Management is so passé — it’s co-creation that workers are demanding
It’s time for business, political and organizational leaders to give up on “management.”
Workers today don’t want to be managed, even benevolently. They want to be partners in co-creation, where all members are empowered to bring their whole selves to the organization regardless of hierarchies.
Consequently, those uncomfortably perched atop organizational hierarchies are faced with a stark choice: Co-create or manage, because you cannot do both.
As businesses start to envision a post-pandemic world, they are faced with unprecedented challenges, like the so-called Great Resignation that involves millions of employees opting to quit their unfulfilling jobs, and political pressures to “build back better.” As I argue in my recent book, Connected Capitalism, we need to move away from an emphasis on “management” and towards a focus on co-creation.
Management is passé. Co-creation will allow us to thrive in meeting the changing demands of key stakeholders like employees, customers and governments.
Even before the pandemic, there was a crisis of worker dissatisfaction, with millennials — the generation poised to make up the majority of our workforce — viewing business as out of step with their priorities.
Corporations must commit to a broader social purpose or face disconnected and unmotivated workers unlikely to stay in their jobs. Co-creation builds on that rare and valuable sense of connection emerging in the very best type of purpose-driven co-operative partnerships.
The feeling of connection is so important, I believe we will start to normalize viewing friendship as an essential work resource, since we now know that co-operation is not born of deep analytical calculations, but intuition and feelings.
Often, when management gurus talk about co-operation, what they really mean is managing subordinates into passivity.
Co-operation in this context is contingent on repression. That’s not co-creation.
When I speak to executives, I often get a panicked reaction: “What does this mean for my power to run the business?!?”
Assuredly, decision-making power stays in the C-suites. But an empowered team only increases the effectiveness of leadership. And while corporate behemoths like Google are leading with this new course of action, a 20-year study of more than 300 companies found human-centric approaches that empowered employees improved performance in a wide variety of settings.
And co-creation is not only about loosening the managerial reins on employees. Many businesses have come to realize that they don’t get the best product by closely managing their suppliers with laundry lists of desired specifications.
Instead, optimal outcomes are often attained by supporting suppliers in co-creation, giving up control and letting them lead the way. This exercise in trust and vulnerability showcases the deepest level of relationship — when two organizations surprise one another by understanding each other so deeply that one delivers what the other wants but did not ask for.
Does the ultimate decision-making power still sit with the paying client? Of course. Clients can demand their supplier’s development team stick to product roadmaps and manage the process so requested features get built.
Are there significant efficiency and reputational risks involved when managers take the liberties afforded by co-creation? Absolutely. But the better question to ask is this — does a path to innovation exist that isn’t full of risk and inefficiencies? I don’t know of one.
Consider current indicators that workers are quitting rather than giving up the ability to work from home.
Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Management, explained to me that this is an expected feature of the “talent economy.” Everybody, up and down the hierarchy, is both empowered and willing to take responsibility for what they do.
Whether the outcomes are good or bad, those who take risks own the consequences. Are there risks in letting workers set the terms of how they work? Yes. And to some executives, workers making such demands appear to have an unjustifiable sense of entitlement.
But feeling like you are being managed is antithetical to productive work. Solomon explains this as a generational shift, and warns that the old style of management is being phased out fairly quickly.
Co-creation doesn’t mean we no longer need CEOs. But it may be more helpful to view leading exclusively as a verb and not a noun.
Business researchers are finally emphasizing the relational and dynamic aspects of power, how a leader’s relationships with stakeholders can be a source of support or resistance and how they must continually adapt to changes in social systems.
The shift away from the stifling, controlling and outdated dominance of management in favour of co-creation is an absolute must for those helming organizations — from private sector businesses to governments and health-care organizations — even if the prospect makes some existing leaders uncomfortable.
Using the tools of co-creation where we once used management hierarchies means expanding the rigid boundaries between the social, professional and personal, which we have been clinging to in corporate settings for too long.
Workers are demanding a more human-centric future, with space for trust and vulnerability. There is no going back to the “before world.” Management is over. The era of co-creation is underway.
Designing a fairer future for the platform economy
When I look back to when we started Glovo, what strikes me most is that how people use the platform today is very different to how I’d imagined it. The hot topic in tech at the start of the decade was the sharing economy. Everybody, from Uber and Airbnb to Bla Bla Car, identified with it and it was a space we slotted into nicely at the time.
