Systemising your business isn’t a project. It’s a way of thinking and an approach to running your business that permeates your firm’s culture.
This culture* stems from the firm’s leadership—from you. You have to ensure that systemisation and standardisation are esteemed values within the firm. They need to be spoken about enthusiastically at team meetings, in team newsletters and one-on-one with team members. You also need to ‘walk your talk’ and set the example.
An important part of the change management process is ensuring new staff get off to the best possible start with your firm. Changing staff behaviour at a later date will be difficult. There is a precious window of opportunity when a new team member starts with your firm to indoctrinate him or her into your firm’s culture of, “We have defined best practice ways of doing things here. Either follow our systems, come up with suggestions to improve the systems when you see a better way of doing something, or find a different firm to work for.” Staff need to be shown that ‘this is the way we do it here’ and that unapproved variations are unacceptable.
This culture should be discussed with prospective employees during interviews in order to screen out anyone not willing to follow systems and use standardised templates. (There are plenty of under-performing, inefficient firms they can work for.)
Following on from the interview process, the induction process needs to reinforce your firm’s systems culture. From Day 1 new staff need to be shown ‘this is how we do it here’. In fact, that should be a mantra within your firm—‘this is how we do it here’—repeated at every opportunity when training new team members in how to follow the procedures and use the templates, electronic workpapers, checklists and other standardised tools they will use in the completion of every client assignment.
An important part of the induction process is showing a new team member how to use your firm’s knowledge management and document management system so they can find the procedures and templates they need when doing their work.
Using such a system, it can be explained on Day 1 to a new team member that “These are your procedures for completing your main responsibilities. We have defined best practice ways of doing things here in order to maximise our efficiency, and these processes are documented in our procedures.”
An effective knowledge management system allows you to provide the logged in user with a customised view for their role in the firm. This means the new staff member can be presented with what is effectively their own personal procedures manual, listing every procedure that relates to their job without cluttering their view with the entire knowledge base which would contain many procedures that are irrelevant to them. This applies to support staff as well as professional staff.
The knowledge management system should allow them to keyword search within their own procedures manual so they can find what they’re looking for without having to ask their manager or their peers.
Every “Have you got a minute?” and “Where do I find …?” type of question is an interruption to the person being asked, and is something the person asking the question would rather not have to ask.
A knowledge management system allows new team members to self train to a large extent in a number of areas. This is not to say that procedures replace the need for training—they clearly do not. However, allowing new team members to find a documented description of the steps they need to follow in order to complete particular processes provides them with an excellent basis for knowing how to produce their work in the standardised, acceptable manner.
In an effective knowledge management system, each procedure also links to the related templates, workpapers, checklists and other tools needed to complete the process. This provides new team members with a ‘join the dots’ level of simplicity that cannot be matched any other way.
Business Fitness clients report significant time savings in induction times because HowNow Knowledge Manager provides exactly these types of induction tools. In these firms, new team members—whether graduates, support staff or experienced professionals—get up to speed in a fraction of the time previously taken.
In addition to the benefit of these new team members quickly reaching their monthly break-even point (where the fees they generate start covering the cost of employing them), the time required of their supervisors and managers—and the time taken in asking their peers where to find certain documents or information—is greatly reduced, in the process dramatically lowering the firm’s direct and indirect inductions costs.
While the time savings and cost savings are important, the greater and longer lived benefit is getting new team members off to the perfect start in having them embrace the systems culture, follow the systems and use the standardised templates and tools that are made available to them. The efficiency and quality benefits will continue to flow for the team member’s tenure.
*Developing such a culture is a large part of what Business Fitness helps its clients achieve. It’s about so much more than ‘the software’ or ‘the content’. They are part of the solution, yet they sit within the larger context of bringing about effective change in your firm.
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