As the famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle once said, "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." Turns out that he might have been on to something. When thinking about productivity in the workplace, employee and (equally relevant for professional services firms,) client happiness are often overlooked. At the end of last year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released a survey on UK happiness. The section which looks at happiness in the workplace leads with: "Being happy at work is important because it makes people more productive and improves the economy." The more productive employees are, the faster and more efficiently they can deliver results to the client. This in turn increases client satisfaction and loyalty to the firm.
Ultimately, the employees who are most unhappy at work are also the least productive. The research showed that 1 in 5 (22.2%) were somewhat, mostly or completely dissatisfied with their job. Aside from pay, the top factors determining a person's happiness at work are whether there is a clear goal for a project, whether they enjoy their given tasks and if they have the resources to complete the project. Without this, employees feel a lack of accomplishment and low morale. This is particularly an issue in larger organisations, where different departments are often working on the same project - no one wants to be seen as the one who let the team down. So how can businesses ensure that they have the insight in order to allocate projects and resources to employees in such a way that they are empowered to do their jobs and remain happy while doing it?
One activity that can really help maintain this level of happiness and therefore productivity across employees is forward planning. An employee that is properly prepared for a project will be able to understand how much time and resource the project will take and tackle the actions accordingly. It also enables project managers to be realistic in terms of matching the right skill and costs to projects. As well as the capacity insight, forward planning also gives the project managers an overview of when projects can be completed, allowing the firm to be confident and transparent in terms of their metrics and deliverable timetables to the client.
Forward planning also allows an organisation to identify and retain the best talent. Most productive employees are the ones that proactively ask what their requirements and capacities for a project are in order to balance their professional and personal lives. Businesses owe it to these productive staff to give them visibility to their workloads as far in advance as possible. Additionally, productive organisations that deliver on projects efficiently and to schedule are the ones most likely to retain existing clients in this competitive economy.
At Deltek, we created People Planner, a resource planning system designed to bridge the gap between project and resourcing planning. It provides a single view of resourcing and product plans to a project manager, enabling them to properly assign resources to each project. We have been using it within our professional services division for the past three years to get a better overview of our own resource capacity, particularly where we have to cater to multiple clients and projects.
Forward planning can also help an organisation understand the pressures on the employees and decide if external resources are needed to lend a helping hand. For example, prior to using People Planner, we found that we were defaulting to using contractors when we had an abundance of work and then scaling back the work to permanent employees during quieter periods. Using People Planner, we were able to get visibility across our business to identify and understand when and why we need contractors - instead of defaulting immediately to them. It also helped us build a solid case for internal hires, where appropriate.
With forward planning, businesses can address one of the biggest impacts of lack of productivity - employees working in departmental silos. It is important for teams within a business to collaborate once the insights from forward planning become available. This will enable them to organise, discuss and share workloads so that everyone is aware of and happy with their allocated activity. As such, each team has time to prioritise important pressures and as a result, productivity is increased.
Productivity is a good indication of the morale of employees and their satisfaction of a job well done. Happy workers are more efficient, which in turn leads to revenue and profits for the business.
Neil Davidson is UK MD at Deltek, a global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms.