A lack of productivity in the workplace doesn’t just hinder revenue gains; it traps you and your teammates in a cycle of inefficiency and stress. No one wants to feel like they’re just trying to stay above water at their job. But if your workflows are broken, that’s likely how many of your employees feel.
Unfortunately, signs that your workflows are failing aren’t always easy to notice. Months or even years can go by before you realize where the problems are. That’s why we want to point out three of the biggest signs that businesses often fail to notice right away.
If these symptoms appear in your own company, then something needs to change.
1. Lack of Accountability
This is perhaps the biggest (and yet the most overlooked) sign that your internal workflows are dysfunctional. Many hours of the workweek are consumed by one employee waiting on another. In some cases, no one even knows who’s taking direct responsibility for a certain task. Projects are dragged along for months, problems go unaddressed and things fall between the cracks.
To make everyone more accountable in your business, you must first figure out where the lack of clarity is coming from. Is it a problem with your communication methods? Most businesses spend more than 17 hours a week clarifying communication. Maybe it’s an issue with employee engagement. A Gallup poll found that 53 percent of employees are disengaged during the workday.
No matter what’s causing the confusion over accountability, the issue can lead to high turnover rates, low levels of trust and general inefficiency. There’s nothing worse than unclear expectations in a company full of confused coworkers. This often leads to a loss of purpose, and as a result, a loss of productivity.
Speaking of purpose, having strong core values can certainly facilitate accountability within the workplace. For instance, take a look at the company USAA.
As Bill Taylor said in a Harvard Business Review, “The simple lesson behind the success of USAA: You can’t be special, distinctive and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive and compelling in the workplace.”
The organization openly operates on a shared vision of accountability and high performance, which is why it’s trusted by so many.
Taylor’s point is essentially this: if you want people to take pride in their job, give them things to be proud of and responsible for.
Start to pay attention to who takes responsibility for each task in your company. If it isn’t clear or if there’s a lot of finger-pointing, then it’s time for your workplace to become more direct about project ownership and management. Look into standardizing approval processes so there’s less gray area when it comes to accountability.
2. Failing to Follow Through on Customer Feedback
How you respond to customer complaints, or fail to do so, is a monumental part of your company’s reputation. Unfortunately, when your workflow is broken, the issues usually leak into the consumer-facing parts of your operation. Listen to your customers: they can often tell you what’s broken, even if you can’t see it yourself.
As you monitor your customers’ feedback, you’ll likely start to notice patterns in public sentiment. Instead of ignoring issues that are reported multiple times, view them as an indication of a larger internal problem within your company. Acknowledge that you hear your valuable buyers’ feedback and that you understand where your short-comings lie. Then, try to learn from both positive and negative reviews.
For example, look at this review of Trustpilot.
There’s so much the company can learn from a detailed piece of feedback like this, including their pros and cons with explanations of the buyers’ feelings. It would be a shame to let this valuable insight into the consumer’s mind go to waste, but if you don’t have a workflow that promotes learning from user feedback, it will.
According to Microsoft’s research, brands are viewed more favorably by about 77 percent of consumers if they proactively invite and accept customer feedback. Not only will your customers appreciate the opportunity, but you’ll also benefit from an outside opinion. Just make sure that there’s a firm guide for dealing with customer feedback so that complaints aren’t brushed under the rug by disgruntled employees or the chaos of the workplace.
3. Little Transparency
Last, but not least, on the list is a huge red flag that many people mistake for “normal.” Workflows often fail when no one knows what’s going on. The water is murky, and decision making happens in a top-down fashion that leaves lots of room for gossip and confusion. This may sound like an obvious sign that something’s wrong, but unfortunately, a lack of transparency in the workplace is an ongoing, normalized problem for many businesses.
In a recent study by the American Psychological Association in 2016, more than 50 percent of the people surveyed stated that they didn’t think their employers shared the information they required to be successful within their jobs. When people don’t have full visibility of the process or their own role, it’s all but guaranteed that important tasks will fall through the cracks sooner or later. Employees become discontented and the rumor mill churns endlessly.
Additionally, a lack of transparency prevents you from seeing where your holdups are. If there’s no organized procedure that’s visible to everyone, how can you identify weak spots? Everyone needs to know what the process is in order to evaluate it effectively.
From day one and onward, there needs to be an established workflow that makes every process within the workplace transparent. One way to do this is to utilize a project management tool like Pipefy. These platforms allow everyone to see what’s going on and keep track of tasks.
Whether you’re the newest employee or the CEO, visibility into the business’ workflow is essential for productivity and trust. Make honesty a policy in your company, and encourage people to ask questions if they need clarification. Ultimately, this will have an enormous impact on trust between coworkers and company culture.
To Wrap Things Up
At first glance, these signs might not actually seem so “under-the-radar.” However, you’d be surprised by how commonly these symptoms appear in businesses of all shapes and sizes. By just focusing on these three issues, you could revamp your workflow in a hugely beneficial way.
Over the next few weeks, take a look at your own company’s processes. Identify problems, then follow them to their roots to see where the issue stems from. With the help of online tools and customer feedback, you can quickly slap bandages on the broken parts of your workflows.