Operations Guide To Streamlining Your Processes

The best-laid plans often go awry.

That’s how the saying goes, and that’s how workforce planning goes. The most brilliantly planned, perfectly crafted employee schedule can get blown out of the water by unpredictable internal and external factors.

As an operations manager, that’s your responsibility. 

Plus, you have to manage personnel, track inventory, and keep an eye on both the budget and how your team is tracking towards set goals. When things run smoothly, no one notices. But when there’s a hiccup, everyone looks at you.

In some sense, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades to keep the gears turning. Streamlining the entire process will not only make things easier for you to manage, but it also encourages smoother operations with fewer surprises that disrupt planning.

But maybe you’re not convinced, and you believe there are no shortcuts to managing operations. Streamlining sounds a bit like cutting corners or over-simplifying something that’s complex. 

We’re going to show you both why you should streamline your processes as operations manager, and how to go about doing it.

Why you need to streamline your processes

There are five reasons to streamline your processes as operations manager:

  1. Increased productivity. Fussy and complicated methods of working take more time. Better processes and systems leads to better productivity. And that, in turn, leads to…
  2. Increased cost efficiency. Poor processes waste time, while automated tasks give your employees a chance to focus on more profitable parts of their jobs.
  3. Improved time management. Instead of spending time on inefficient, manual, or redundant tasks, that time is used for more important duties.
  4. Better communication. Streamlined processes improve communication between departments, as well as across teams. This is especially important when it comes to working cross-functionally.
  5. Minimized risk. A simple, effective process reduces the chances for mistakes as well as creates transparency. Serious problems can’t hide and fester like they do when things are unnecessarily complicated.

Streamlining is about shifting time, energy, and brain power to the things that matter instead of tasks that only exist because the process is convoluted. 

The time savings and increase in just about every kind of efficiency could mean freeing up an entire staff position in some cases. At the very least, you’ll notice the change that comes when time is opened up to focus on what’s important. 

How to streamline your processes

If you’re convinced about the benefits of streamlining your processes, your next concern is how to do it.

Clunky processes tend to develop over time as you build an ad hoc system in an attempt to answer the next problem or need that pops up. Sometimes it’s tough to figure out how to trim that down and rework everything.

So, the first thing you have to do is evaluate what you’re doing, and why.

  • What processes take the most time?
  • What generates the most complaints from your team?
  • What do you dread dealing with?
  • What have you always thought could be better?

Once you determine the areas you could improve, rank your processes on a scale of 1-5 based on these different factors—to help you know what areas to tackle first.

  • Is this process business critical? 
  • Does this process consume a lot of time?
  • Is this process even necessary?
  • Could the process be automated?
  • How important is this process?

With that rating in mind, take a look at what outcomes the process produces.

  • What does this process cost your business in time, products, supplies, and sunk costs?
  • What do you need to accomplish? 
  • What is the reason or goal behind the process?
  • How does it benefit your business?

Next, ask your team and get their input. They’re the ones who are in the weeds, using the processes you’ve laid out. 

Ask them how it’s going. Find out what it’s really like to deal with the process. It’s important to note that this is something you should be doing regularly, whether you’re looking for a major overhaul or not. Your employees have great insight into where your processes are breaking down.

Gather the information, and get insight on what’s really going on with your processes. Then start making the changes.

Use automation when you can

If your processes haven’t changed in a long time, there’s a good chance you’re doing things manually. Maybe you’re so accustomed to doing things that way that you don’t think it’s a problem, or the thought of changing it all seems like more work than it’s worth.

Your employees probably have different feelings on the matter. In some cases, your manual processes may be so onerous that it’s getting in the way of hiring and retention.

Look again at that list of what streamlined processes can do. It’s forward thinking, and about doing work now to do less in the future.

Automation is one of the best ways—outside of outright cutting a process—to streamline things. This is particularly true when it comes to your employee schedule, which tends to be an area where processes get bloated or clunky.

Do you, or your managers, spend hours creating the employee schedule each week only to deal with constant last-minute changes? Do your employees complain that they don’t get enough heads-up on when they do or don’t work?

The schedule is a process that affects everyone. With the right tool, you can streamline by:

  • Creating scheduling templates, and using those instead of reinventing the wheel each time.
  • Allowing employees to self schedule with open shifts.
  • Using auto-scheduling based on employee availability.
  • Simplifying how you manage time and attendance.
  • Creating automatic breaks so you don’t have to correct timecards.
  • Filling shifts quickly due to call-outs.
  • Scheduling part-time or gig roles easily.
  • Generating custom reports necessary for planning and goal tracking.
  • Receiving overtime alerts to help manage labor costs and reduce spending.

Take a look at that list, and see how much of your workforce planning can be improved! When I Work can do all of that, and more. Talk to our team today to find out how you can get started with a free trial, because smooth operations start with a well-made schedule.

It’s not only the schedule that can benefit from automation, however. Consider how you could automate:

  • Learning management systems for employee onboarding.
  • Inventory management.
  • Application and job candidate management and tracking.
  • Customer support ticketing.

Go back and look at the information you gathered. Based on what matters the most to your company, what can you automate?

Keep in mind that streamlining your processes takes time. You built the system you use now over a long period, and you can’t flip it on its head overnight. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be difficult to change and implement. Start with your employee schedule, which has the most immediate effect on your entire team, and also has a broad impact on your overall workforce planning. 

Then, change out manual processes for automation one at a time. Keep in mind that streamlining is something that is ongoing, requiring you to refine and adjust. Pay attention to employee feedback as you make changes.

Your ultimate goal is improved effectiveness and efficiency, cost and time savings, and employees who enjoy their job because the processes they’re required to use don’t get in their way of doing excellent work.

That’s a lot you can accomplish, all by simply making the decision to streamline your processes.