The digital economy forever changed the face of the workplace through greater automation, higher performance collaboration, and globalization. And with the always-connected, instantaneous work culture comes blurred lines between when work starts and ends. As a result, many employees find themselves overwhelmed, working longer and harder than they need to, likely because their organizations aren’t putting the proper time and effort into aligning effective strategies with available tools.
In fact, only 15 percent of organizations say they are prepared to deal with the changing workforce. And 80 percent of organizations say their employees are overwhelmed with information at work. Even more, despite the digital revolution offering us more ways of working and collaborating, companies in the U.S. have seen their lowest productivity levels in 20 years.
As the workplace continues to shift, many employees, without a proper roadmap, feel overwhelmed and disengaged, which can end up costing businesses big time. If “the only constant is change,” below are three strategies businesses should consider to improve employee productivity and prosperity to keep up with the changing times.
1.) Provide Employees with the Right Tools and the Right Information at the Right Time
In the knowledge economy, collaboration can happen anytime, anywhere; and when implemented correctly, foster efficiency, innovation, and growth. On the flip side, too much information in too many places can be detrimental and counterproductive, leading to more accidents from workers as they battle dissatisfaction and exhaustion from information overload.
That’s why, in the always-on workplace, one of the most important business strategies is to offer digital work tools that manage your talent’s time and energy so employees can focus on the things that matter. Businesses that are able to do this enjoy 30 to 50 percent higher profit margins than industry averages.
What’s more, workers in the knowledge economy no longer learn in a “create and push” kind of model, meaning businesses actually need to not only provide the right tools and the right information at the right time, but they also need to train their workers how to use the tools properly.
As a result of all of the digital tools that exist—from e-mail, instant messaging and enterprise social media tools to HR applications and virtual meeting tools—the work world is moving at a much faster speed, meaning employees need to work faster and collaborate more efficiently in order to get their work done. And without guidance, it’s much more likely that workers will be unable to find what they need, when they need it.
To decide on which tools to provide, organizations should first figure out how their teams work, what they need to accomplish, and why they work the way they do. Once these things are identified, certain tools can then be introduced to mitigate the time spent on low-value tasks.
2.) Rewrite the Rules for the Changing Workforce Demographics
The modern workplace has evolved at astronomical speed and the way we work, manage, organize, and communicate—and even the products we use—are forever changed. As if that doesn’t complicate things enough, throw in the reality that today’s workforce demonstrates the largest age range than any labor pool in history. What all of this means is that driving true cultural change for the “organizations of the future” become even more challenging.
Currently, the millennial generation is the largest in the workplace and by 2020, these young people, who are also the most diverse generation, are expected to represent 50 percent of the total working population. At the same time, baby boomers are living longer than ever and therefore, a lot of them are also working well past yesterday’s retirement age. Because of these realities, a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t going to meet the varying needs of a multi-generational, diverse workforce.
Organizations that will be able to find the most success are typically the ones who support changes in working styles. Additionally, a wide age range also means varying level of family responsibilities and employee expectations. For instance, some workers may prefer flexible work schedules over higher pay, so make sure to rethink your strategy because you might not be attractive for certain demographics.
3.) Spend the Time and Effort to Engage Employees
Nearly 20 years ago, organizational behavioral experts Kenneth Thompson and Fred Luthans noted that one’s reaction to organizational change “can be so excessive and immediate, that some researchers have suggested it may be easier to start a completely new organization than to try to change an existing one.”
But in the 21st century, change is inevitable and happening aggressively, so how can organizations evolve while keeping employees engaged? A lot of it has to do with putting efficient leaders in place, the ones that take the time to win the trust of their employees so that they’re willing to forget about the old rules, change course, and travel through uncharted territories with their new leaders.
Besides making sure everyone stays on track, leaders should also put in time to engage with their employees, which can take time and hard work but is needed for business success. Typically when employees are engaged, they are enthusiastic about their work, they are more sure of their role in the company and therefore, have a reason to work harder to further the organization’s goals and interests. In fact, when employees are engaged, they perform over 200 percent better than those who are not.
The bottom line is that no matter how many “shortcuts” we may come across, or how many ways we can automate work, research shows over and over again that when we enrich jobs by giving workers more autonomy, time, and support, the company enjoys greater business performance and higher profit margins. For instance, it may seem counterintuitive to let people take work on their own projects from time to time on the company’s dime, but these kinds of opportunities are exactly what can rejuvenate people. On the other hand, when people are overworked and not engaged, they tend to burnout a lot faster and produce lower quality work.
|Josh Bersin founded Bersin in 2001 to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and is a popular blogger. Josh spent 25 years in product development, product management, marketing and sales of e-learning, and other enterprise technologies. Josh’s education includes a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell, an M.S. in Engineering from Stanford, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.|