12 Symptoms of an Inefficient Process and How To Fix Them

Updated October 18, 2022

Part of being productive in the workplace is using efficient procedures and methods to complete your assignments. A single inefficient process in an organization can have widespread effects throughout the company depending on how many people or departments interact with that procedure as part of their workflow. Learning about the different indications of inefficient processes can help you identify them in your own workplace, then be proactive about replacing them with better operational strategies.

In this article, we explain the impact of inefficient workflows, then share how to identify inefficient processes at work and provide tips for correcting them.

What are the effects of an inefficient process?

Inefficient processes can have many effects on businesses, their employees and their clients. The ultimately slow down production, which can decrease morale, lower profits and decrease client satisfaction. When your processes at work are inefficient, you also have fewer opportunities to innovate and make progress in your own career. It's important to address inefficiencies as quickly as possible to optimize your happiness and potential at work.

12 signs of inefficient processes

Here are some of the common indicators of inefficient systems at work, with suggestions on how to address each one:

1. Frequent miscommunication

When miscommunication is a regular part of the workday for you and your team, it may indicate a deeper issue with company systems and processes. Although it's important for individuals to be accountable for their own communication with one another, if they use outdated communication systems or have poor procedures for communicating with one another, it's difficult for them to have successful interactions with colleagues and clients. Frequent miscommunication can include people missing messages, sending late replies or misunderstanding conversations. If miscommunication is a pattern in your workplace, you may have inefficient communication processes.

One strategy for correcting these issues is by updating your communication technology in your organization. Consider installing a messaging application for your workplace to enable everyone to instantly contact one another and organize their interactions by different teams, departments and channels. You can also implement policies for how your team communicates, such as always responding to emails from team members within a certain time frame.

Related: 7 Common Communication Problems and How to Address Them

2. Difficulties finding information

Poorly-managed information is a common symptom of organizations with inefficient processes. For modern businesses, information management, documentation and data distribution is essential for productivity. People need to be able to access information about the business to complete their work effectively, so when they have trouble finding different details, this can slow down projects. This is especially true when different departments and teams have their own individual systems for storing data, also known as information silos. These silos are hard to access for anyone outside of the team, and some coworkers may not even know the data exists.

You can combat inaccessible information by creating one shared database for the entire time. Creating an IT department to manage data or simply uploading all team records into a central location can make a big difference in the overall effectiveness of company processes.

Related: What Are Organizational Silos? Pros and Cons and How To Break Them Down

3. Out-of-date technology

Equipment and software being old and outdated can also cause processes to be inefficient. Not all old software is inefficient and ineffective, but if you haven't updated your systems in a while, it may be the cause of recent issues. This is especially true if you have legacy systems are no longer compatible with new updates, meaning that it's harder to update your equipment or collaborate with other businesses that use modern software.

Regularly search for updated drivers and versions of the software you use to ensure you have access to modern technology. It's also important to research industry standards for equipment to use and any recent innovations on the market.

4. High turnover

Widespread inefficiencies within a workplace can cause high turnover rates throughout the staff. When employees recognize that a company has inefficient policies and procedures, they may simply choose to leave the business and find another job instead of putting in the effort to develop new systems and implement the change themselves. Long-term employees may eventually feel frustrated with inefficiencies and new employees may quickly recognize an inefficient environment. High turnover can have many other effects, such as low morale, feelings of uncertainty and a lack of knowledge and awareness on the team about company products and services.

To address high turnover from inefficient procedures, communicate with employees about the changes they want to see in the workplace. Talk to new employees about how the procedures in their role differ from previous employers and ask about what kinds of automation and technology they want to incorporate to make their job easier.

Related: The Real Turnover Cost of Losing an Employee (And Ways To Retain More Talent)

5. Lengthy hiring processes

Attracting employees and convincing them to join your team is also more challenging if you have inefficient processes. If multiple applicants complete the interviewing process but reject their job offers, it may be a sign that the company has outdated, inefficient procedures that dissuade them from wanting to join the team.

