Back to normal? No, back to different.

How can we get the economy, our businesses and our workers back to work? Answering this question has been a topic of much discussion and debate. From assigning task forces and compiling research to drafting multiple versions of re-opening plans, there is no doubt that we are all anxious to get back to work.

But, getting back to work can’t be getting “back to normal.” Businesses must begin to consider how operations and people will need to change as we ramp back up. It’s time to start planning for how we will get back to different.

And what does back to different look like? At, we’ve observed our customers’ (and our own) increased need for efficiency. We’ll continue to see a heightened need to be prudent and mindful with resources, run lean, be efficient, monitor & track ROI... you name it.

In preparing for this new environment, having a plan for productivity and operational metrics is more important than ever before. For some of you, having operational metrics focused on productivity and efficiency is nothing new, but there's a new strain based on limited resources. For others, setting up a system of metrics and accountability will be a new practice.

It doesn’t matter where you are on this spectrum. Taking a moment to consider your strategy for back to different could mean a more successful comeback strategy. By focusing on efficiency, you can make returning to work better, not just different. So, we'll explore good metrics to start with, common technical challenges to consider and recommendations on how to make metrics mean value to your organization.


A quick note: COVID19 has created countless health-related, emotional and financial hardships. No workforce has been immune. While our discussion today is focused on efficiency and maximizing your comeback, we want to be mindful of how COVID19 has impacted your workforce. This is why we have put together some of our favorite resources regarding your employees’ well-being below.



Efficiency defined is “the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, efficiency is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.”

Having a focus on efficiency rings truer today than it did ninety days ago. As we get back to work and back to different, we will need to focus on creating the best results with the least amount of “waste of materials, energy, efforts, money and time.” Many will likely need to work with less resources, less time, less people…less everything.


So why begin with metrics?

Metrics allow for increased focus − a rallying cry − something to watch, monitor and work for every day. At we've obsessed over customer utilization and implementation metrics to ensure we provide value to our customers despite the economic and health care crisis. It’s helped us stay focused on the good and watch progress being made.

If you don’t actively track operational and efficiency metrics, or would just like a ‘gut check’ on your existing ones, here’s our recommended starter kit. There are plenty of metrics to begin with; here are some of the foundational ones we recommend:


A starter kit of productivity and efficiency metrics

  • Units Produced, Serviced, Sold, Saved, etc.
  • Units Produced per time Period
  • Sales vs Labor Expense
  • Sales vs Overtime
  • Labor Expense vs Goal
  • Sales vs Goal 

Before you say "I'm not in manufacturing...", here's how we define 'Unit'

At, we have a workforce analytics methodology that assumes every business has a unit. A unit is the action, item, service, etc. that begins or sustains the revenue cycle. It’s easy for a manufacturer − your unit is the item that you produce. For a distributor, it’s the shipment or pallet. For a retail organization, it's a customer served or a meal. For a services organization, it could be a staffing role filled or a tax return provided. For healthcare, it could be a patient or procedure. So, pause and think of your unit. Got it? Good. Next up: time period.

How to Choose a Time Period

In our world every business makes something. And there is a certain time period that it takes to make or provide that something. So, as you consider your business, what do you make? And, how well and efficiently are you doing it? You can begin to dive into the efficiency of individual team members, departments, lines, products, or services if you track this metric. And, there is a span of time that makes the most sense for each business.

Grouping Makes it Relevant
Once you know the granularity that makes sense, it’s time to make them applicable. Think about how you group − by business unit, manager, product, customer, line, work cell, center, or location.  Would any one of the metrics shared above be more helpful at a lower level? It could be that metrics at a global level aren’t relevant enough and you need to segment by business unit or product line.

To recap, when considering a starter kit of metrics:

  • Start with your unit.
  • Find your relevant time period.
  • Define how you group and track.


