What are some key initiatives your company has put in place to boost productivity?
We put a huge amount of emphasis on our front line people. They are the most important asset in our business because they're the ones who are out there delivering our service, creating our success and our long-term sustainability - not me. But something that has been hugely successful for us in terms of boosting productivity is feeding our people. Staff pay $2 a day to be provided with breakfast - cereals and toast every day with a full cooked breakfast on three of those days. We implemented the programme in 2007 and the productivity gains make it a real no brainer; it's increased productivity around 11%.
What we noticed was the guys and girls were often coming to work late, then coming to work with potato chips, pies and cans of coke. It was all crap food and it wouldn't give them much energy so by mid-morning they were leaving the job to get more crap food and the client would be getting upset because they were leaving their job up to twice a day to get food - bad food.
Now that we give them a big breakfast, they arrive at work up to an hour before start time, they eat together, talk to each other, and we understand more about what's going on out there because the managers are with them and listening. So now they're also in a meeting 10 minutes before start time and talking about the day ahead. I think it also makes the staff feel special, so they are more engaged and give more to the business.
Measuring what you do is important for increasing productivity. How have you approached this in your business?
Trying to find a way to measure what we do was a big thing. There was an accountant I knew who was at home struggling to get work so I suggested he come and do a bit of work for us - not for a whole heap of money, but to do some research for us and get him re-focused.
I got him to go right through a few years worth of our work and measure how long it took to do 'stuff' and from that process we got a whole heap of information. What that means for us now is once one of our salespeople has surveyed what's required on a job we can punch those details into our moving calculator and it will tell us how many man hours it will take to do the job.
In the past that process had really relied on someone making a guess, but now our planning is much better, and we can better allocate our resources. Alongside our calculation of the estimated hours it will take us to do a job, after completing the job we record the actual hours and resources the job took. From that we can calculate the ratio between the two and report on those productivity figures, on both a daily and monthly basis with staff. It also generates healthy competition amongst the staff, which can be fun.
What role does communication with staff play in terms of boosting productivity?
We have quarterly, formal one-on one-meetings with all staff to ensure they are being listened to and we've learnt that not dictating to staff is hugely important when making decisions. We make sure we seek their ideas as they are at the coalface, not the office staff or management. They develop and approve the ideas because then they will be far more engaged in implementing them. In today's environment, a lot of people will nod their head and say 'yes' to something you ask of them, but if they don't believe in it, or don't understand it fully they're not going to implement it and it won't work.
We've also had budgeting services and nutritionists through here and I'd like to spend more time developing the financial literacy of our people. If we can make the connection they can make better financial choices and eat better at home then they'll be happier there. And if they're happier at home, they're happier and more productive at work.
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