While many businesses are being forced to make difficult decisions to stay afloat financially, others are fortunate to have the opportunity to focus their efforts on optimizing the business’s processes to become more efficient and effective in a new working environment. As companies consider how to improve their current operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many anticipate a permanent shift in the future of business operations, remote work and technology as a result of this experience, so now is a great time to intentionally consider how a company may be able to improve processes and provide benefit for years to come.
With employees scattered and your physical office empty, it can be difficult to know where to begin if you’re looking to make process improvements or evaluate your internal controls. Here are a few tips for evaluating your company’s processes and making improvements so that your business is as efficient and as effective as possible—even during a pandemic.
1. Consider Capacity
Step back and look at the position of the entire business to determine if now is a good time to make changes to processes or operations. Your employees are experiencing added stress in this season, so it’s important to make sure that any changes you make are the right thing to do for your business and your team at this point in time. Before moving forward with instituting changes, it’s important to have sufficient data to know that a change will truly be beneficial instead of creating reason for additional confusion or frustration among your team. Communicate with your team the intention behind making changes; job security is no doubt on the mind of your team and you do not want to cause alarm as you seek to maximize this time.
2. Evaluate Workflow and Task Distribution
With the switch to remote work, some employees may be overwhelmed with assignments, and others may have down time as some non-essential tasks may be temporarily set aside. Ask your team members to provide a list of the things they’re working on, as well as a list of tasks they are responsible for under normal working conditions, and the timeline they usually perform those tasks in; in this season, it’s important to be clear that your reason for this request isn’t a job evaluation, but an attempt to help them navigate a new way of working.
Knowing what your team members are working on can help you to redistribute tasks in the new environment if needed, but it can also help you to anticipate how to adapt if one of your team members or a close member of their family becomes ill, or if they experiences internet loss or another technical difficulty.
3. Keep an Eye out for Suspicious Activity
Fraud cases are expected to increase in the coming weeks, so it’s important to set safeguards to protect your business. Consider how your business’s process concerning cash may need to change in order to adapt to a remote environment and who has access to your checks and financial information if your locations are currently closed. It’s also important to not neglect any internal controls or physical security standards that your business had already established. This may be a good opportunity to evaluate your organization’s fraud safeguards and internal controls as a whole.
4. Ask Employees to Document Their Work
In an office, it can be easier to collaborate, seek approvals or share information than it is when employees are working in their own homes. To prevent miscommunication, ask your team members to document their work and processes where possible. Project management systems make this easy, but taking photos, making notations on work performed and flagging emails in an inbox for later reference can serve the purpose of documentation. Taking this extra step can provide needed assurance in the future.
5. Ask for Feedback
With team members operating in their own homes, there is an increased lack of transparency and you don’t know what you don’t know. Striving to make improvements to your business’s processes and operations can be especially difficult when you can’t see the full picture from the comfort of your office. Be intentional to ask your team members about what’s going well and what needs adjustment when it comes to new operations and the current way of working. Your employees are likely to provide new perspectives and ideas that can benefit your temporary operations, but that could also help your business long after the pandemic has ended.
Making Process Improvements for Your Business
For more information about making improvements to your business’s processes, how to leverage data to make informed decisions, or how businesses can be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact your Warren Averett advisor directly, or ask a member of our team to reach out to you.