Posted on September 30, 2015 at 10:30 AM

White Breasted Nuthatch on Birch, Horn Pond, Woburn, MA

Often cutting costs, in the short term, can be more expensive over time. One place this is often forgotten is the internal tools built by and used within a company. Your employees tools and procedures should both be bought and built with forethought as to how they will make your workers more productive.

Most companies have tools and procedures that are for "Internal Use Only," such as evaluation tools, required documentation tools, required approval tools, up time monitors, job search, client management tools, communication procedures, periodic reports, etc. Often times when these tools and procedures are developed internally they do not get the attention that client facing products receive. Factors that go into this, reduced attention to internal tools, are things like time management, cost cutting, inadequate pre-planning, turf wars, or a dismissive attitude to the internal tool process.

Of course I have seen the other side, when employees have so much freedom and so many toys that they become less efficient. In my experience that scenario is more prevalent in start-ups than well established operations.

There should be a middle ground - a place where the tools and procedures are not a burden to the employees process and give them the feeling that they are necessary and valued as part of the company. All the team lingo in the world will not balance the actual day to day experience, if that experience isn't productive and engaging. Basically it comes down to balance and mutual respect.

If a tool or procedure is never easy to use, your employees will be frustrated and put off doing the task. Or they will do the task in a rush and often have to re-do the same task again. Those examples are the invisible costs.

I have heard it said: "we only have ten employees that use it, so an extra 4 hours of training isn't that burdensome." I don't agree. Today's business climate is much more transient than is was 25 years ago, and within a year you could lose or promote half of those trained people. This will generally happen one at a time. Then you have 5 times normal training plus 4 hours each to add to the cost of a poorly designed tool or procedure. And it keeps multiplying beyond that forever until someone realizes the problem exists.

It is my contention that the short time and focus of a good UI/UX designer can make a huge difference to the impact of an internal tool. And the same is true for internal documentation and procedures. Someone who can come in with an outside eye and review the plan, before it is so far along that is cannot be changed, will make a huge difference both for the employees and for the company. It just makes good sense to bring in that impartial eye.

Employees are like your fingers; they touch your clients, they touch your products, and they touch your outside image in the business world. Value them by making their tools and procedures the same good quality that you would give to your customers.

UI Mantra: Quality Cuts Costs.

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