Let’s be honest: it’s been an exhausting few years for businesses and their staff. Just as we thought the worst of the pandemic was over, the UK began suffering its worst cost-of-living crisis since the 1950s. Skyrocketing energy bills, fuel hikes, and food prices are hitting us all, while businesses face steeper expenses across supply chains, manufacturing, overheads, and more. In fact, research shows that rising costs are putting over half of UK SMEs at risk of collapse.
In a crisis, it’s important to maintain customer service standards as best you can, to give your business the biggest chance of success and survival. But while today’s tough environment makes investment difficult, managers can instead implement cost-saving efficiencies that maximise productivity while minimising expenses.
For some businesses, this may start with immediate energy-saving installations such as LED lightbulbs and thicker office insulation. But it mustn’t end there. UK office workers spend almost 80 working days annually on administrative or repetitive tasks: by reorganising these workloads and using digitised automation tools to streamline responsibilities, business leaders can ensure precious resources are allocated wisely for ultimate cost efficiency. So, let’s explore how.
- Remove productivity blocks
Digital transformation is a huge part of cutting costs within a business today. But to begin, it’s important to consider the people in an organisation, and how their days are hampered by hurdles that stop them from performing to their potential.
First, managers must review their organisational procedures to see if there are any unnecessary obstacles to productivity. Could that meeting become an email? Are projects properly planned before they begin? Do decisions need three levels of management sign-off before being implemented? The most dangerous phrase in business is “we’ve always done it this way”. That’s why it’s crucial to constantly look to reduce organisational drag by streamlining structures, tackling bureaucracy, and supporting employees to focus on the work that matters most.
- Deploy talent dynamically
Next up is the strategic deployment of employee skills. The ongoing ‘war for worker talent’, particularly in the face of the great resignation, often pushes employers to try and hire as many skilled workers as possible. However, it’s not about having the most amount of raw talent, but rather how you deploy it.
Some organisations operate with equalitarianism, spreading their ‘A-team’ evenly across roles with good intentions, but inadvertently hampering their achievements. Instead, it’s important to focus your ‘stars’ on the areas where they can have the biggest impact on company performance. So, while it might seem appropriate to make your top salesperson manager of their department, keeping them in the role where they’re bringing in consistent revenue may in fact be the wiser choice.
- Empower autonomous workers
Thirdly, it’s important to build a culture of independence and accountability. Having a supervisor constantly look over an employee’s shoulder won’t help them become engaged and inspired. People perform best when given control over their work, and feel energised to be proactive and ‘own’ performance across their product or service area.
Autonomy has spearheaded growth in thousands of businesses worldwide, like Spotify. Since 2011, the company has split its workforce into small ‘squads’ and ‘tribes’, designed to function like a mini start-up with all the skills needed, such as design and engineering, to focus on an individual Spotify feature. Each squad has its own mission and can choose the structures and processes that work best for them, maximising efficiency and simplifying each day. And while it’s tough to analyse the impact this method has had, it’s no coincidence that Spotify has since grown into the world’s most popular music streaming service.
- Automate business processes
Alongside supporting your workforce to optimally perform its tasks, it’s important to consider which tasks they even need to perform at all. Advancements in technologies like AI have brought a boom in business automation, with demand surging in more than 90% of companies worldwide. Now, accurately automating day-to-day jobs, like sending welcome emails or signing off expense requests, not only removes the risk of human error but frees up employees for higher-value work. According to market research firm IDC, automating business processes can even save managers up to 40 percent of their time.
However, the automation of tasks is also a complex task in itself. So, it’s often worth applying a pre-made template that gets to work immediately. With business process templates, you don’t need to start from scratch or even know how coding the process works—it’s already been pre-prepared for you by an expert using the latest best practices. Think opening Microsoft Word and choosing a ready-to-use business brochure design, rather than selecting a blank page and then spending hours building the document yourself.
Popular templates include new hire onboarding, expense reimbursements, contract management systems, and building inspection processes. These templates are usually customisable too, allowing managers to tweak the process to perfectly fit their organisation’s needs. And once these business processes are live, organisations and their employees can more easily, quickly, and efficiently tackle day-to-day issues, and minimise the number of inessential tasks that can distract from more important, impactful work.
Looking to the future
Waking up to sombre new economic headlines each day can make it tough to imagine a brighter business future. But just like past crises, such as the COVID-19 lockdowns, this too shall pass. And by implementing cost-effective organisational changes now, business leaders can help set themselves up for lift-off once difficulties ease.
However, it’s important to remember that becoming more cost efficient won’t be the lone big fix. Business leaders must also consider new strategies and ideas, such as forecasting cash flow as regularly as possible and monitoring any new tax rules and breaks. Combining cost-saving efficiencies with new strategic approaches will work wonders holistically. Then, business leaders can give themselves the best chance of success, even in the toughest trading conditions.