7 Tips for Increasing Organizational Productivity

Some people bake for fun. Others hike. I enjoy brainstorming about being more productive. Here are 7 suggestions that you can use to improve efficiency in your nonprofit. These hacks also will work for you if you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur, or run a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Before we get started, a disclaimer. The strategies offered to boost employee morale and engagement may seem unrelated but they're not. There are numerous studies that document the increased effectiveness that come from happy employees. Now that's out of the way, let's get started!

1. Allow Flexible Work Hours

At NCHH, we believe in flexible work hours. We've found that letting our team members work when they’re the most productive and efficient—whether that’s late at night or early in the day, increases our overall productivity as a business. In our environment, there's a general expectation that people will communicate if they won't be available for an entire day or days, but that's so that the rest of the team can manage their expectations around response times. We've found that giving our team the ability to choose their hours makes them happier and more productive.

When we worked from an office, we offered a flexible work-from-home policy. Now, our team is completely remote, and we have a co-working space available for anyone who wants to take advantage of a traditional office or meeting space.

Tip: We don't have this is in place at NCHH (a high degree of trust in our team also goes a long way toward output), but if you suspect work from home productivity is dipping, try having employees use a time tracking tool.

2. Update Your Technology

Anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you that I'm a huge advocate for updated technology. Early in my career, I noted a common mindset among nonprofit organizations. This was the tendency to think of updated tech as a luxury. While other folks saw updated equipment as a wish list item or something reserved for for-profit companies, I couldn't help but see the outdated technology and ineffective processes as huge time wasters. Computers that crash/freeze, multifunction copiers that don't work, and old phone systems all slow productivity. My conclusion was that if people are waiting on their computers to be fixed, that means they aren't working. Thankfully, that mindset has slowly started to disappear. These days, we provide updated devices (e.g., laptops, phone equipment) and stay on top of software platforms that increase efficiency and communication. I constantly research technology developments in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors and put in place anything that will increase workplace efficiency.

Tip: I encourage you to research the operations of companies you admire. Take a look at their processes and technology and see what you can adapt. Even if you can't purchase new equipment or software right away, you can plan for it in next or the following year's budget.

3. Map Processes

Inefficient workplace processes can make normally efficient workers into frustrated, unproductive ones. We're very nimble at NCHH. While I strongly believe in processes, documentation, and procedures, I don't believe any of those things should hold up operations. We regularly discuss our processes to see if there’s anything unnecessary that’s slowing down productivity. We then change these processes or eliminate them altogether. We have project management systems and regular team meetings to ensure cohesion.

Tip: Rather than assume your business is free of bottlenecks, ask your employees what they think. It's very likely someone on your team has some great feedback!

4. Encourage Team Building

Work productivity increases when the team learns to better communicate. In the course of our work, we find ways to break down silos. In the course of our operations, sometimes that same work is necessary. We're constantly bringing the divide between our program staff and our research team. Pre-COVID, we encouraged regular team-building activities such as group lunches, bike rides, or bowling nights. Post-COVID, we've found a number of different online platforms where we can connect and play games and spend time together.

We also find ways to pair employees who wouldn't normally work together into workgroups or other special projects. These are all are great ways for employees to learn to communicate and work together.

Tip: Build the capacity of the willing folks on your team by allowing them to be a part of projects that would normally fall outside of their job duties. You may discover some hidden talent and great synergy!

5. Foster a Happy Work Environment

According to research, employees who are happy at work are more efficient with their time, do their jobs better, and are more productive overall. They also tend to focus on the task at hand instead of getting distracted by non-work tasks, like checking personal social media accounts.

When we were in the office, I hired someone to analyze our office space. This person took a look at the lighting and suggested bulbs that would reduce eye strain. We evaluated the seating, which resulted in our purchase of ergonomic chairs and standing desks. We invested in a better conference room set up and an upgraded phone system. When we didn't renew the lease on our office space in 2020, I allowed staff to take their preferred set-up (standing desks, comfortable desk chairs, etc.) home with them.

I also regularly encourage staff to take advantage of our mental health benefits such as our Employee Assistance Program, to uphold our belief that a happy work environment starts with a happy individual. We offer mentorship and coaching opportunities, as well as other resources to help with ADHD or other common issues that may go undiscussed in the workplace.

Tip: There are a lot of benefits that can be offered to employees with no added cost to the employer. Ask your benefits broker for ideas.

6. Stop with the Meeting Madness

No Meetings Fridays! It's a big hit in our organization. Consider the following statistic. According to Entrepreneur, U.S. companies spend over $35 billion on meetings every year and employees spend on average 37 percent of their time in meetings. (Note to self: I should calculate that into dollars for our company. I'll bet that number is astronomical!) If your company has too many meetings—you could be wasting both time and money, not to mention affecting your employees’ happiness.

Tip: Having the right project management tools will help eliminate the need for many meetings. Other viable substitutes may include sending a digital project status report or using a document-sharing tool. Of course, there will always be a need for face-to-face meetings, but it's safe to conclude that almost everyone will be happier from one less meeting.

7. Find Ways to Automate

This is an unpopular opinion, but I believe that multitasking actually hurts productivity. Rotating between different tasks constantly can cause employees to lose 40 percent of their productivity, says Wrike. In addition to the loss of time, the completion rate of each of those tasks also drops significantly! Here’s where technology can shine and take over small jobs that aren’t as important. In addition to automating our social media campaigns and using email marketing services that send automated email campaigns, we've automated bigger things like some of our finance processes. We no longer cut and mail checks to our vendors, but we pay a service to manage that process for us. Payroll and 401(K) administration have also been automated. There are also some really great HR systems that automate recruiting, onboarding, and benefits administration, as well!

Tip: Sometimes these systems cost more than you initially want to pay. Consider changing your framing from "spending" to "investing" and watch productivity increase!

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