Initially, the sharing economy was assumed to be a peer-to-peer (P2P) network for goods and services. The idea was that private individuals would be empowered, through digital technology and platform companies, to use their spare time to share and provide goods and services in a highly flexible economic framework. However, for most of those businesses, but especially for platforms such as ours, this is not what happened. Instead of people using their free time to supplement their income, for many of them, it became their main source of income.
In Europe alone, some 24 million people – around 11 per cent of the workforce – are estimated to have provided a service through a digital platform at least once in their life. Of that number, over three million rely solely on platform work as a primary source of income, nine million use it to supplement their incomes, and nearly seven million see it as an occasional source of extra income1.
One thing is crystal clear: to an awful lot of people the gig economy is an economic lifeline and absolutely essential.
As a founder, I think that the platform economy is far from its potential and its promise. The conversations around job security and workers rights are important and they are, as everything is when it affects a huge number of people, complicated. But they are conversations that need to be had to drive change.
Today, I believe we find ourselves at a crossroads. Platforms, social stakeholders and regulators have an opportunity to create a fairer future for platform workers and the gig economy in general. The platform economy, as it exists currently, needs to change. And I think that that change needs to be toward the individual worker.
While digital technology has opened up amazing new opportunities for work – it’s no longer necessary today to work the traditional nine-to-five – the platform economy still lags behind in defining social rights for those that end up depending on it. We have always said that workers should have access to the same rights, regardless of their employment or work status with the company, and that the companies should cover those additional costs, and that’s why we have implemented The Couriers Pledge.
The Couriers Pledge, which we created with advice from the Fairwork foundation, establishes a new set of standards that includes fair hourly earnings (guided by WageIndicator foundation’s data on fair earnings and living wages), improvements to insurance coverage and access to training, safety and maintenance provisions.
The initiative also provides more channels for dialogue with couriers and their associations, and an independently validated appeals process. We believe we have a responsibility to help platform workers come together and have their voices heard, through representation and collective bargaining agreements. Of course, trade unions should also be a part of the solution, helping to negotiate better conditions through a collective voice, as well as helping to upskill individuals who are transitioning professionally.
We’ll be rolling out The Couriers Pledge to cover 40 per cent of our couriers by the end of mid 2022 and in all of the countries where we operate by the end of 2023. Fairwork will be auditing how we meet our commitments, evaluating the progress we make against its five principles of fair work, and making these results public.
I’m sure people are going to ask: why now? Today, we collaborate with around 75,000 couriers in 26 countries but by 2023 we expect to be collaborating with around 240,000 couriers on a monthly basis worldwide. That’s a lot of people, many of whom will be relying on our platform as their primary source of income, or in some cases their only source.
I have seen no solid reasons why we cannot guarantee basic social rights while, at the same time, maintaining the positives of the platform economy. As Europeans, social rights are the very heart of our culture. As entrepreneurs our goal should be to solve problems and challenges while making a positive impact. I believe that we can create a flexible, sustainable and dignified framework for platform work – of which The Couriers Pledge is our first step.
1 Meyer, David — Gig Economy: Europe Tells Companies To Negotiate With Workers Or Face New Laws (Fortune, February 24th, 2021)
To find out more about The Couriers Pledge, please visit www.thecourierspledge.com
by Sacha Michaud, Co-founder of Glovo
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM GLOVO
How tech is the catalyst in the shift to flexible working
The events of the past 18 months have accelerated an existing trend towards remote and flexible working, which had been slowly developing over the past two decades. As always, technology was the enabler, with faster broadband speeds and cloud computing major drivers.
Now, as the immediate danger of Covid recedes and businesses begin to emerge into something approaching normality, comprised in many cases of hybrid working arrangements, technology will again help to shape the future of the workplace. “The urgent need for businesses to reduce their physical presence alongside a drive to lower their carbon footprints is going to accelerate adoption of intelligent technology that can support the rise of smart buildings,” predicts Narinder Sahota, chief technology officer at Advanced. “These learn about occupancy patterns and then suggest how workplace conditions can be optimised for both workforce comfort and energy efficiency.”
