By Thomas Michael, an EO New York member and the CEO of Michael Management Cooperation
Your company might be a dinosaur and you may not even know it. In the world of business, adaptability is as important to sustained success as having a bulletproof business plan … but what if you’re too close to the proverbial forest to see the trees? In my experience, there are a few telltale signs of a company doomed to irrelevance. If any of the following are true of your company, it might be time to stop and smell the coffee.
You schedule more meetings than individual work time. I recently worked with a major Fortune 500 client, and they literally scheduled 40 hours of meetings in the first week! I thought it was a practical joke—sadly, it wasn’t. If your staff comes in most days to a calendar full of meetings, you are inefficient as a company. People need individual time to get work done. I’ve learned that meetings should be scheduled only when necessary, should include as few people as possible, have a hard start and end time, and a tangible outcome. Consider designating time during the workday as “uninterrupted individual time.” That not only means no meetings, but no cubicle visits, either. Your employees will thank you, and so will your productivity.
You don’t have a teleworking policy. If you still believe that people are less productive when working from home, you’re just plain wrong. Most of what we do in the office can be done on our computers at home or on the road. If you don’t trust your employees to do their work, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands. Here’s an approach I adopted: Try a mixed policy where certain days are optional to work from home. Tell your employees you trust them to work just as hard at home and that you know they need uninterrupted work time. Putting faith in your employees in this way will reap untold dividends.
You still use email and the water cooler as your main collaboration tools. Do you get 200 emails a day? How many just sit there taunting you because you never get through them? At the speed of business today, your employees need to be able to access real-time feedback and get answers to questions without waiting for an email to pop up in their inbox. Our team gets more done because we use tools like Skype and Chatter to stay in constant contact, even when we’re geographically dispersed. Collaborative tools should adapt to the way your teams naturally work. Interoffice web-conferencing, instant messaging and project-specific collaboration tools will improve the productivity of your entire team.
Your website isn’t mobile and social-media friendly. Everyone is surfing the web on phones and tablets these days, and the number is increasing every month. Case in point: Open rates on mobile devices for our monthly newsletters are around 40%. This number was 20% last year. If you haven’t updated your company’s site in this decade, it’s time to make a change. Not only do potential clients make snap judgments about your business based on your web design and ease of access, but they increasingly do this on the go. If you visit your website on your phone and don’t like what you see, it’s time for a change. And while you’re at it, make sure your site and content can be shared easily via social media platforms (oh, and don’t let your web developer tell you that’s a big job … with tools like addthis.com, it can be done in 10 minutes).
You still use money as the main motivator. Despite what many people think, more money doesn’t necessarily equal harder or better workers. In my experience, making employees feel valued and appreciated, and giving them meaningful work, are actually much bigger drivers of success. Whether it’s a sincere “thank you” or celebrating a big sale with a pizza party, find creative ways to show how valuable your team members are to you. Or better yet, consider designing and implementing an “employee happiness policy,” something I’m working on right now.