There’s a strong chance that the US will enter a recession in 2023, and even if it doesn’t, there’s every reason to focus on improving operational efficiency in your business.
Based on monthly projections that date back to November 2020, Statista estimates that there’s a 38.06% chance the US will enter a recession in November 2023. Other sources claim it’s far more likely, such as Bankrate, which assigns a probability of 64%, making a recession seem all but inevitable.
In light of the last major recession in the US in the years 2007-2009, it would be wise to learn from the past and recession-proof your business to stay afloat in what could be trying times.
Why Operational Efficiency is Key in a Recession
First, it’s important to note that an economic recession doesn’t have to spell disaster for your business. Many companies survived - and even thrived - in the last major recession, and there’s no reason why yours can’t too.
However, to effectively recession-proof your business, you need to be proactive and take action before it’s too late. The best action you can take right now is to take steps toward improving your operational efficiency.
What is operational efficiency?
Operational efficiency describes the relationship between input and output with the ultimate goal of saving time, money, and physical resources.
To underline the importance of operational efficiency: 77% of CEOs stated that they would focus on ‘operational efficiencies’ in the next 12 months as a way of driving revenue growth.
In a recession, this becomes even more important. You want to eke as much value as possible from your existing processes since making new hires and gathering resources can be much more challenging than usual.
To improve operational efficiency, you want to reach a point where your output increases, but your input stays the same.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example of what operational efficiency looks like:
You run a marketing agency and a key metric you use for monitoring work performance is the number of leads generated. With this figure, you can crunch the numbers and figure out what the likely revenue per employee is.
If it works out to around $10,000 per employee, for example, then you have a benchmark for current efficiency levels.
Revenue per employee is just one of many ways to assess operational efficiency.
Types of Operational Efficiency
If you want to carry out a company-wide audit of operational efficiency and see where the areas for improvement are, it’s worth knowing the various ways you can track it. The way you track operational efficiency will also depend on the industry you’re in and your business structure.
An often overlooked way to make your business more efficient is to look at how you use energy.
For example, if you have to light a large office building, you have to commit a certain amount of resources to the lights, installation fees from contractors, and pay for ongoing maintenance. By reviewing these light sources and the alternatives out there, you could improve energy efficiency and, in doing so, cut costs.
In the current climate, perhaps the most energy-efficient move you can make is to implement some form of remote work, as this could save you significantly on office overhead costs.
All the resources you spend trying to acquire new customers can be distilled down into a metric for operational efficiency - customer acquisition cost (CAC).
Customer acquisition cost is the total amount of money it takes to onboard a new customer.
By streamlining your marketing and reducing your customer acquisition cost, you can save resources that can be used elsewhere.
Unless you run an eCommerce business or operate fully online with no physical inventory, it’s likely that you have equipment on your books.
The equipment that you own can be leveraged for greater operational efficiency.
Think about a business that relies on analog systems such as photocopiers for passing on information and carrying out day-to-day operations. In this instance, digitizing certain processes can improve operational efficiency.
In project management, streamlined processes are essential for completing projects on time.
Whereas many companies used to hold in-person meetings and use sticky notes to represent the passing of a task between ‘in progress’ and ‘complete,’ these days, it's digital Kanban boards that do the same job better.
Another way to streamline common processes is through automation. When you can automate basic tasks, and trigger actions simply by completing a task, it creates a domino effect within a team whereby each team member is instantly notified when a coworker has completed a task so that they can begin theirs.
Quickfire Ways to Boost Operational Efficiency
If you’re interested in actionable tips you can apply right now to your business to improve operational efficiency, here are several actions you can take today:
1. Audit Existing Processes
You can’t hope to tackle an issue as big as operational efficiency without a clear understanding of your current processes.
Find out what’s working, and what isn’t.
With employee tracking systems like Insightful and other workforce analytics tools, you can track employee internet usage and analyze the data to see where there’s room for improvement.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you seeing a healthy ROI for time spent on various processes and activities?
- Is this process easy to pick up for new hires?
- Can you automate the process in any way to save time or money?
2. Bolster Cross-Department Communication
A lack of communication is one of the biggest efficiency killers.
If various teams and departments within your company feel cut off from one another, then it’s nigh-on impossible to achieve greater productivity levels. This is especially true if you rely on cross-functional collaboration in your business.
An action as simple as investing in a multi-channel communication tool like Slack can help you streamline chats and conversations between teams and departments. That way, you won’t have a situation in which team members are constantly trawling through email threads to find the information they need to complete their job.
3. Identify and Eliminate Bottlenecks
Bottlenecks serve to stifle productivity and prevent processes from being as efficient as possible.
It could be that you have a large team of employees who all report to a single team leader, who becomes a bottleneck as a result - slowing down the team’s ability to produce work quickly. In this case, a simple separation of roles and responsibilities could effectively remove the bottleneck and pave the way for a more streamlined process.
How to Use Employee Monitoring Tools to Evaluate Efficiency
With attendance software like Insightful, you can keep tabs on efficiency levels company-wide so it’s much easier to make changes proactively. With desktop monitoring, you can build a clear picture of where time is being spent and how it could be used more productively.
So-called “spy software” allows you to start tracking internet activity ethically if you use a transparent tool like Insightful. With this data, you can make decisions concerning resource allocation, workplace productivity, and more.
For example, use productivity labels to discover if a team or individual is engaging mostly in productive, neutral, or unproductive activities. Monitor performance trends with the dashboard and call meetings when there are concerning productivity dips, or if you feel employees aren’t using their time as well as they could.
As a program to track computer usage, Insightful can help you determine whether accommodating more flexible work arrangements would be beneficial to harness the most productive hours of the day for each individual.