From the days of workers toiling on assembly lines to the more current view of workers toiling in cubicles, workforce productivity has always been a focus for businesses. But over time, administrative policy, bureaucratic growth and other elements can contribute to decreased productivity.

Running a productive organization isn't always as easy as removing a large, obvious obstacle to success. In many cases it's death by a thousand cuts, dragging down an organization's ability to produce and deliver results.

The Cost of Productivity Loss

For instance, TLNT reports that approximately half of workers waste less than an hour of work per day. Yet 7 percent of executives, 8 percent of temporary workers and 16 percent of administrative workers waste three or more hours per day.

TLNT attempted to quantify the cost of productivity loss associated with non job-related administrative work, pegging the figure at around $4,600 per employee. This figure is not focused on the purposeful wasting of time, but instead looks at elements such as office politics, administrative tasks unrelated to job duties, unnecessary complexity and lack of appropriate skills to get the work accomplished.

Finance leaders can play a pivotal role in identifying and eliminating these kinds of issues. From uncovering inefficient processes to pointing out the sacred cow programs that don't pull their own weight, there are considerable opportunities for pushing the organization into a more productive state.

Hootsuite's Process Improvement Story

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, shared in a LinkedIn article that he chronicled the firm's consternation at a $200 T-shirt order and how it drove a wave of process improvements within the business. In the story, one of the organization's leaders wanted to send a simple, cotton shirt to a customer as a gift. However, any gifts required a sign-off from a supervisor, who in this case was Hootsuite's Chief Technology Officer. After several attempts to connect over the course of a few days, he was finally able to connect with his manager and get the approval, but in the process he realized how horrendously inefficient it was to require a sign-off on something as simple as a $15 shirt. This kicked off a new focus internally as the business has continuously worked to resolve that specific practice and uncover any others that might be contributing to lower productivity within the organization.

Enhancing Workforce Productivity

Another key example of mitigating inefficient practices was in appointing a creative director to help resource projects and align incoming requests with existing skills. Prior to the change, any requests hitting Hootsuite's creative team would pile up due to shifting priorities, causing stress and backlog issues over time. The firm continues to seek out opportunities to reduce unnecessary burdens on workers and enhance workforce productivity.

The lesson here for finance leaders is to invest in process improvement. According to process improvement consultancy Promapp, investing in a process improvement program can help demonstrate a culture that is dedicated to reducing waste and inefficiency, empowering workers to seek out opportunities to help improve outcomes where they see opportunities arise. In Hootsuite's case, the firm has appointed a "Czar of Bad Systems" to identify and resolve these types of issues. Finance leaders can champion these initiatives not only as cost-cutting measures, but as methods for improving innovation and efficiency across the enterprise.

HCM Technology Can Support Productivity

Technology innovation can lead to greater worker productivity, often in extremely simple ways. Consider single sign-on, one of the simplest ideas to grace technology platforms in recent years. Basically, by signing on in a single system, each connected system or platform will recognize the user, allowing them to skip repetitive sign-in processes and juggling of numerous passwords. This single technology change has the capability to contribute mightily to organizational productivity.

Another opportunity to impact productivity is in mobile applications. Allowing workers to complete tasks, even when they are away from their desks, gives them the ability to contribute wherever, and whenever, the need arises. This can be especially powerful when the tasks are those that may be necessary, but not critical to the job. Reducing the administrative burden for nonwork-related tasks can be essential for improving productivity, because this shift in focus gives workers more time to dedicate to their true jobs, creating more value for the business. AppsFreedom reports that 84 percent of all employers who view themselves as cutting edge in mobility report an increase in overall productivity, attributing the increase directly to the incorporation of into the business.

Making Workforce Productivity a Business Priority

Instead of just looking at this as a cost-cutting measure, consider it a process improvement practice or even an investment in innovation. Workers want to do their jobs, and the drag of unnecessary policies and procedures can cause them to lose focus and become disengaged, costing employers billions over time, as Glassdoor notes. It's time to change that.

What gets measured gets done. It's a well-known axiom, but it's also true. Finance leaders are in the driver's seat here. Instead of being satisfied with the bureaucratic status quo, these leaders have an opportunity to improve the organization by investing in new technologies and practices. Focusing efforts, resources and people on identifying and resolving roadblocks to productivity may be the key to breaking away from average performance.

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Tags: cost efficiency Productivity human capital management technology