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Building the Muscles of Your Workforce

Running improvement projects in a wide variety of service organisations over the last couple of years, I had to relearn what I thought I had a good grasp of already. I had to restudy the basic drivers of productivity and process efficiency. Yes, it is certainly possible to drive productivity by process changes. Yes, IT can help to boost it even further. However, people often greatly underestimate an important source of productivity that we frequently leave untapped – humans. It is not about making your staff run faster to produce more in a certain amount of time. Rather, it is about what your team members do in that same amount of time. It is about their process efficiency.

Only 57% Spent on Core Activities

Process Efficiency with Focus on Workforce

Increase Process Efficiency with Focus on Workforce

An analysis of the working pattern of a group of scientists in a lab revealed that they spend only 57% of their working hours on their core activities. If they would not work overtime to catch up with their core work, this percentage would drastically decrease and the already low customer satisfaction would get even worse.

What do they do the rest of the time? Time study showed that they spend 18% of their time on secondary activities. These are support activities that are crucial to the core analysis. However, these activities does not require the qualification of a scientist. The remaining 25% is spent on administrative activities that could be done by someone you can hire from the next bus stop.

Consequently, they introduced a small admin team and conducted some job redesigning activities. With that, scientists gained time to catch up with their work with increased process efficiency and deliver higher customer satisfaction. Greater motivation was a side-effect, too.

Team of Four Delivers Job of 1.6 FTE

Process Efficiency Drops Due to Under-Utilising Manpower

Process Efficiency Drops Due to Under-Utilising Manpower

A team of four officers who process applications were surprised to see the result of their process map. They actually spend only 1.6 FTE (Full Time Equivalent = workforce of one full-time staff) altogether on their core activity. This activity is processing applications for corporate customers who need the approval in order to run their business. Sure, they have other important things to do. Looking deeper into the balance of 2.4 FTE, they discovered – supposedly similar to any other organisation – that a significant portion of their non-value-added time is spent in meetings. Often, all of them participate in the same meeting. This happens multiple times a week.

If each of them would only dedicate 10% more time on core activities by cutting down one to two meetings a week, they would together generate 2.0 FTE manpower. They would free up the equivalent to one more person with the same working pattern.


Driving process efficiency and productivity is and will always be each manager’s task. Before investing in IT solutions, redesigning processes or even hiring more staff, it may pay off to look into redesigning jobs after carefully analysing what your team members do with their time.

As a result you will gain productivity by enabling your workforce to add more value to your customers and your organisation. And, you may accomplish higher motivation and engagement, too.

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Amy BC Tan

Amy is currently Director at the Centre of Organisational Effectiveness (COE Pte Ltd). She has more than 20 years of experience in human resource management and organisational development in various industries.

She has held senior leadership positions with Nokia, Aon, Ministry of Manpower and Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee. She has led the transformation of the HR functions and several organisational development initiatives for multiple organisations.

Amy is also certified as Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, an accredited practitioner in executive coaching and psychological instruments such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator®), DiSC, Harrison Assessment and Belbin Team Roles.

1 Comment
  • UK
    12:56 PM, May 2014

    And it results in higher motivation, too.
    Good article!

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