Traditionally, productivity is determined by a formula: output (work performed) divided by input (costs associated with that work). For many industries, this is a straightforward calculation. However, in a professional services context, one or both of these variables may be inconsistent.
Output: Whereas you can easily determine the number of widgets you’ve produced in a manufacturing plant or the average time it takes to serve patrons in a restaurant, you may have a harder time nailing down the quantity of work completed when you have both one-off and ongoing client work and, perhaps, an expansive menu of related services.
Input: A goods-oriented workplace might consider input to be total time in a certain period or money invested in producing a given product. But in a knowledge industry business such as an agency, accounting firm, MSP or consulting firm, you may find it difficult to quantify true costs that are relevant to the output you’re trying to measure.
It can be helpful to dive into traditional methods of gauging productivity, then consider whether it’s appropriate to adjust them for your unique business.
We’ll review some useful elements of productivity measurement in professional services:
Most people think of productivity as the sheer number of things you can get done in a certain period of time: tasks completed, calls placed, articles written. But you can probably think of various units applicable to each team or department.
For example, imagine you run a technology consulting firm. Here are some things you may need to think about, depending on how your teams are structured.
Which units of productivity should you pay attention to? There’s no single answer that’s right for every business, but the ones you choose to prioritize should align with your business strategy. To know that, you’ll first need to have clearly stated goals.
Productivity is directly related to profitability, so it should be important to your business. But how you measure it — and the degree to which it impacts your staff’s priorities and leadership team’s decisions — depends on how that productivity relates to your company’s goals.
⏸️ Take a moment to review TechTarget’s guide to setting business goals.
Next, it’s time to connect those larger company goals to your team's day-to-day activities. Revisit units of productivity for each role and tie them back to one or more specific goals.
After you’ve done this process behind the scenes, it’s critical to be transparent with the entire company about what you’re aiming to achieve together and how each person can contribute.
Finally, you should ensure the units of productivity you communicate with your people can be easily, consistently and fairly tracked. That’s what we’ll dive into next.
Pro Tip: Build a Workplace That’s Supportive of Productivity
The process we recommend won’t have as great an impact if you don’t address the root cause of low employee output: lack of quality management.
Gallup reports that 70% of the engagement variation on a team is in its manager’s control. Thus, leadership training can have a direct impact on employee well-being and retention, supporting a monumental positive change in productivity.
Furthermore, a calm work environment and clear company values can help leaders and individual contributors feel psychologically safe enough to access peak creativity and motivation.
Your team probably already uses digital productivity tools, such as internal messaging platforms, cloud-based document management systems, shared calendars and task management software. Yet, you may still be at a loss for how to move from parallel usage to collective measurement. Using many disjointed tools that all claim to encourage productivity could negatively impact said productivity.
Instead, you should aim for your smart tech to check off two key boxes:
Because time is likely to be a major component of how you measure your team’s productivity, the right platform will be built for a professional services business and offer more useful, robust data than most single-function time-tracking tools. It will help you break down your team’s time into estimated vs. actual and billable vs. non-billable categories and attach those detailed logs to a project and client record. Plus, it will make it as easy as possible for your team to accurately track their work.
Our experience working with users in a wide variety of service industries has made it clear that the answer is to adopt a client work management platform with automated time tracking.
Accelo can support your productivity measurement efforts by giving your entire team critical insights about project and task completion and time usage — without the hassle of having to remember to log every minute.
Schedule a demo to see how it works.