When you have a lengthy hiring process for each position because people consistently reject the role, reflect on why people may not find the job appealing. Consider different aspects of the job's workflow that turn people away and brainstorm how you can automate aspects of the role to make it less intimidating.

6. Extensive time on tedious tasks

You can determine if an organization has inefficient systems by paying attention to how employees spend their time. When people spend an extensive amount of time on tedious manual tasks, it's likely that the business has inefficient procedures in place and there may be a better way to accomplish those same duties. Although some manual tasks don't have an automated equivalent, you can strategize to find more efficient replacements for many repetitive duties that people complete by hand.

If people on your team spend a significant amount of their day doing tedious, repetitive work, ask them if they have any ideas about better ways to complete their work. It's likely that they may have strategies for possible methods to improve their workflow and save time, so asking them directly is a good way to resolve this particular problem.

7. Poor standardization

When a workplace has an inefficient process in place, it's common for employees to try to find an easier solution, even if management doesn't officially adopt that method as a company procedure. This can create a new problem, which is a lack of standardization across the business. Some people may follow the official, inefficient rules, while other people may use their own, unofficial strategies. This can lead to vastly inconsistent results throughout the business and a range of unreliable feedback from clients.

In the event of poor standardization and a mix of different methods throughout the workplace, it's important to increase engagement from management and ensure that everyone is using the same methods. Once you understand the results from one method, you can use that data to make consistent improvements and changes.

8. Growing operating costs

If a company suddenly becomes more expensive to operate in proportion to its sales, the production process is likely less efficient. This may be due to the production systems being unable to accommodate an increase in scale, which requires you to adjust your strategy to meet an increase in demand. It can also be due to a new inefficiency in the system or a recent policy change. It's important to constantly generate creative solutions to manage growing workloads for your company, especially as administrative and labor costs increase.

When operating costs become a sign of inefficiency in a business, you can use financial analysis to learn more about the exact source of those expenses. Compare current costs in each part of your business to expenses in previous periods to identify where you're spending more money, then brainstorm strategies to save within that department's budget.

9. Missing deadlines

Because being inefficient slows down company workflows, inefficient processes can cause you to start missing deadlines. If you suddenly start submitting work behind schedule, an inefficient system may be the culprit. Communicate with your team about any recent changes that slowed down their productivity, factoring any outside influences such as low motivation or more challenging projects.

When you start to miss deadlines, study the amount of time it took you to complete each part of the project to find the cause of any delays. This can help you identify what part of the process is creating the inefficiency. You may also learn that the overall system is inefficient, which allows you to divert your energy toward finding a completely new strategy for completing work or developing a new projection method for creating realistic timelines.

Related: 18 Tips for Meeting Deadlines

10. Inability to meet demand

If you have to reject customers and clients because your current infrastructure can't handle the demand, that indicates an inherent inefficiency. This type of inefficiency can actually be a good sign for the business because it shows that you're ready to grow, but it's only beneficial in the short term. If you have to turn people away for a long time, it shows that the business is unable to grow and reached its full potential, meaning that it may begin to decline.

You eventually need to adapt the business systems to accept more business opportunities and grow with demand. This involves researching new facilities, buying production equipment with higher capacities and hiring more staff to accommodate more customer orders.

11. Low customer satisfaction

Dissatisfied customers and low-quality products and services can be a sign of decline in your processes and company systems. This shows that your production values decreased and that your quality assurance team misses important details in its process. As a business expands, customer service teams may not be able to provide personalized service, meaning that it's easier for customers to notice problems with products and company processes. Luckily, improving systems and focusing on ways to make the company more efficient can have a positive impact on customer outcomes.

12. Competitors lowering prices

If all of a company's competitors on the market are able to lower their prices, that company may have an efficiency problem. Although it's normal for some businesses to have lower prices than others due to economy of scale and different production methods, mass changes in price points can indicate an evolution in industry standards, methods and best practices. When competitors adapt to the market and you don't, your processes become inefficient by comparison.

You can adjust to this change by researching innovations in your field, studying better ways to produce your products and adopting new methods for production in your industry. Trying experimental methods and being an early adopter with trends can help you remain competitive.

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