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Unmasking the hidden behaviours impacting business productivity

Individuals devise their own ‘workarounds’ or ‘hacks’ to navigate through tasks or bypass system limitations.

Managing others at work. — Image by © Tim Sandle.
Managing others at work. — Image by © Tim Sandle.

Assessing personnel and their behaviours as data points allows employers to create systems that can cater to the diverse needs of employees. A systematic approach enables organisations to identify work patterns, preferences, and challenges. This carries the aim of fostering a more adaptable and efficient work environment.

As to this might be approached collaboration plays an important role in developing systems, explains Mark Hesketh, MD at Codiance.

Heath tells Digital Journal : “Involving end-users in the development process of a new system is crucial at every step. This approach not only guarantees that the solution is perfectly tailored to meet its intended purpose in the real world, but it also instils a profound sense of ownership among those involved. Such ownership is not just beneficial; it’s decisive. It can be the difference between the success and failure of any new system.”

Heath goes on to identify the primary behaviours that employers need to be aware of.

Adapting Systems to People; Embracing Informal Solutions

Heath indicates that systems ought to be designed around the behaviours of those who use them, not the reverse. Frequently, individuals devise their own ‘workarounds’ or ‘hacks’ to navigate through tasks or bypass system limitations – innovations that often go undocumented.

Heath states: “It is only through observing individuals in action, through shadowing, that these ingenious solutions come to light. Acknowledging and understanding these informal practices are key to tailoring systems that truly resonate with and support the needs of their users.”

Collaborative Interactions

Traditional process and system maps often illustrate the transfer of roles or responsibilities but fall short in depicting the dynamic interactions and collaboration between individuals and teams.

According to Heath: “They overlook the essence of communication: How is information exchanged? Is information exchanged frequently and in different ways? Do inquiries deepen, and if so, how extensively? A profound understanding of these collaborative behaviours is crucial. It’s only with this insight that one can truly optimise both systems and processes, paving the way for more efficient and effective teamwork.”

Embracing Unofficial Innovations

Heath reveals: “We often encounter people who have crafted their own solutions, such as custom spreadsheets or specific websites, that serve as indispensable time-saving tools. These innovations typically emerge in response to a lack of suitable alternatives, the inefficiency of existing tools, or the absence of crucial features. Often, these creative shortcuts remain under the radar, concealed from the broader organization due to concerns over official approval. Diligent shadowing is crucial in bringing these invaluable yet unofficial practices to light, revealing a wealth of untapped efficiency and ingenuity within our processes.”

Optimising Workload Management through Shadowing

Shadowing provides a transparent view into how individuals handle tasks throughout various stages of a process. This observation often uncovers both highly effective and markedly less successful task management practices.

With this, Heath recommends: “It’s essential to document these findings in any process map, as they offer a treasure trove of insights. By identifying the most efficient techniques, we can develop them into scalable tools that enhance productivity. Simultaneously, we can offer targeted support to those grappling with workload management, leveraging automation as a lifeline to streamline their processes and improve efficiency.”

Valuing Human Experience

At times, automating certain tasks may seem to yield a modest return on investment (ROI) when compared directly to their manual counterparts, leading to their potential deprioritisation.

Here, Heath finds “It’s crucial to recognise that many tasks deemed low value can be stressful, monotonous, exhausting, or simply dull. While automating these tasks might not deliver the highest financial returns, the impact on enhancing an employee’s daily experience is immeasurable. Removing such burdens can significantly boost job satisfaction, morale, and engagement, fostering a vibrant, more energised workforce. This approach underscores the importance of prioritising human and cognitive factors in decision-making, recognising that the true value of automation extends far beyond mere numbers.”

In closing out this assessment, Heath says: “Only by shadowing people and their behaviours do you understand how a process is executed.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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