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You’re probably familiar with the old story about Jacques, the pig farmer in Provence who had fallen on hard times. To address the situation, he sold the truck and decided to fatten up his prize winning pig with a plan to sell it within 3 months. Jacques set a target weight which, at the prevailing prices, would produce sufficient cashflow to keep the farm afloat for another 12 months. All good so far. The farmer didn’t own a set of scales but he knew there was a set at the market place in the local village… 3 kilometres away. Over the ensuing 3 months, he fed the pig every form of fattening agent as often as possible. So what happened? Unfortunately, Jacques became so obsessed with weighing the pig they walked to the village every day and the pig ended up losing weight because of all the exercise!

The lesson from our cautionary tale is that you need to balance the effort of measuring business results with the work and initiatives that actually create it. For example, everyone agrees we need to improve productivity and most people understand the measures. However, excessive requests for input to endless reporting can end up getting in the way of the very thing you’re trying to improve.

Improving productivity is a key focal point across the professional services segment and the financial services industry. Financial planners, law firms, PR agencies, engineers, accountants, architects, corporate real estate services companies and even banks leverage the expertise, knowledge and efforts of their people in servicing the needs of their customers. To drive growth in revenue and profit, the productivity of their people is critical.

So, what are some common productivity measures across these industries?

  • Billable hours vs Hours worked – e.g. PR agencies
  • Revenue per FTE – e.g. Real Estate
  • Cost:Income ratio – e.g. Banks

Productivity pitfalls

In its 2012 Productivity Pulse Survey EY found that, on average, Australian workers spend 16% of their day on activities that waste their time and effort. Assuming an 8 hour day and 100 employees that’s 80 days of work lost per week or $1.2 million p.a. based on an average salary of $75K p.a. 39% of employees surveyed agreed that their organisation was not as productive as it could be.

What can you do to release the productivity potential of your people?

In our work at Lighthouse Group, we’ve helped many address their quest for productivity improvement.. and we’ve found the 5 most effective pathways to productivity improvement in Business Services are:

  1. Employee engagement and retention– e.g. helping people see the bigger picture of the organisation and how their role contributes to success
  2. Capability – Customer and business acumen, strategic thinking, communication top 3 capabilities
  3. Customer engagement – e.g. which clients to target, managing expectations, selling a clear value proposition, internal collaboration
  4. Technology and innovation – e.g. AI and robotics to provide meaningful data and replace mundane and repetitive tasks and processes
  5. Focus and Prioritisation – clarity on what will turn the dial and aligning goals and roles to the lead indicators of the business

The first factor is an interesting one. The more people you have who understand the whole organisation rather than just their team or division, the better they’re able to assess the impact of their decisions and actions on the rest of the organisation. This will ultimately lead to greater productivity and better results.

Across all of these factors, great leadership, smart decision making and professional coaching are essential in achieving the behavioural change you’re after. There’s no point in giving people a new piece of technology that will save them time if you don’t make sure it’s used effectively. Similarly, its wasteful to send people on a 2 day workshop if you don’t embed the learning with how they apply it within their roles.

Oh and by the way, keep tracking the results of your efforts… just try and avoid making the measurement process too complex or you’ll end up weighing the pig!

 This article has been adapted from the original written by Stuart Findlay, Specialist Business Acumen Facilitator for Lighthouse.

At Lighthouse, we partner with leaders to deliver results by changing behaviour and improving capability. We customise global best practice programs exclusively in ANZ to build Productivity, Ownership and Accountability, Agility, Collaboration, Communication and Influence. We can help your managers save up to 4 hours per day through better time and organisation principles. Contact us on 1300 244 373 or [email protected] for an obligation free conversation.

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