For business leaders and executives, employees are the troops on the battlefield. To know what’s happening at the ground level, you need your employees to provide regular business reports and progress updates. And often, the quality of your decisions depends on the quality of these reports.
The importance of business reports
Within your business, there are constant changes and regular fluctuations with sales, marketing performance, supply chain, logistics, and inventory. All of these little changes impact the company’s bottom line, as well as the overall health and well-being of the organization.
The business landscape – and your company, specifically – is evolving by the minute, hour, and day. If you’re waiting to see what happens on a quarterly or annual basis, you’re falling behind. You need regular business reports – meaning daily or weekly.
“Effective progress reporting is a key activity for any team because it enables you to track performance and progress at all levels during a certain period,” marketing specialist Kulli Koort writes. “If executed well, it provides a quick overview how things are humming along, offering valuable insights in order to increase focus and productivity, quickly solve emerging problems and give necessary guidance.”
The problem is that many business leaders don’t get the sort of business reports they need to make informed decisions. Reports give vague brushstrokes, as opposed to well-crafted insights that offer practical perspectives.
If this sounds familiar, then the business reports your employees and team members are creating are actually a waste of time and resources. They’re slowing things down and distracting you from focusing on the issues that matter. And you need to nip this in the bud!
Improving the quality of business reports in your organization
When it comes to receiving quality business reports that help you make smarter decisions, you need to set your employees up for success by providing practical guidelines. Here are some specific steps you can take:
1. Set clear guidelines
You can’t expect employees to provide something they don’t know you need. In other words, you have to communicate exactly what you want and need. This includes:
- Content: What ideas are supposed to be communicated in the report? In other words, what topics and interests should be covered?
- Structure: What sort of structure do you want? This is largely a matter of preference, but it’s nice to have a summary at the beginning, followed by more thorough explanations for each major point.
- Length: Many business leaders want reports to fit on a single page. Others want them to be as in-depth as possible. Specify length to guide your team.
- Frequency: How often do you expect reports? Will they come in regular intervals – such as daily or weekly – or only after certain triggering events?
2. Provide business intelligence solutions
If you want your reports to be specific and insightful, it’s helpful to provide your team with business intelligence solutions that give them access to the right data and analytics.
3. Require explanations
A business report shouldn’t be delivered in isolation. Whenever a business report is handed over, it needs to be accompanied by an oral explanation or presentation. This could be something quick – like a 90-second brief – or something much longer and more formal. You can be the judge.
4. Offer critical feedback
Don’t let bad progress reports slide. Offer critical feedback when reports aren’t up to your liking. And just as you ask your employees to be specific in what they report, you need to be equally specific in your feedback. Let them know exactly where they’re missing the mark – as well as where they’re doing well.
Give your business a boost
Good business reporting can be catalytic for businesses. It increases awareness and allows for better, more informed decision making. If you feel like your business reports are vague and worthless, it’s time to meet with your team and set some guidelines that will pave the way for more valuable and empowering leadership.