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Complexity in business can mean a number of things, for example the complexity of the global business environment has increased due to factors such as mergers, acquisitions and economic structure. More importantly, complexity can slow down business support functions such as HR and finance, which are often processes employees find difficult and time consuming to manage.

Without efficient systems, businesses will struggle to be as productive as they can be, with time wasted on admin and performance management often having a detrimental impact on turnover and profit. As a nation it appears to be something we need to address - the latest ONS statistics demonstrate that the UK’s productivity levels are 18 points lower than the average for G7 nations with France, Germany and the US all creating an extra £30 an hour.

We recently worked with Futurologist David Smith and the Professor of Management practice at London Business School - Lynda Gratton and her research consulting team ‘The Hotspot Movement’. Within our ‘A Future That Works’ report, together we identified increasing complexity as an important issue for businesses to tackle this year and beyond.

As well as this, the report also identified that changing technology, diversity in the workplace and disappearing middle skilled roles were also important trends to consider.

Processes and productivity

In order to discover which processes may be slowing down productivity, senior management must take a step back to analyse what tasks can either be simplified or automated. Using time analysis systems within a company can also pinpoint if employees are spending too much time on admin or HR issues.

Giving employees the chance to suggest any changes to current business systems which are already in place can also improve ways of working effectively and is a great way to highlight issues to senior management which may not have been picked up on before.

To give some gravitas to the issue, research by Deliotte revealed that they lost 20 million hours per year on performance management processes that weren’t working effectively. Time IS money and it can sometimes take a shock figure such as that for businesses to realise the impact of ineffective systems.

Removing processes

There is a big difference between the effectiveness of altering and simplifying systems as opposed to removing them altogether. Looking to Virgin as an example, a well publicised plan to remove annual leave policies altogether didn’t work as predicted. The company found that many employees were actually too reluctant to take holidays, proving that there still does need to be some trigger signals in place to guide employees to a decision.

Technology will be the key driver for change, with easily accessible systems providing employees with an avenue to the information they require. Technology can also be implemented across areas of a business which may have not been considered complex before. For example, predictive analysis is being used to spot trends in data and form plans to make all areas of a business more effective.

Self Service HR

As part of our ‘A Future That Works’ report we surveyed 100 accountants, financial advisors and consultants of which 80 percent told us that the world of work will change to such an extent that their HR systems will be inadequate in five years’ time.

This shows us that intuitive technology which simplifies the context of work and reduces the time spent on HR will be essential. Digital HR platforms and other self-service platforms are examples of how this is already being implemented within businesses. This helps to free up time for employees to spend on their core work which drives business growth and profit.

By Paul Tooth, CEO and co-founder, BrightHR

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