Efficiency is only a keystroke away

productivity

By: Debbie Mayo-Smith

Businesses lose astounding amounts of productivity when staff aren’t trained to use software properly

If [people] knew the shortcut, the entire task would have been accomplished with one or two keystrokes. IF YOU think rising costs are putting pressure on business, you’d be scandalised by what’s really going on behind closed doors.

Scenario one: Interviewing an applicant for the position of office manager.

“I’m superb at the computer,” she said, and continued with all the ways over the years she had used software. Proficiency with MS Office was one of the main job requirements.
When it was my turn to describe the role, in an offhand manner I mentioned something about email. “Oh, I’m just great with Outlook,” she replied. Thinking I couldn’t get a more suitable applicant, I innocently asked: “So, tell me, how do you use Rules?”

A blank quizzical stare was her only response. I was stunned. How could someone professing to be so good on the computer not know about Rules? In my opinion, the Rules function in email programmes is one of the most important items to know. Full stop.

Scenario two: The managing director said, “No”.

We were finalising details for training the administrative team for a large institution in Wellington on email marketing. “Since we’re flying in anyway, shall we throw in some training on database or inbox management while we’re there? You’ll get more bang for your buck,” I asked. “Oh, no,” the managing director responded, “we’ve got a great database.”

Later on site, I innocently said to the ladies: “So, you don’t need any help with your database, right?” The ladies were horrified. They said: “The director comes to us, and asks for a list. Then he goes back to his office and closes the door. It might take us a few hours, or it might take us a few days _ but we do get the list to him. He has no idea what we go through to create that list.”

We asked them to show us. It was our turn to be horrified. We were able to show them several different functions in Excel they could do instantaneously, instead of taking hours or days to complete row by row by row. They nearly fell over in joy. The hours they would now be able to save.

Scenario three: The executive team didn’t know that I had recently conducted an inbox strategies workshop for 14 senior managers, including the managing director.

As you would expect, their time is valuable and they all spend a considerable amount of it working with email. Yet when I asked them if they knew that each one of them had an automatic inbox secretary _ one that could read any emails they receive and then answer, file, forward or delete them, no one knew this existed. (Yes, I’m talking about Rules again). Just this one tip alone, with creative thinking thrown in, would save each one of them at least an hour a day. Multiply that on an annual basis. Half an hour equates to 2.5 hours a week. Multiply that by 45 working weeks; 112.5 hours. Per manager.

These three separate true stories all point to the same fact. Most staff work very inefficiently and ineffectively on their computer. This important lesson affects all employers.

It is hidden from view, unknown to most. One doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. It means that for a large organisation, vast sums of money are needlessly wasted, squandered unwittingly thorough the unproductive use of time. And time is money.

Furthermore, the time burden compounds stress.

How does this happen?

Over time, efficiency and productivity are impeded by five factors _ expectations that staff should and could use software without any prior experience or training; increasing volumes of email sent and received; software upgrades in the office without accompanying training; the lack of books or resources available for staff to turn to; and IT helpdesks focusing more on systems and solving problems rather than on education.
The result is that most people perform actions manually or ways they’ve eked out. If they knew the shortcut or function, the entire task would have been accomplished with one or two keystrokes.

The solution to the problem can include formal training, or by using informal methods such as books, manuals or even promoting the idea of sharing computer tips each week or setting aside a few minutes in regular meetings.

By the way, if you don’t know about Rules in email programmes, then go look now. If you get a lot of email, it will change your life. Every email programme has them, even web-based ones. In Outlook and Lotus Notes you’ll find Rules under the Tools menu.
Rules basically ask these questions:

1. Shall I apply this to email you send or receive?

2. What should I look for? Name, email address, word in subject line or body, level of importance, where your name is?

3. When I see it, what should I do? File in folder, delete, forward to someone, answer with these words?

4. Are there any exceptions to this?

5. When we turn it on now, do you want me to run it through your inbox?

Think of all the ways you can manage and prioritise your email now.

Debbie Mayo-Smith (BSc Hons Econ) is an International Motivational Business Speaker and Managing Director of SuccessIS! (http://www.successis.co.nz) and a leading specialist in easy practical ways to improve business profitability, personal productivity and Internet marketing. Debbie lives in NZ and travels the world speaking, writing and training.

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