Technically… What do you need to know

We’ll save the nerdy conversations about the value of OLAP versus OLTP,  ETL and data models for later. For now, here are the technical considerations to focus on.


Where is Your Data

Try to narrow your data scope for these metrics as much as possible. Then, consider the systems that you will need to access for this data. Work with your technical resources to identify the easiest way to pull the data out. We recommend the shortest and sweetest distance between two points. Right now, you may want to save the automation for later.


How Will Your Data Talk

We must be thoughtful in customers’ implementations to make sense of how to connect data sets that have no connection. For example, a timekeeping system that organizes employees by department and an ERP system that organizes by line. As you consider and build out metrics like units produced per hour, you will need to think through how to connect these disparate data sets. Your disparate data will need to talk to or relate to each other, so the metrics make sense.


How Will You Deliver

Part of ensuring adoption and utilization of these metrics is considering the best way for people to use the metrics. If you are in a dynamic environment, you can't expect your managers and supervisors to sit down and pour through dashboards. So, think about the ways you can deliver metrics and updates to these people in the most user-friendly way possible.


Psst… we can help with a lot of this. So, reach out to us for guidance.

Avoid the pitfalls of change with No Results

The bane of any business project is to invest in great planning, great team, great intentions, great resources…only to have it all fall flat. There is little room for error when considering projects that could positively impact your business − especially now. So, let’s discuss the various change management pitfalls so you can avoid them and be an efficiency pro.


The Wrong People

As you think through the dissemination of the metrics above, take a second look at who needs to be involved.


You need to make sure that the right people receive the right metrics and information. It may seem obvious; however, we sometimes see insights and metrics being held at an executive level but not shared throughout the organization. So often managers and supervisors are figuring out what they did wrong after the fact rather than having the data they need beforehand to make an informed decision.


The Wrong Language

Think about converting each metric into the language your audience uses so they can act faster.

Consider the language used per audience. No, we are not talking about English versus German. We are talking about context. Consider a shift supervisor at a distribution center. This person likely thinks in the number of people that he or she has and the number of available work hours that he or she can deploy. So, if you provide metrics and insights using dollars and labor expense as opposed to headcount and hours, this person is unlikely to fully adopt those metrics.



The Wrong Time

Think about how frequently, or infrequently, you provide managers insights.

We discussed earlier how some metrics are provided after the point of no return. But there’s more to the timeliness of data. If you are running a highly dynamic environment, you probably need to provide updated metrics throughout the day. It’s not enough to do a weekend recap or month-to-date report. Your operational managers and supervisors need insight faster.



The Wrong Amount

We encourage you to consider what you ask your team members to focus on; see if you can prune your metrics to provide more focus.

Often, businesses try to measure too much. Have you heard this saying? “If you measure everything… you measure nothing.” Internally, we call this data bloat. When you give users way too much to track, they lose focus. At, we’ve started meeting virtually as a company every two weeks and focus on a very short list of top priorities. Sure, each individual department and team member have responsibilities on going; however, this focus gives us a heightened sense of what matters.



Honing Your Comeback Strategy with an Eye on Efficiency

We hope this has given you some ideas for developing your return to work strategy. If you’re like many, you learn best when you can see excellence in action. If you missed our webinar: Having an Efficiency Focus, we invite you to view the recording below. We hosted a panel of efficiency metrics to dive deeper in the topics discusses above. 

View the Recording

In the meantime, here is the list of Workplace Mental Health & Well-being Resources we hope you'll find helpful. 


And last but not least, here's an awesome article published by McKinsey & Company titled "Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations" that digs into this topic as well. Happy reading!


Originally published May 07, 2020.

Written by Jana Fuelberth

Spend about 15 minutes with me and you’ll learn that ‘nerd’ is a term of endearment for me. That’s why I love how much ‘nerding out’ goes on at My biggest passion is helping people and organizations unlock potential they never expected. Outside of the office? You’ll probably find me doing something active or for my beloved, Butler Bulldogs.