the example of a personal assistant (PA) who was monitored doing a lot of work that wasn’t classified as productive for the PA profile. “This person was spending a lot of time in SQL,” Fry remembers. “When we delved into the issue we found that the person the PA worked for did a lot of work in SQL and she needed to know what they were doing to fulfil her work requirements to that person.
“The important thing to remember is that tools like Tistro are there to guide managers, not create hard and fast rules. But only by measuring what people are doing can you start asking the right questions, implementing measured responses and solutions, and making the organisation and people more productive and efficient.”
Once the parameters are set, the system can show how much time employees have spent on productive systems, and how much time on systems that are unproductive or not business related.
But this is still just half of the equation, Fry stresses. “The real question is how much of the time you spent in a particular application were you actually productive? Just because you were using a productive tool doesn’t necessarily mean you were being productive.”
By measuring what employees are actually doing over any time period, the tool is able to calculate a score that shows how long they were at work, and how many of those hours they were productive and how many non-productive.
“Depending on the particular customer, there are rules that are applied in the background that match the company’s own set of desired productivity outcomes.”
Once productivity is being accurately measured, companies can start looking at efficiency.
“Even if employees are productive, you still need to find out if they are efficient,” Fry explains. “For instance, a data capturer could be recording a high level of keystrokes but if there are too many backspaces, deletes and missed keys they may not be particularly efficient.
“Now you can measure not only whether someone is spending time on the required tasks but if they are being particularly slow or making a lot of errors as well.”
This lets managers get a better picture of whether employees need help and additional training, if they are burning out, or if they would do better in a different function.
“Using the right tools, companies are able to manage staff members a lot better,” Fry points out. “This is not about stopping people from doing non-work based things in the office, or policing their every keystroke. It’s about helping employees to self-manage, and most people appreciate having the tools that let them do that.
“Now managers and staff members can all get a realistic picture of what people are doing.”
Because companies can build up an accurate picture of what people spend their days doing, they can also better specify scope of work and key performance indicators (KPIs).
“It just helps managers and HR (human resources) to start asking the right questions,” Fry explains.
“In many companies today, KPIs and business processes are historically cast in stone but not necessarily based on contemporary environments. But there is often no way to measure if they are driving the right outcomes. Once you are able to measure with accuracy, you are no longer managing the business according to gut feel.
“Now you know what questions to ask, and have real figures to measure against outcomes. You can start to narrow down possible inefficiencies, and quickly uncover if you have over-specified or under-specified a particular job.”
Fry stresses that the system is self-correcting. “If the parameters you’ve set for your workers are correct, this will reflect in the numbers. And if they are out of kilter, you will see that too.
“You only need to start adjusting parameters when you see there is a problem; and the data should give you a fair idea of where the problem lies. You can interrogate that data further, uncover the root cause and often see quite quickly how to solve it.
“Because you’re working with data, nothing is personal: you can let the data do the talking, and show the way to solving problems.”
Watch the full interview here:
Save on software by measuring its use
By measuring what employees are doing with their day, companies can co-incidentally manage their software licensing more effectively as well.
“We have a customer who is using Tistro to test the effectiveness of new tools,” says Saucecode founder Graham Fry.
“In the past the company would buy new software and give it to a couple of people to test it, then decide whether to roll it out based on their feedback.
“The problem is they had no way of knowing whether they had given it a thorough test.
“Now they can see if the staff members actually used the new products, for how long, and even what they did with them.
“The customer can now really find out if new tools work.”
Companies can also use Tistro to help them manage their software licensing. Once they know which employees are using which applications, they can avoid paying for more or fewer licences than they actually use.
More about Saucecode and Tistro
Saucecode is a software development and innovation company that employs cutting-edge technologies including robotics to create business applications and products that deploy into a variety of industries.
Software applications are based on Saucecode’s intellectual property (IP) and available under license for general market consumption.
The company addresses a number of areas of development: Internet of Things (IoT); Web development; web and native app development; e-commerce; distributed software and API development; user experience (UX); artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
Tistro is a general business software application that delivers the ability to measure, monitor and manage time and productivity, helping business to truly understand the productivity and behavior within their user base in order to monitor, manage, enhance and even automate time and productivity outputs.
The application will improve user performance, aid in user appraisals and assist in optimising user work methods and training. It will also allow an organisation to manage employee’s wellbeing through identifying work life imbalances.
Tistro allows line management and human resources departments to review users work performance and work loading on an ongoing basis to establish any behaviour anomalies that could affect productivity. The application’s main benefit to any business is that it saves thousands of man hours by optimising the performance management process and having the full control of project time and budget utilisation.
Read more about productivity and efficiency here.