1% gains: The stuff of Olympic champions and a principle for business success

1% gains. It’s nothing, right? Yet this measly figure has been the driving force behind Chris Froome’s unprecedented fourth title win of the Tour De France. Companies of all sizes, in every industry, could learn a thing or two about the way that he, and champions like him, go about their business.

You may not have heard of him, but Sir Dave Brailsford has been instrumental in Froome’s wins. He made the jump from being a performance director of British Cycling, across to Team Sky. Quite the scoop for Sky, and a move that also bagged them Sir Dave’s winning philosophy on marginal gains.

Despite another knight, Sir Bradley Wiggins, dismissing the 1% as a “load of rubbish”, the outcome under Sir Brailsford’s training has been compelling.

Crunching the numbers, this means that those 1% gains resulted in 70% of the Olympic medal count at the London 2012 Olympics.

Yet his approach is far from confined to Olympic contenders, large corporations or Yellow Jersey holders. My husband embraced the 1% – increasing his time during training for the Prudential RideLondon 100-mile race by adapting his diet little by little, by adjusting his bike and leg position ever so slightly, and by tweaking, changing and testing the way he did pretty much everything.

Applying 1% gains to the business world

Now for the tangible, everyday steps for applying the 1% principle in business.

The energy sector, like many others, is becoming a marginal industry. Doing things differently can therefore lead to increased profitability.

Automate the smallest of tasks

Get out there on the ‘shop floor’ and observe. See what tasks are being repeated, manually, over and over again. Like ensuring Word has saved formatting styles and templates so workers can write and format freely, importing from other files without the need to adjust settings. These small minute by minute tasks soon add up to several hours per employee, and tens of hours per team.

Automate your processes

“74% of businesses report saving time as the biggest benefit of process automation, followed by improved customer engagement (68%) and increased opportunities (58%).”
– Adestra

If it’s taken until now, when you’re researching marginal gains, to uncover the importance of process automation, then so be it. But you should know – there are overpowering reasons to automate processes for marginal gains. We look for gains in everyday processes such as managing expenses, HR processes, expenses and travel requests to certification of audits, sales and people revalidation.

Example, incident reporting process

There’s a paradox that involves incident reporting and training – one that’s well worth highlighting.

“15% of businesses never spent any money on training and 26% only invested in ad hoc training rather than having a dedicated budget.

“As a result of not having qualified finance workers, AAT reports SME losses of £1,277 per year – including an average of £508 due to tax miscalculations, £399 lost due to an invoice not being issued and £257 for a payment bouncing.”
– HR Magazine

Before you even consider how you can streamline your incident reporting, it seems you should consider whether there would be fewer incidents to report, if only the right training were in place to use the systems.

Invest in IT training

We live in a time when businesses are stripping back their investment in training. And, consequently, people are becoming less productive. Yet we know that this is a risky business. It’s a move that overlooks the 24% higher profit margins that come with training spends of $1500+ per employee. It is also a  decision that results in employees 12x more likely to leave their company.

John Waldron, for Incisive Edge, writes that training should form part of any marginal gains policy – even if only to ensure workers know every nook and cranny of the software they use day in, day out.

Realise Real Gains

We drive businesses forward by bringing people and tech together. By pushing people, teams and businesses to make those 1% gains, we secure advances of multiple percentile profit points. Want concrete figures? Try gains of between 2 to 5 hours per individual, secured through focused training and support.  Or 1 FTE salary savings through the automation of a PO process. That’s quite the figure when all around us productivity levels are falling.

We’re also accredited (in fact, we’re the only accredited provider in this niche in Scotland).

Still thinking it’s not for you? I’ll leave you with one final thought about how marginal gains could add up for your business.

“£440k savings in the first year, real tangible business benefits and significant cost savings. A model we were able to replicate across other departments. Appetite demonstrated the expertise and innovation needed support this initiative.”
– Azerbaijan Business Unit Leader, BP