Technology is continually evolving to help us do more – and to do so better and quicker. This is the magic of ever-increasing productivity. But with more advanced tools for practice management and client service comes the responsibility to continually be looking for solutions that will optimize productivity even further.
The advent of the first small computers greatly increased business capabilities. Then came the Internet, followed by email, social media, and smartphones. Now there is artificial intelligence, and greater interoperability between systems. For professional services firms, technologies like BQE’s CORE, which combines AI and business management, have now come into the picture. Platforms like CORE make it easier than ever to stay on top of critical firm tasks, measure staff productivity, and monitor project information.
As we’ve navigated through the COVID pandemic, with more staff than ever working remotely, these technologies have provided even greater benefit. This doesn’t come without a cost, however, as personal and professional time is now so intertwined that it is often difficult to say the words, “I’m off work.” For many of us, it now seems like we are always working.
With so many staff members working at varied hours throughout the day, is it even possible for firms to accurately measure daily team productivity? While the need to measure productivity may lead some managers to the brink of micromanaging, keep in mind that if you’ve developed a firm culture of trusting your staff and their abilities, micromanaging may diminish that.
So, regardless of the practice management system you use, here are some tips for measuring the productivity of your remote staff, sans micromanaging.
Measure Tasks and Projects, Not Just Time
With the blurring of professional and personal lives, especially for remote staff at professional services firms, it’s natural that some overlap will occur. And this goes both ways. If you expect or encourage staff to be responsive when you email them at 8pm, then you shouldn’t be concerned if they make a trip to the store or pick up their kids during work hours, unless they miss a meeting or something equally important as a result. The primary factor to consider is this: are they completing their tasks on time and with the quality/accuracy expected? Being worried about the clock is simply a bad micromanaging tactic.
In addition to completing tasks and projects on time, the workflow of the firm also needs to be preserved. So, a “what time they do their work doesn’t matter,” approach may not necessarily be true if the work is highly dependent on teamwork or collaboration. When this is the case, it is imperative that these staff members are working at the same time, or else bottlenecks may occur as staff wait for the work product to flow their way. Once again, however, as long as workflow processes are moving smoothly and clients are happy, there is no need to distrust flexible work schedules. The key at that point is to identify which tasks are “anytime” tasks, meaning manageable parts of broader projects, and which ones are “workflow critical” tasks.
Focus on the Results
If you’re measuring tasks and projects instead of time, then you’re focused on the end result. Keep in mind that your clients don’t hire you to spend X number of hours doing something. They are paying your firm to do it, and to do it with expertise. As such, while it’s good to measure overall time spent on tasks as a measure of productivity, it is not as important to measure when that time occurred. For example, you may find that staff members are more productive during certain times of the day, and that tasks that require critical thinking or creativity may be easier when there are fewer distractions. If working from home, this may mean when others are away, which may not always be the same schedule as in a traditional in-office environment.
This is a good point of feedback you should ask from your staff. Gaining as much insight as possible into your project workflow, including the client experience, should be at the top of your to-do list. If you identify that something is working great, don’t throw a wrench in the process. But if you find something needs reworking or minor adjusting, you’ll have the insight to do that as well.
Keep Your Firm’s Goals in Mind
Productivity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While you should strive for greater productivity, don’t do so in a way that harms your firm’s culture, or veers from end goals and objectives. Your firm isn’t a daycare center, but it should be a fun and rewarding place to work. If you institute a policy of ABC (“always be closing” from the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”), then you will have turned your vibrant and positively challenging workplace into a den of stress, with staff feeling overworked and under-appreciated. Remember that positivity breeds productivity, and that having reasonable deadlines for projects and tasks results in more wins, and subsequently, more positivity.
The Right Technology Can Help
Measuring your firm’s productivity is critical to effective business management and growth. But it is important that you don’t lose sight of the true key to your success: your staff. And if you invest in the right technology, your staff will be able to do a lot more… in a lot less time. Technology plays two roles here: day-to-day client work, as well as measurement and reporting of that work.
Modern firm management systems like BQE CORE include dashboards for partners to track productivity across all aspects of the firm, including tools for time and expense tracking, project management, billing, accounting, reporting, HR, a CRM, and integrated mobile device functionality. Additionally, artificial intelligence and machine learning features will provide you with deeper insights, simply by asking (with your voice) the system to provide comparisons and other metrics, as well as suggestions on sales, financials, and staff performance.