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Doing More With Less: Utilizing Your Toolbox to Its Full Potential

Juniper Emnett | 5 min read

I’m Juniper Emnett, and I work with Wisetail as a Senior Product Manager. Product Management is a strategic role, wherein one balances both internal and external wants, needs, requests and market drivers.

During times of economic uncertainty, company-wide communication is vital. As each company holds numerous departments, teams, and cross-functional strategies, there are undoubtedly going to be tools developed that sit in each individual department’s toolbox. One team may discover a product, tool, or asset that works great for them, but knowledge of that tool becomes very centralized to that team and doesn’t blur over departmental lines – this can be especially true for technology-aided tools.

In the midst of economic uncertainty, this practice of introspection and assessment is even more important. A good place to start to remain knowledgeable and to identify how to best utilize company-wide developed toolboxes, is to take an inventory. Possessing an accurate understanding of your company’s current assets allows you to identify your top priorities, promotes efficient planning, and allows you to utilize your resources effectively. Follow these four concise steps, and discover how one can do more with less.

Man using a video chat feature on a laptop to communicate with teammate.

Step One: Assess Your Current State

It’s time to take stock; and determine which tools you already have at your disposal. To broaden the scope of your available resources, consider communicating outside of your immediate team to determine what you might be able to share across departmental lines. Consider how you can build cross-functional partnerships by offering your tools to others, and how all parties could benefit from a common pool of technological resources.

For example:

While taking stock of your tools, you notice that your team’s engagement rates with the Learning Management System (LMS) exceeds that of other teams. By highlighting your team’s engagement rates and providing a detailed guide of how to achieve similar engagement, you can illustrate how other departments could utilize the LMS more effectively. This will further establish the LMS as a go-to resource throughout the organization, and increase overall use.

Step Two: Identify Top Priorities

During times of economic uncertainty, it is important to identify and hone in on your primary success metrics. Josh Bersin’s podcast (Getting Ready For The Slowdown – JOSH BERSIN) suggests several areas that should be top priorities during periods of economic uncertainty.

These include:

  • Finding areas of low productivity or loss: Areas that are not performing well can be reengineered to become more productive. Upskilling capable employees into more high-value roles can resolve internal blockages, and help you prevent future problems before they occur.
  • Focusing on retention: Companies that refuse to let employees go during economic downturns come out stronger during periods of recovery.
  • Communicating core company values: Remain vigilant about communicating and protecting the core of your company’s purpose, culture, and mission. This is especially important to remember while gathering workforce and talent intelligence. Pull together data to determine who you should hire, when, and what direction your company should grow.
Open floor office setting with employees collaborating.

Step Three: Use Your Resources

Keep a laser-focus on your top priorities. By utilizing all the tools you have at your disposal, you can take direct and calculated strides to achieve company goals.

Your LMS is the perfect place to stage these priorities, and can allow you to remain transparent as you strive for progress.

  • If retaining top performers is key – utilize your LMS to support employees developmental aspirations. By supporting, engaging and upskilling these individuals, you will be more likely to succeed in retention.
  • The delivery of re-engineered and updated workflows (such as an optimized onboarding course) can be handled through your LMS.
  • If you have access to data tools, you can combine Learning & Development data with operational metrics to identify interesting outliers. These may identify content that is being overlooked or underused, modules that need to be completed, or vital information that is being missed simply due to its format or location.
  • Use your LMS to communicate the core messages surrounding organizational goals and purpose. Don’t be afraid to repeat this messaging over and over, varying the perspectives, voices, avenues and modes of communication in order to reach the broadest possible audience. When employees feel informed and included in updates regarding company direction, they are more engaged, work harder and more efficiently.

Step Four: Measure and Iterate

In Product Management, we like to approach major goals through a series of small experiments. If you can clearly define what success looks like, and what your guiding “north star” is, then you likely won’t need to deliberate long as to which investments and tools will lead to success. However, if you are still looking for your “north star,” small experiments can help you narrow your focus down to one or two actions! With one or two steps, you can actually make progress towards your goals.

While some are happy to engage in “small experiments” other teams shy away from that particular terminology. These individuals often prefer the term “Minimum Viable Product,” or MVP. Melissa Perri (my go-to product management blogger) defines MVP as “the smallest amount of effort you can do to learn” (Finding the Truth Behind MVPs — Melissa Perri). I love this definition! When exploring new tools, features and technologies, I believe you should always do an MVP or an experiment first, with a set goal of learning something new!

Do you like working with this tool? Does it do what you thought it would? Did a small testing group display changed behaviors that moved you closer to your goal?

Don’t start with a master plan that requires months of effort and time away from your other duties – experiment and iterate to see if it’s worth additional ongoing investment.

These steps are particularly good habits to establish while economic circumstances are positive, and can be exceptionally beneficial during periods of uncertainty. By following these guidelines, you can be proactive in your understanding of available resources, and identifying your company’s top priorities. Utilizing tools that are already at your disposal will allow you to work towards your goals with minimal disruption, and ensure that you can effectively do more with less.

Juniper Emnett is a veteran of the Wisetail team, and is proud to be a Senior Product Manager. Product Management is a strategic role, wherein she balances both internal and external wants, needs, requests and market drivers. Juniper is passionate about learning, and finds joy in strategically thinking, and devising ways in which she can help clients. What’s more, she understands the importance of being able to do more with the tools you already possess!