The Future of Work Is People
Business leaders are faced with unprecedented challenges. The fallout from the ongoing pandemic affects supply chains, workforces, consumer behaviors, and more. Couple that with rising inflation, recession risks, global and cultural upheaval, and cybersecurity threats, to name but a few, and the only certainty appears to be that more challenges await.
But if you’re a business leader, with so many external forces working against you, it’s imperative that you focus inwardly to improve, modernize, and reenergize your organization. The Great Resignation and an upside-down jobs market, where job openings outnumber available workers by the millions, put you under even more pressure to improve your workplace and its attractiveness to current and potential employees.
Where you have the most control is in how your teams work. Sure, there’s the obvious topic of remote work, but beyond where work happens is the challenge to improve how work happens. The future of work will focus less on a place and more on the human aspects of satisfaction, productivity, value, interpersonal connections, and more. And your future of work will depend on how you modernize and automate the parts of work that will have a positive impact on your people.
Focusing on people
Recent research on The Great Resignation is finding that money is not the only concern of job hoppers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that remote work and working in “a positive work environment” are two of the primary goals of those looking to switch jobs. Researchers at MIT found that a toxic culture and job insecurity are leading predictors of high turnover rates. More than half of job quitters in a Pew Research survey cited a lack of internal opportunities and a lack of respect as reasons for leaving.
The takeaway? Leaders must double down on their efforts to improve worker satisfaction if they’re going to attract and retain the best workers. Yes, money and remote work do matter. Yet, it’s the day-to-day effort where leaders can have the most impact on worker happiness. And it all comes back to people.
“Business leaders are embracing a human-centered leadership development approach to positively change people’s perception of their job,” says Ronald van Loon, Principal Analyst and CEO at Intelligent World, an on-demand and live video content portal. “This will result in better, more aligned organizational cultures but will also support employees in their work, leading to more innovation and higher productivity.”
Higher productivity is a great side effect of job satisfaction. So, helping workers find more satisfaction in their roles is not only good for the worker but also good for business. Research by Oxford University found that happy workers are 13% more productive.
Increasing productivity where it matters
Prioritizing people helps you view productivity from a different perspective. Speeding up an assembly line, for example, will churn out more widgets per day. But it will likely increase injuries, decrease quality, and physically and mentally exhaust your people. You want productivity to increase where it makes sense for workers and your business. Again, it all comes back to people.
Pascal Bornet, the author of the best-selling book Intelligent Automation, says there are three key levers to increasing worker productivity: education, empowerment, and incentivization. Education uses technology to help with work, empowerment gives people tools and support to do their best work, and incentivization pushes people to find more benefits.
“Leaders and organizations that understand and embrace these areas will not only see great strides in productivity, but their employees will enjoy a more fulfilling experience at work,” Bornet added.
Making the connection
Connecting people and productivity is increasingly driven by technology, specifically modernization and automation. Satisfaction and productivity come from releasing workers from mundane, repetitive, and low-value work. Furthermore, the time freed by increased productivity enables workers to focus on more rewarding or more valuable aspects of their role, such as serving customers or spending time on strategic initiatives.
Compliance, for example, is one area most IT teams are forced to maintain with little regard for productivity. Cybersecurity is another cost of doing business that decreases risk yet pulls IT teams away from more valuable work. But progressive IT teams are looking to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to take over some of those tasks.
“Compliance obligations are now consuming more than 40% of IT security budgets as well as a good portion of IT’s day,” says Sumit Johar, chief information officer at Automation Anywhere. “RPA offers a solution to automate, accelerate, and streamline security and compliance, giving back IT, not to mention an entire organization, much-needed time and resources. RPA is no longer a business option. It’s a necessity for success and continuity.”
More time to connect with customers
Giving workers more time to focus on higher-value work often means more time to interact with other humans. Where that really impacts your business is when those other humans are your customers.
“Customer experience is more important than ever; competition is strong across all sectors, as are customer expectations,” explains Daniel Newman, founding partner and principal analyst at Futurum Research. “Emerging technologies are now the foundation of organizational resilience, with analytics, machine learning, and agile systems of record all key.”
More and more, technology, namely automation, is driving success for leading organizations as bots take over mundane, repetitive tasks and workers provide more, better, and faster service to customers. That interconnectedness of workers and customers is obvious, so creating happier, more productive workers is likely to create happier customers. Automation simply enables employees with more time to listen, respond, and act.
“The customer experience is a direct result of the employee experience,” adds Bornet. “Companies that excel at the customer experience have 1.5 times more engaged employees than companies with a record of poor customer experience.”
The focus on worker productivity to drive happiness and success provides benefits even when profits are not the goal. Healthcare organizations are working to automate tasks so their valuable workers can spend more time on patient care.
“Our ambition is to be the most digital hospital group in England by July 2023,” says Andy Callow, group chief digital information officer at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust. “Achieving that would mean clinicians are given excellent tools that give them back time to care, patients are in control of their treatment, (and) managers have instant information to drive decision-making.”
Time to rethink
Too often, as mentioned earlier, the future-of-work conversation turns to remote work and virtual offices. But that simplifies the narrative to only focus on where work happens. Leading organizations already know the focus must be on how work happens by always keeping in mind the people who do the work. Those organizations have an easier time retaining happy workers and attracting new workers. And automation is the fastest way to get there.
“Time to rethink space, place, and pace,” says Sally Eaves, a global strategy advisor. “There are benefits beyond cost to rethinking those elements such as increasing productivity, lowering carbon footprint, and aiding recruiting retention, especially in talent-squeezed sectors. Organizations that can make the shift will be best placed to support their teams in the future of work. Those that cannot will not only miss out on the benefits but risk falling short of their employees’ expectations of the modern workplace.”
The future of work is happening faster than most businesses can adapt. Even for HR teams and the C-suite, a lack of productivity prevents them from moving with agility and deciding with speed as shifting trends and fast-moving economic forces create continued uncertainty. Focusing on your workers as people, empowering them to do more higher-value work, and giving them more time to serve customers and coworkers is where automation can pay near-immediate dividends. But you must make it happen. Today.