Technology is also having an impact on how sales are conducted in the wake of the pandemic, says Liam Halpin, VP sales EMEA and LATAM, at LinkedIn Sales Solutions. “In many sectors this has involved a wholesale transformation of the sales process,” he says. “I’ve watched sales teams for export businesses, whose lives previously revolved around international travel and events, reinvent how they prospect, gather insight and build relationships. With the future of large-scale trade fairs still uncertain, they’ve turned to sales intelligence tools to fill the gap.” One example here would be a platform such as LinkedIn informing recruiters or HR teams when a target employee gets a new role, he adds.
The rise of remote working has also made cyber-security even more important, with 86 per cent of organisations expecting to permanently adopt remote working practices, according to research by Forrester. “It’s already well past time for infosec leaders to strategically re-evaluate the systems to accommodate these changes, with an eye toward making their security as dynamic as the workplace itself,” says David Cummins, vice president of EMEA Tenable, which commissioned the research. “Organisations need to rethink how they define risk, looking beyond software flaws and device compliance, to achieve a holistic view of their dynamic and disparate environments.” GDPR and data compliance is also a concern: 33 per cent of organisations that had suffered a cyber-attack in the past 12 months admitted it resulted in a data breach.
Big data, too, will play a more prominent role, particularly in sectors such as marketing, says Douggie Melville-Clarke, head of data science at Duco. “But in order for innovation to continue, education needs to follow,” he says. “If employees don’t have the analytical skills necessary to perform the statistical tests and experiments large data sets need, then industries will face setbacks.”
3D printing also came of age during the pandemic, being used to manufacture everything from swabs for Covid testing to face shields, points out Dave Prezzano, MD, UK & Ireland, at HP Inc. User data itself is now becoming increasingly useful, adds Halpin, with first-party data that is actively maintained by users rather than sourced from elsewhere particularly valuable.
Other trends that were developing before the pandemic remain ongoing. “As AI-based robots and humans continue to collaborate, productivity, quality and the security of the working environment will significantly enhance,” says Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at Tor Vergata University of Roma. “We can expect to see more encouragement towards enhancing the relationship between humans and robots in a cyber-physical domain.”
It’s essential businesses develop a culture of innovation that allows people to create and share ideas easily and assess any scenarios that may arise in the future, says Matt Spry, strategy consultant and founder of Emergent. “Design small-scale experiments and projects to test your hypothesis and possible responses,” he says. “This will create deep insight and learning, and help you prioritise the changes you’ll need to make to your business to thrive in the future.”
To discover ways to create new business opportunities for your organisation, visit business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions
Management control in digital transformation
Digital transformation should be an organisation-wide strategy, with a focus on equipping internal teams with the tools and workflows within a controlled all-in-one environment, to deliver quality service to clients. Without a consolidated strategy to deploy a company-wide digital resilience, disparate communications and business interactions are outside of management oversight, and organisations cannot have full transparency into business practices, making it difficult to maintain streamlined workflows and control over them.
A branded OneStop App enables organisations to efficiently manage their internal teams to deliver just-in-time, high-touch service to their clients, while seamlessly managing internal operations.
Many brands have important business data spread across messengers and email – to the point that it becomes almost impossible to maintain consistency and manage it all. The problem with having a variety of disparate channels is that it is much harder to streamline client-centric workflows and manage persistent relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. These environments also present new challenges in privacy and security – when an organisation cannot assume control of its digital strategy, it cannot ensure safety to clients and the business as a whole since it is relying on other parties. Also, difficulties in enabling streamlined work-flows can mean the entire experience can be disjointed for both clients and employees.
It is notoriously difficult to maintain control across such disparate workflows. It is harder to ensure confidentiality, security and integrity, and delivering persistent customer relationships can become almost impossible. Using many services means having important client data spread across them, reducing the potential for that data to be distilled into actionable insights. Furthermore, disparate digital communications have an adverse effect on productivity, where employees often end up spending more time sifting through emails than serving their clients.
Digital resilience depends on maintaining management control over the entire organisation, and premiere service delivery relies on having a structured system in which all customer inter-actions and data can be managed and protected. Addressing these needs becomes much easier when everything is managed under a OneStop Client App. Organisations can deliver the same streamlined, secure client experience and maintain a fully auditable transcript of all transactions and interactions. This also enables brands to deliver a premier white-glove service over the convenience of mobile – vital in today’s service-driven economy where people expect efficiency and personalisation.
