Saturday, March 5, 2011

If time is money, this story is bad news

How much time do your employees waste each day?

According to a study reported Friday by Inc Magazine it's as much as 50 percent. Yikes! If you're a small business that has scrapped and saved in order to finally make a hire or two, that has to be a little scary. The study - somewhat self serving from a business communications company - found that:

Workers spend more than a third of their time (36 percent) trying to contact customers, partners or colleagues; find information, or schedule a meeting. (When, exactly, should you schedule a meeting? Another survey says Tuesday afternoon.)  Another 14 percent of an employee's day: duplicating information (forwarding emails or phone calls to confirm if fax/e-mail/text message was received) and managing unwanted communications, such as spam or unsolicited phone calls.
There are many issues we could talk about in relationship to this story including employee management, but the problem really is how to reclaim the lost time and make employees more productive.

A well-worn metric of computing is that the average user utilizes less than 10 percent of the functionality of any program. Unfortunately, this has been a casualty of managers who don't understand or promote technology, the lack of real training and ongoing reinforcement of best practices and an overall acceptance of one of the most innovation-killing attitudes found in almost all workplaces: "We've always done it this way."

Perhaps. But that's not a requirement. Here are three tips on ways to do it differently.

1. The largest installed email/calendaring program in the world is Outlook. Chances are your office is running it. If so, we can save a lot of time by using the program's scheduling functions to schedule meetings. Easily set up groups from your company's address book either for permanent or temporary teams. Create a project team group, select the group when scheduling and open the scheduling assistant. The assistant will show you all the individuals in the group and their free time. Use the "find free time" feature to find the available times when everyone on your team can meet.

2. Not all meetings are internal and setting up times with clients, customers and vendors can be even more challenging. Several tools utilizing internet-based "cloud" services tackle - and solve - this challenge. Timebridge is our favorite. Link your calendar to the Timebridge service and scheduling a meeting is a three-step process: enter the names of the people you want to meet with (if they are in your address book you only have to start typing the names), write a message to your attendees, then select five times from your calendar that are available. Alternately, you can allow your attendees to select times that are open in your calendar.

Timebridge does everything else: Attendees are brought to an interface where they can select all the times that will work and a "best" time. When everyone's agreed on one, the service sends an email confirming the date, time and other meeting details. What used to take 5-7 emails per attendee to accomplish, is done in one web site and three steps.

3. The biggest time waster the survey found was managing email with 50 percent of the day spent on it. We are working for the technology rather than making it work for us. To turn that situation around, make Outlook rules your friend. You have a very powerful organizational tool in rules if you take the time to learn them. You can assign incoming mail to projects or clients based on email address or domain name, you can move automated messages, message receipts and meeting acceptances out of your way and into a holding folder, you can send newsletters, RSS feeds, automated mailing lists into a "read me later" folder. With just a few rules, you can get your inbox down to a more manageable size of items that require action.

There are many more tools on the average person's desktop that can help you save time, be more efficient and more productive. If time is money then it's worth it to learn how to stop wasting so much of it.
Portfolio can help your company make up for lost time and regain productivity. Contact us at 864-213-6314 or email to find out how we can help.

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