Fundamentals of fostering workforce productivity | Brexfast in Bed

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Economic downturns can often expose weaknesses in organizational productivity, while also highlighting avenues for growth. With the right framework, organizations can not only survive an economic downturn, but build a more productive and efficient workforce moving forward. 

Brex COO Paul-Henri Ferrand and TriNet CRO Barrett Boston recently sat down to discuss the five fundamental pillars of running a successful go-to-market org - pillars that become critical during times of crisis:

1. Establish a strong measurement framework and consistent operating rhythm

A successful measurement framework includes clear metrics optimized for automated data access, and the ability to seamlessly cascade from leadership to individual contributors across sales, business development, and marketing teams. 

Starting with overarching goals like customer satisfaction, new customer acquisition, and spend, understand the key drivers of these goals and articulate them through clear, up-to-date dashboards for each team. 

For this approach to be effective, it’s essential to establish a regular reporting cadence and operating rhythm. Align weekly with your immediate team, review your goals, identify risk, and form and execute gap plans accordingly. With a strong measurement framework and operating rhythm in place, a company can quickly identify red flags and pivot operations, focusing on proactive solutions rather than more costly reactive measures.

2. Connect the dots for your team using robust internal communication 

Communication is critical in driving productivity. Set clear and fair expectations with teams, give employees timely information to make sure they have what they need to be effective, and adjust OKRs where necessary to match the current environment. TriNet emphasizes transparency when explaining what is being measured and why, and ensuring that the overall goal is relevant to individual roles. Clearly communicate what individual and company success looks like, and drive performance by mapping organizational metrics to individual performance. 

Establish regular team meetings to align actions against quarterly plans and metrics, track progress, and course-correct as needed, prioritizing customer feedback. Balance planning and execution, being careful not to over-engineer the planning cycle. Provide structure by engaging teams regularly, but avoid becoming entangled in unnecessary or irrelevant meetings. Brex recommends a monthly exercise of reevaluating legacy meetings on employee calendars. The world is changing quickly, and the way you prioritize your time should, too. 

Demonstrate empathy in all decision-making, and drive performance by providing frequent recognition and feedback. Be creative in acknowledging individuals who deliver. Recognition doesn’t have to be costly. Custom Slack emojis and Zoom virtual backgrounds featuring high performers are free and easy ways to celebrate employees.

3. Deploy resources to optimize performance and outcome 

Consider whether your company is invested in the appropriate products for sustained growth in promising customer segments, and whether resources are positioned appropriately. Are there launches you should delay or bring forward, and can you tweak existing programs to address new customer needs? Assess market fit, deciding which segments will be most profitable in the long run, and which should be discarded. 

Understand the impact of an economic downturn on specific market segments, and quickly pivot toward short-term opportunities. Address your workforce holistically, reallocating personnel according to skill set and fit. Use this opportunity to create or modify your stack-ranking methodology, provide regular performance feedback to employees, and remove low performers. Redistribute company resources to align with mission and current capabilities, and acknowledge that this may mean a shift in mindset. Priorities and objectives shift during crises - determine what is best for your company, and execute decisively. 

4. Drive low customer acquisition cost (CAC) and optimize payback period 

To determine CAC, divide the marketing and sales costs spent on acquiring additional customers by the number of customers acquired in the period the money was spent. This metric can be thought of in three tiers: first, direct acquisition costs (CAC 1); second, include sales and marketing headcount compensation (CAC 2); and third, include indirect costs that go into running your business (CAC 3). It helps to also understand impact at a team or channel level by implementing a multi-touch attribution model. Understanding the inputs and allocating them to individual acquisition cohorts will help deepen your understanding of the company’s true cost of acquisition (CAC). Couple this metric with your net contribution margin - the sales amount left over after adjusting for the variable costs of selling additional products - to calculate payback.

The payback period represents the number of months it takes to recoup the cost of acquiring an additional customer. Ideally, you want your payback to be short. Proactively calculate the payback period by segment, and understand how you benchmark against industry. Improve payback by ensuring functions are mapped correctly, and drive automation where possible. 

After establishing cost and acquisition drivers, optimize sales productivity by assigning reasonable rep quotas and targeting 60-70% individual attainment to achieve 100% of the organizational goal. Focus on hiring, training, and coaching to achieve consistent high performance across the company, and acknowledge when workforce repositions are necessary for sustainable growth.

5. Uplevel customer communication through cross-functional collaboration

Involve the entire team in refining your company’s message to align with the current environment. Understand customers’ pain points and priorities, and lead with empathy in all communication and decision-making. Build loyalty and relevance by engaging customers, and quickly pivot value propositions to address their shifting needs. Evolve alongside customers, and clearly communicate how your company can add value to their present - and future - situations. Update your offering to remain the relevant solution to their problem.

Increasing productivity is not just about numbers; it is a mindset. A process of constant improvement, it drives world-class organizations, and should be considered a top priority for all growing companies. Workforce productivity begins with strong leadership and decision-making, and an alignment of resources to both the current context and the overall company vision. If you can make productivity part of the company fabric, it will become your competitive advantage. The future is uncertain, but workplace productivity is one thing you can control.

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