All businesses go through periods where workers feel unengaged or old processes aren’t working as well as they should. If you aren’t turning out as much product or seeing the results you’d like from different departments, it’s probably time to do an audit and figure out what needs changing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 50% of businesses fail by the end of year five. The reasons why companies fail to thrive are complex. One factor often cited for business closings is cash flow issues, but even lowered productivity or high employee turnover can contribute to lower profits and, ultimately, failure.
Do you feel like your organization is in a productivity slump? There are numerous things you can do to improve both your output and your organization’s attitude. Here are eight of them:
1. Improve Your Company Culture
Do you know what your company culture is? Are you a big family? Is your goal to support one another? If you don’t have a company mission statement in writing, you need one. A purpose serves as your compass, guiding you in everything you do.
Start holding regular stand-up meetings to get everyone on the same page for the day. The sessions should be short and positive. They aren’t a place to air complaints or hash out complicated problems. It’s just an update on where you are on big projects — and perhaps an inspirational message.
Treat your employees like the people they are. Care when they have a sick child, visit them in the hospital and celebrate milestones such as birthdays.
Practice flexibility. If one employee has a problem getting to work at 7 a.m. because their child care provider doesn’t open until then, allow them to come in an hour later and work an hour later. While you’ll occasionally run into a worker who abuses your kindness, you’ll ultimately build an atmosphere where co-workers care about one another and thrive in their work and personal lives.
2. Avoid Unnecessary Shutdowns
If you run any type of business, there may be times when the power goes out. If you run a brick-and-mortar storefront, this could create a situation where you can’t remain open for your customers or ring up sales. For office buildings, no one can work on any of the electrical equipment, including computers. For manufacturing facilities, you lose precious time creating products, which delays orders and severely impacts productivity.
Having your own backup power source helps you avoid delays from power outages during storms or heavy usage periods. Your entire system can remain online if you have a generator. At a minimum, you can power heating and cooling systems and lights.
You should also consider what to do during equipment breakdowns and how to repair machinery quickly to get everything back up and running at lightning speed. You may need a repair person who responds quickly, someone on staff or a backup machine.
Assess the issues you typically have. If you know a particular piece of equipment breaks down frequently, look for a backup machine to pick up the slack while you wait on repairs. Avoiding stoppage may improve your productivity enough to help increase revenue and allow you to focus on quality control and other issues.
3. Take a Breath
One reason some entrepreneurs go through slumps is because of burnout. As a small business owner, you have to run everything within your company. You may be the head of marketing, head salesperson, head accountant and manager.
Feeling overwhelmed sets you up for a productivity slump. You may find it takes longer to do minor tasks. Sometimes you need a fresh perspective to greet your work with renewed enthusiasm.
A break can take many different forms. Shut the office down for the day and host a team-building exercise. Work in groups to take a joint vacation, even if you don’t go anywhere but your backyard.
The key is to do something you enjoy and get away from the hustle and bustle of running a company for a bit. Exposing yourself to new experiences also offers inspiration you otherwise might not have.
4. Bring in a Speaker
Are you and your employees just going through the motions? Sometimes you need an outside party to inspire you to be the best you can be. Bring in a motivational speaker.
First, take an audit of your business. What are the things causing a productivity slump? Are people arriving late to work and taking extra long lunch breaks? Perhaps they simply aren’t putting in full effort. Procedural issues might also be to blame.
Once you identify an issue or two, seek out a speaker specializing in those challenges. Invite them to talk with your staff. Then, spend some time afterward figuring out how you can implement what the speaker said and what makes sense for your brand.
According to Market Research, the United States’ motivational speaker market is worth $1.9 billion annually. The reason so many companies use motivational speakers to spur their employees toward greatness is because it works.
Sometimes it’s hard to see how to get out of a slump. Bringing in an expert gives you fresh ideas and helps you develop concepts you might not have on your own.
5. Network With Like-Minded Companies
Although every business is unique, small business owners often face similar challenges. When you’re going through a stagnant period, look for some outside examples of CEOs who’ve overcome similar situations.
Find opportunities for networking through your local chamber of commerce and industry organizations and seek out a more experienced mentor. Take the time to have lunch with another business owner and ask their advice on improving productivity.
Listen to stories about how others have overcome their slumps. The insight of more experienced people is invaluable in avoiding the same mistakes and knowing how to grow your business.
6. Just Do Something
Lulls in productivity sometimes happen because you aren’t sure what the project’s next phase should be. Sometimes, the only way to move forward is to just do something. If you run up against a block, choose another task.
If you don’t already have a list of tasks and a project management solution, such as Trello or ClickUp, invest time into creating a series of steps and listing them on a common platform.
Anytime someone on the team isn’t completing one of the tasks, have them turn to something else for a bit. Completing an item on the to-do list may be just the boost needed to spur additional work.
7. Declutter Your Space
Clutter can impact your productivity. Scientists found messes affect our ability to focus on work. Having piles of paperwork or unorganized office supplies around may keep you from focusing on what you need to complete.
Look around the workspace and see it through the eyes of someone entering the area for the first time. Where you see piles of clutter, figure out how to put them away, throw them away or organize them. Using bins and trays is a huge help for getting organized and creating a safer work environment.
While clutter might not be the only reason for a slump in productivity, small changes make a big difference. When staff can get right to work in the morning without having to stop and push paperwork out of the way, they can immediately increase the day’s work output. Spend time getting organized, and it will pay off in the long run.
8. Learn Singular Focus
The human brain has a hard time focusing on more than a single task at a time. While some people tout multitasking, it can dilute the quality of all their work. Your brain must shift every time you focus on something new, which takes up precious time.
Train your employees to focus on one task at a time. When there is a big project, break it into smaller jobs. Look at one job at a time and finish it before moving on to the next step. If you’re unable to achieve something in a few hours, you may need to break it into even smaller tasks.
People need to know their personal work style. Some people do well with a bit of background noise, such as music, while others need complete silence to focus. Allow space for your workers to choose what makes them most productive. Encourage them to use productivity trackers to figure out when they get the most done and repeat those conditions.
Study time management as an organization. What are some things that help people get more done in a day? Taking short breaks from time to time helps people work more efficiently at tasks. Many people overwork themselves to the point where they can barely function. Insist your staff take breaks, even if just a short walk around the building, to help them think through the solution to a problem.
Attack the Slump
When you find your small business in a productivity slump, attack the problem. Throw every solution you can think of at the issue. A multi-faceted approach of engaging employees, improving time management and even enhancing the work environment all work together for higher output and better quality work.
Every company goes through downtimes. Embrace the solutions, and you’ll find ways of working through the issue and becoming a thriving company that succeeds well past the breaking point.
Exhausted businessman -DepositPhotos