As we move further into 2015, being more efficient is, rightly, a top priority for many business owners. Not only do they themselves want to be more effective, they want their staff to be more efficient as well.
When it comes to this pursuit, having the right tools can make or break your ability to work effectively and to promote these behaviors in your staff. Here are eight great productivity tools you’ll want to take a look at this year:
Employee communication is a big area of inefficiency in most businesses, where email can take up as much as 28 percent of employees’ time. Social networking and communication tools can make a big difference in this area, freeing up significant time for other tasks.
HipChat is a team chat tool that allows private communication and file sharing. Individual users can participate in several chats at the same time, allowing staff to work on multiple projects and to conduct private conversations as needed. Chat records generated by the program are searchable, and the tool also allows screen sharing and video calls. In addition, security features keep your companies communication safe from outside access. Best of all, the app’s pricing is very affordable, with all features available for $2 per user per month.
Zula is the new kid on the block in collaborative chat, having debuted at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt event. Zula focuses on collaboration on the go, using a native mobile-only platform that allows for communication through text, rich media, file sharing and conference calls. The team behind Zula continues to raise millions in funding to support its early-stage launch, resulting in plenty of buzz of being the next big thing in employee productivity.
Whether you need to schedule your staff’s hours or your customers’ appointments, the following tools can help:
3. When I Work
I might be a little partial to this one, but when it comes to helping managers schedule staff hours more efficiently, you can’t go wrong with When I Work. Requiring minimal data entry, this web-based scheduling interface allows staff to stay connected to their schedules, whether they’re in the office or at a remote location. You can even fill missed or vacated shifts by sending interested employees a mobile notification that allows them to fill the spot with the click of a button.
Well established in the small business scheduling space, GenBook currently schedules over 650,000 appointments a month for business owners. GenBook's pricing is based on the number of staff supported, with plans starting from just one to six users. In addition to scheduling, GenBook allows your company to offer special promotions, connect these advertisements to your company’s social profiles, and even track customer analytics. With GenBook, your staff can focus on providing services, while you focus on expanding your marketing campaigns and measuring your business results.
Managing passwords is a pain for nearly everyone, but keeping passwords memorable often results in poor security. The two tools below will help you improve your security, while keeping your staff focused on their work, rather than worrying that they’ll lock themselves out of the system if they get their passwords wrong one more time.
5. LastPass Enterprise
LastPass is a highly-secure program that automatically generates and stores complex passwords. The program combines password vaulting with cloud SSO capabilities, helping you to protect company data, manage your password policy, and optimize your employees’ productivity. With a variety of security tracking features, LastPass allows your employees to stop worrying about passwords and start focusing on their work.
6. Lieberman Enterprise Password Manager
This security tool is aimed at IT departments, where access to privileged accounts and shared administrative access to Windows and Linux servers can compromise security. The Lieberman Password Manager finds and strengthens server passwords, encrypts them and stores them in a database. Not only does it create complex passwords that staff don’t need to memorize and support common multi-factor authentication tools, it’s surprisingly easy to maintain once installed.
Project tracking and collaboration
Many employees rely heavily on email and phone calls when they’re working with a project team. However, endless threads and out-of-sequence responses cause confusion, mistakes and diminished productivity. These two project tracking and collaboration tools will go a long way towards making your team more efficient.
A powerful task and team management tool, Producteev organizes workflows into networks, projects and tasks, as well as allowing followers of specific tasks to receive updates as their status changes. The company has also provided apps for most popular mobile devices, giving teams the ability to work on-the-go. Producteev is free for an unlimited number of users and projects, although businesses looking for Outlook integration and a higher level of support can upgrade for $99 a month.
Bitrix24 is an intuitive workspace that enables collaboration via chat, video, documents and phone calls initiated from within the application. In addition, the program comes with a customer-relationship management contact database, making it a “one stop shop” for many teams. Bitrix24 is free for up to 12 team members, with additional staff and features available at two higher-tier subscription levels.
When it comes down to it, having the right tools at your disposal makes all the difference in terms of employee efficiency. With some or all of these eight tools on deck, your team will be well on its way to a very productive 2015.
What productivity tools does your team use to maximize efficiency? Share your recommendations in the comments section below!