Affect change using a Time and Motion study

Project manager reviewing task list

It is natural for business leaders and executives to render new and heartfelt resolutions at the beginning of each fiscal new year. How will profits increase and costs decrease? Who will make a difference? What will be so different? Unfortunately, many will render their resolutions without clear and decisive data or any idea of what they will do differently. It’s usually a combination of failed project ideas that didn’t materialize, a desire for improvement without a plan, or influential inspiration from colleagues or other industry leaders. And they wonder why, when the following fiscal year draws to a close, nothing ever changes.

If you are hoping for change and take no real action to facilitate change, then how can you expect things to change? Manual processes will still be manual, costs will still be exponentially high, employee morale and productivity will still be in the doldrums, and your time away from family and what matters most will continue to create personal ire.

This is where Time and Motion assessments can provide valuable insight. From the frontline employee to C-level executives, from Inside Sales Order Processing to Customer Service and Support, Time and Motion studies are used to highlight inefficient use of individual time as well as larger and more complex business processes involving multiple individuals and related tasks.

A Time and Motion Study involves observing and analyzing employee work habits to identify efficiency opportunities, implementing changes, and reviewing the results to create a more productive workflow. Time and Motion studies help to identify time wasted on non-essential tasks, manual laborious tasks, duplicate tasks, and lengthy tasks that promote delays in productivity. Results are often “eye-opening” and should lead to open dialogue discussion to suggest ways to improve the usage of time.
Business Process and Workflow Automation software solutions are the logical next steps. However, before, discussing these options, let’s take a closer look at Time and Motion.

Time and Motion Assessment: 5 Questions to Ask

  1. What is the task? Why does it exist and what value does it offer the business?
  2. Is the task currently optimized for efficiency or is there an opportunity for improvement?
  3. If the task is inefficient (manually completed, repetitive, laborious, timely to complete, and/or costly) are there identifiable methods by which to improve the efficiency of the task?
  4. Is the task presently producing a positive result? It may take 8 hours each day to manually create monthly invoices however the result is customers are receiving and paying for the business’s products and services.
  5. If someone else were issued the task, would the efficiency result be the same?

Start Simple: Maximize ROI

It is best to start with the “painfully” simple tasks as they often yield the greatest return on investment. Employees often procrastinate and defer tasks deemed menial or not defined within their job responsibilities. Many of these types of tasks are added to an already overloaded workforce due to attrition and promotion within the employee base. Employees burdened with the tasks of former employees are less satisfied, have lower job performance, and will log additional overtime to compensate themselves for the lack of increased pay for increased workloads and time away from their personal lives.

Document /time: the Task

Ask each employee to document the steps in detail they follow to complete their task. Compare each documented submission for consistency and contrast. Now you know what they do each day.
Next, time the task. How long does it take employees to complete the task? Are some faster than others? Are there potential training or policy issues that could be addressed to expedite the task’s completion? Knowing the length of the task helps determine the all-important cost factor.
Duplicate entry of data into disconnected database systems, processing of website leads and contact requests, and printing, copying, and pasting context from email attachments are typical daily tasks required to maintain the flow of information into a business. However, monotony and lack of enthusiasm create data errors and performance delays that can be costly once unveiled.

Keep It Simple: Is it worth the time?

I once worked for a company that continuously assessed itself via the Time and Motion Study. An entire team of assessors was formed to study each task completed at the employee, departmental, and divisional levels. They even went as far as to assess the effectiveness of their own Time and Motion assessments. The result? The constant demand for employees to document tasks and track their time along with implementing the recommendations from the assessment team was creating confusion and chaos. Organizational inefficiency and productivity sank to an all-time low. Questioning whether a task is even necessary is a question worth asking.

Opportunity For Improvement: Define vision


  • Spend too much time on email wasting as much as 30% of the average employee’s workday. That equates to a full workday and a half a week.
  • Check their email upwards of over 80 times per day and use social media instant messaging an average of 94 times per day. How are they able to remain focused and on task with these types of distractions?
  • Try to Multi-task but productivity drops an estimated 40% when attempting to complete two or more tasks at once.

With a clear assessment of what tasks are being done, how long they take, and their associated costs, develop a hypothesis that addresses common employee and organizational behaviors. By restricting social media use, how many additional orders will be processed per day? By automating the task, we can convert 4 employees to a customer-facing sales role. How would this impact projected sales goals for the new year?

Make A Change: Consider Automated Solutions

There are dozens of low to high-end automated business solutions capable of completing simple to complex tasks. Previously requiring the need for a dedicated software developer, many of these software applications offer a low-code/no-code user interface. This means that the code is pre-packaged. Updating a database record via Webhook is now as simple as entering pre-configured connection settings. A trained employee familiar with the business process can create, configure, and manage an entire solution at a fraction of the cost of hiring and maintaining a software developer.

Evaluate Results: Track ROI

Tracking the actual return on investment when the task becomes profitable can be affected by many outside influences such as employee turnover, organizational acceptance, timing and implementation, etc. Establish key performance indicators to use as milestones for success. Report on these milestones regularly and share their results with key decision-makers.

Automation Example

If 10 employees are paid $20 p/hr. to process 50 documents per employee workday, it would cost the company roughly $3.20 per document. This assumes all employees are skilled and highly focused on the task and not surfing social media, taking elongated breaks, or taking paid time off. These additional factors would naturally elevate the processing cost and put off until tomorrow what should have been done today.

Solution: A simple automated business process executed via a standard BPA Software application can complete the same task in real-time or at scheduled intervals at an estimated cost of $0.019 (cents) per document. Automations run 24x7x365 to complete every assigned task as scheduled and do not require PTO. Automated business processes can multi-task to process and complete hundreds of records within seconds which a single employee would have taken possibly hours to complete.

Business Process and Workflow Automation saves time, eliminates data errors, and gives time back to employees to complete the job for which they were hired within the allotted daily business hours. The cost of overtime pay is reduced while employees are energized as organizational efficiency and productivity increase.

Comments are closed