Productivity is pretty important, but it had better apply to the right sort of work.
Even if your employees are incredibly efficient at whatever they do, if their work no longer brings substantial value to the table, your business could evaporate.
The failure to automate the work that can and should be automated will eventually push your costs out of line with the competition. If some of the work you do now could be automated without losing quality, you have to take an honest look at it.
Remember…If you don’t address this issue, the marketplace will do it for you.
If you’ve ever had to lay someone off, you know it isn’t fun. When they walk out for the last time, they have to go home and tell their family and they have to figure out what’s next. It won’t feel any better that it happened because you weren’t paying attention – and it certainly won’t help you to be understaffed.
In order to avoid this, you have to look for places to become more efficient. It has to be done without losing quality, distinction or value. It’s possible that your choice becomes your new edge and that the staffer who was doing the low value work ends up managing the process that replaced their labor.
Are you still doing the right things?
Sometimes, automation isn’t enough. You realize (or the market tells you) that you’re doing the wrong work.
Every month, you have to ask yourself about your business and about your people, “Am I doing the right sort of work? If not, am I ready to? If not, what do I have to do to get there?”
If your work can be outsourced easily, you’re living on borrowed time.
If you’re a middleman adding zero value, you’re living on borrowed time.
You already know this if you’re paying attention and being honest with yourself. Even so, it’s nothing to be ashamed of unless you ignore it. Everyone faces market challenges but we don’t have to seek them out and invite them in for dinner.
There’s nothing that says you have to do what you do now, that your people can’t learn a new skill that someone places a high value these days or that your business can’t start making something that people will line up to buy.
The kind of work you should be seeking is the kind of work that produces real value and/or requires taking real responsibility for what you deliver.
Think about the vendors who serve your business. How many of them take real responsibility for the products and services they provide? Now consider the vendor you’d NEVER fire. You know why. They care as much as you do.
What if you don’t want to change?
“Boy, the way Glenn Miller played”…
Edith and Archie sang that song in the 70s about music from decades earlier, looking back upon what they saw as their golden years.
No matter how wonderful those golden years were, no matter what decade they were in, now isn’t then. Even in 1939, the handwriting was on the wall for Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.
If you warmly recall that time two, three or even four decades ago when your area had low unemployment, the best jobs, more work than you could do and close to the highest per capita wages in the country.
Those decades are long gone. So are many of the high-paying jobs that were valued back then. Just like that steam shovel.
Everyone deals with it.
Many “middle class” jobs of a century ago (like coal and ice delivery) were steady jobs. They’re gone. It’s not much different with many of the jobs from 20-30-40 years ago.
If this describes your business, understand that I’m not trying to make light of that. I was trained as a programmer. 20 years later, tens of millions of people in India, the Ukraine, China and elsewhere can do what most “first world” programmers do for $10-20 an hour. I understand the competitive pressures.
If your work can be outsourced at $10-20 an hour, you have to ask yourself…”How much value do I really deliver?”
Take charge. Do the right work.