How we measure productivity at Spitfire Inbound

Posted by Sarah Mills

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 4 seconds

Some say that being productive means getting the most done in the least amount of time, while others say that they measure their productivity based on quality of output. We’re taking a deep dive into how we measure productivity.

Productivity is an interesting topic and attempts to measure it have dominated modern workforces.

In advertising, we measure both the time taken to produce something and the quality of the work produced - however, this definition is a bit of a blanket term.

Unpacking productivity in marketing

Harvard Business Review published a paper which looked at the measurement of productivity. In its simplest form, productivity equates to the units of output divided by the units of inputs, and this is notoriously difficult to measure.

Productivity is a personal thing, unique to an individual. Comparing one person’s level of productivity to another is going to be very different. At Spitfire Inbound, our primary productivity measurement tool is WorkflowMax (WFM). However, some would argue that this tool only measures the actuals, not the outputs - and I agree.

Here are my tips for measuring productivity, which you can tailor to your business and industry:

Determine the number of deliverables in the SLA, and measure productivity to that

In many businesses, a project (or client) has an SLA (Service Level Agreement) which the business delivering the service needs to stick to and deliver on accordingly. A measurement of productivity around this could be matching the outputs to the agreed on the SLA. This can be done through a multitude of platforms but my personal choice here would be Basecamp.

Basecamp is a tool that we use to measure the progress of projects. I love that it’s completely agile and allows us to create a template for a project once - then your to-do list is done across clients for the month. All you need to do is customise dates, allocate tasks to staff, and you’re ‘A for away’.

Measure outputs per team member

Make sure you’ve set KPIs (key performance indicators) and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals for your teams and employees. I’d recommend looking at this on a quarterly basis and setting both realistic and stretch goals with each of your team members.

KPIs not only give direction to your team in terms of growth and career goals but they also allow you, as a manager, to measure outputs. KPIs need to be carefully designed so as to be realistic, with action plans behind them. Ensure when setting them with your team that they have a percentage completed associated to them, as well as a to-do list for the quarter, in order to achieve them. I would also recommend that the teams KPIs are pulling in the same direction as their manager and the business.

My tip? Don’t push for the result, push for the effort behind the result. The result will follow.

At times, KPIs won’t always be reached in the quarter, but they’ll certainly be at a percentage completed. It’s ok for a KPI to roll over to the next quarter, but it should take a maximum of two quarters to complete. At Spitfire Inbound when doing our KPIs, Alison Leishman always emphasises that an incomplete KPI can also become a to-do.  Something that requires limited action or effort for completion does not need to rollover - it just needs to be finished and ticked off the to-do list.

The importance of KPIs is that you’re encouraging your team to contribute to overall company growth, as well as holding them accountable for things that you know they can achieve.

This will help you understand the capabilities of human resources further, and you can potentially maximise their growth in the business.

Measure time spent on a task and on a job

So, you’ve got your SLA, you’ve got your project plan, but now you need to implement these internally, and ensure that it’s done within budget while delivering on clients expectations to the standard of work that we are known for.

Our team understands and commits to the requirements of the SLA between client and agency. A critical part of my role as operations manager is to ensure that the team are held accountable for the deliverables, efficiency and profitability of their jobs according to the SLA. This is where the power of a project management tool, such as WorkflowMax, comes in. Here, monthly retainer jobs are created, and team members log time against the tasks in this job, which vary per SLA. At the end of the month, we’re able to gauge output of work, client satisfaction, and whether everything was done within budget, (and if it wasn’t, understanding why this was the case). It furthers assists us with resource planning and allocation and allows us to focus not on the hours but on the requirements to deliver exceptional customer services.

Score it, weekly

The horse has bolted if you’re measuring productivity and outputs at month end, and you only notice irregularities then.

You need to measuring your team’s outputs on a weekly basis. I’m by no means saying crack the whip and micromanage - what I'm saying is, we need to ensure that client deliverables are being met each week. It also helps you as a manager to identify any problems on the account early on.

We use a weekly scorecard, which has all of our clients listed on it. It essentially details the SLA on each, with the required outputs in numerical format. This way, our Strategic Director, Alison Leishman, can pick up any areas of concern. It also lets us know when we’re ahead on delivery (always a win 😀).

As you can see, I don’t have the answer to the real measurement of productivity - that’s only because I don’t think that there can be a blanket approach. The principles will be the same, but the implementation and measurement thereof will differ from one business to the next.

Looking for helpful tips and tools to boost your productivity? Download our guide for some thought starters. 

Get our guide, Navigating Productivity: Some thought starters

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