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The end (of the year) is nigh – so now’s the time to start thinking how 2021 could be better

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Let’s face it, 2020 will be a year to forget. But don’t let 2021 fail to live up to expectations by not appraising your core business productivity needs.

Time. It’s the most precious commodity we have, but if the experiences of most small business owners is anything to go by, it’s the one thing they seem to have the least amount of spare. Shocking data[1] suggests 10% of small business owners find less than one hour a week to devote to growing their business (with 8% struggling to find any time at all) – the result of which is a cost to the UK economy of an estimated £84 billion per year in untapped and ultimately lost opportunities.[2]

Without fail, it’s usually all the necessary tasks required of small businesses that tend to suck up so many minutes: doing the accounting; dealing with suppliers; managing staff holidays, applying for loans; writing policy documents; sharing said documents internally; forging relationships with customers; ensuring staff are engaged; doing tax returns; social media – and so the list goes on. Sage finds the average small business spends 120 hours a year doing back-end administrative tasks.

But while many of these jobs are unavoidable, a recent a recent Populous survey of British small businesses found time is also being taken up by the mundane: 27% of small businesses spend 33 hours per annum buying office supplies such as filing cabinets; 26% are consumed by IT issues that deny them a shocking 52 hours per annum of productive time[3]. Worse than this though, time is being wasted by small business owners using old-fashioned out-of-date technology that rather than saving them time, actually contributes to taking up more of it.

Nowhere is this more commonly revealed than around HR tasks – a whole other area of necessary work that eats 60 hours+ for a quarter of small businesses according to the same Populous survey. Last year it was revealed two-thirds of small business were still using versions of Microsoft either no-longer supported, or due to have support removed by January 2020. Last year Gartner found 45% of British small businesses in some sectors weren’t using any HR software at all.

This Heath-Robinson approach comes at precisely the time when small businesses need to be even more up-to-the-minute. Not only is legislation driving this – requiring larger small businesses, for instance, to generate gender pay gap analysis – the shift to more permanent working for home requires even better oversight technology around performance, goals, wellness, mental health, and absenteeism. Not only will the absence of any HR software systems make this almost impossible for managers to deal with, but lack of- or poor HR software systems demotivate staff too. Deny staff the easy ability to book their own holiday, update their personal information, self-report sickness or change their view company policy documents (all things that HR self-service seamlessly achieves), and it simply breeds disengagement. One poll by an HR technology provider found only 17% of staff would give their company an excellent employee experience rating. It also found 38% said lack of appropriate technology to simplify, speed up, and automate tedious tasks was responsible for this black mark.

With all HR commentators and academics in agreement that future prosperity belongs to businesses that embrace digitisation, it’s now more imperative than ever that small businesses take stock of their technology as the end of year approaches. As one year ends, now is most definitely the time to think about the next year ahead.

Those that plan need to ask themselves some basic questions. Are firms finding staff are wasting time trying to find documents, policies, or updates that aren’t in one simple-to-access repository? Are they finding holiday isn’t being booked, or that they can’t track allowances and carry over, because the hassle of doing it by email or spreadsheets is causing them not to keep this up to date? Are staff entering data that needs being re-entered by someone else in the business at the other end?

If all these questions are being answered ‘yes’ – it’s clear that something needs to be done. As we start to turn our attention to what 2021 can bring, we can’t expect things to change doing things the same way as always.

To flourish in a post-pandemic world – as 2021 aims to be – is to plan appropriately. Taking stock now will bear fruits later. As one year ends – a year we’d all rather forget – there really is no better time to think about what the next, New Year, could bring. With the right small business technology really could be full of new opportunities. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

Get started on your 2021 improvements today with Appogee HR. Start your 14 day free trial during November & quote NEWYEAR21 to get the rest of the year free! (T&Cs apply)

[1] By Instaprint

[2] Research by OECD, reported in Politics Home: https://www.politicshome.com/members/article/poor-management-costs-uk-business-84-billion-a-year--new-rec-advice-on-how-to-turn-that-around

[3] https://www.businesscomparison.com/uk/blog/uk-smes-spend-over-600000-hours-on-admin-tasks-per-week/