20 March 2019
Striving to do more with less is nothing new to most SMEs. Whether it’s maximising efficiency by empowering staff to work flexibly, or carefully plotting budgets to get the most from every last penny, it’s all part and parcel of the small business journey – not to mention a necessary strategy for increasing turnover. But, as recent research has revealed, small UK businesses are struggling when it comes to productivity, with a significant knock-on effect to the company coffers.
This study from 2018 found that UK SMEs generate less than half the output of equivalent organisations in Germany. It calculated that ‘a UK business with ten employees could increase its annual turnover by £1.9 million if they worked at the same productivity level as a German business, with this figure increasing to £4.7 million for businesses with 25 employees.’
It’s a staggering number, and a stark reminder of how important productivity actually is. But on the flipside, this illustrates how much SMEs have to gain by improving productivity. With the right strategy in place, smaller businesses could significantly boost their turnover and growth. The opportunity is huge – it’s simply a case of harnessing the right tools and attitudes.
What’s holding businesses back?
Before small businesses can solve their productivity problems, it’s important to consider the root causes. In part, low productivity results from wider economic factors, but there are certainly issues that can be addressed within the confines of an individual organisation.
For example, there’s no denying that employees at smaller organisations sometimes have a bit of a juggling act on their hands. Unlike larger organisations with dedicated staff for a hundred different business functions, staff at SMEs often need to move flexibly between roles and activities. Meanwhile, customer expectations (such as round-the-clock customer service) seem to be increasing all the time, adding to the pressure.
Combine that with new competitors cropping up, and staff can find themselves doing too much – and, as a result, not getting anywhere at all. Obviously, businesses can’t do much about external factors like changing customer expectations. But there are practical measures businesses can take, like ensuring they have the right tools in place to put staff in the best possible position for success.
Integrated comms = boosted productivity
A prime example of a productivity aiding solution is unified communications (UC). Historically, businesses have had many different ways of communicating – but the technologies they used worked in siloes, making it hard to move fluidly between them. With UC, businesses can integrate all of their communication channels – including voice, mobile, data, and video – with one innovative technology stack. In doing so, employees can work much more effectively, whether it’s dealing with customers or colleagues.
UC can also boost productivity by improving employee engagement. The two have been shown to have a clear link, and it’s not hard to see why. There are few things more frustrating than outdated tools and slow, unwieldy technology. UC not only speeds processes up, it also makes remote and flexible working more viable, helping to keep current employees satisfied and attract the talent of the future. And of course, it helps communicate with customers around the world – which is ideal for smaller businesses looking to grow their global client base.
Reducing costs with UC
However, it isn’t just about making more money: a communications infrastructure re-think can help SMEs to save on spending. Requiring minimal capital outlay to install, UC is an affordable and cost-effective option for improving communications infrastructure. And instead of handling payments and negotiating packages with various different suppliers, small businesses can rely on one source for all of their digital communication needs – saving time, as well as money.
For businesses looking for a more tangible cost saving, it’s worth noting that UC can reduce expenses like travel. And with a modern, robust and speedy communications infrastructure, SMEs can confidently conduct their business via platforms like video conferencing – eliminating the need for costly journeys, helping smaller businesses to make valuable savings.
A more productive future for UK SME’s
Low productivity has blighted the UK economy for several years now, and it’s undoubtedly true that British businesses have a lot of work to do to catch up with their European competitors. But while they can’t control wider economic influences, they can manage things within their businesses. Internal changes, like adopting UC, are a good place to start. Because with integrated comms, businesses won’t just save money and improve productivity – they could actively grow revenues and increase growth, too.