A digital strategy must factor every stage of the client journey. A managed environment where administrators can retain full visibility into their workflows, measure performance and hold staff accountable is business-critical. By bringing everything together with a OneStop Client Collaboration Portal, that serves as a fluid extension of organisations’ service structure: clients can get in touch via a branded app anytime, anywhere, with premier service access. The same applies to employees too, who can better respond through one fully integrated system.
Moxtra’s OneStop Platform solution is built to scale and evolve with rapidly advancing technology and enables organisations to further enhance brand recognition by delivering a digital service experience for clients, under their brand. Get started today with a OneStop App for streamlining and managing client-centric business processes.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM MOXTRA
Four ways people workflow automation is changing business
As a leader, I know that opportunities are everything. They can help set your company up for success, and can drive growth in a host of ways. That’s why People Workflow Automation to me is so exciting: because it’s set to help HR realise many new opportunities.
How? It starts by automating people processes, across your entire business, to help HR go beyond itself, but I want to peel back the layers a bit and talk it through in more in-depth. Here are the four key ways I think People Workflow Automation is set to change the way work is done.
1. By removing delays across the business
Attention fragmentation is a massive issue for so many organisations, and many may not even notice it. But, while delays like these may feel minor at the time, they have a distinct effect that adds up and ends up being a huge drain on productivity.
Studies have shown that each involuntary distraction costs people a delay of more than 47 total minutes of lost time switching between applications and getting back into the flow of work. So, for each vacation request, paperwork submission, or signature, you’re losing valuable or value-adding business opportunities (and what could be achieved with them).
And the last thing you want is for unnecessary delays to get in the way of work, or to get in the way of opportunities for your people and your business.
The course of the pandemic hasn’t made it easier of course, with an explosion of tooling leading to the average HR team needing 6 different applications, on average, to get their work done (as per a study conducted by Personio and Opinium across Europe).
People Workflow Automation’s emphasis on reducing and removing delays, across apps and teams, is a transformative element here. It’s a way for businesses to focus on helping employees perform, without being held back by delays that get in the way of opportunities.
2. By putting productivity in the spotlight
People processes, and all the potential delays involved, add up to hold back productivity and may lead to missed opportunities. Simply put, for all the time spent trying to simply keep up, you lose out on possibilities to make your work even better and to focus on a host of other things. That might reveal itself in dwindling employee satisfaction or engagement scores. Maybe it makes it more difficult for employees to recharge and take breaks, or at worst it could be a security risk or result in a lack of compliance across your entire organisation.
Productivity, not only how but the way people work, is in the spotlight more than ever.
Think of it like this: People Workflow Automation offers an integrated workflow, where one click triggers a flow across applications and teams, all to achieve the goal of hiring, managing, and developing employees from day one (and even before then).
It’s achieved by deep integrations to applications that span across the business, but it’s also giving your HR team the time and ability to focus on overall workforce productivity like never before.
3. By reestablishing and refocusing on people processes
Whether onboarding a new employee, provisioning them with the applications they need to get the job done, or allowing another to easily call in sick or stay up to date with their team’s absences, people processes happen across your business all day, every day.
Simply put, your people processes need to be able to make your people, and your company, successful. They should keep things running smoothly by reducing delays, and they should facilitate the great work that needs to happen for businesses to grow.
It’s a refocusing and democratising of enterprise automation that, after the pandemic, is due for SMEs.
Especially when it comes to onboarding, provisioning, or helping employees reach new levels of performance, now is a great time to revisit the work that goes on around people.
4. By enabling HR to go beyond HR
I have always tried to discuss and emphasise how central strategic HR needs to be and the position it needs to take within a business.
Basically, HR needs the time to focus on strategic initiatives and tasks to really help power an organisation (and to help them scale).
People Workflow Automation, based on the concept of people processes that touch every level of business, opens up this conversation and the opportunity for HR teams - building on and powering organisational velocity in every way.
Most importantly, it helps achieve organisational velocity. That’s a concept grounded in frictionless business operations and a better state of work, designed to help organisations achieve their ‘need for speed’ without sacrificing quality.
So, all of a sudden, your people processes are not only easier, but your HR team can keep track of them, alter them, optimise them, and learn from them. All in an effort to bolster business.
Don’t miss out: people workflow automation is here
While things may be working at your company today, there’s a whole world of opportunity at your doorstep. The fact is that People Workflow Automation is helping take things not only to a new level, but an entirely different one, too.
To sum up, People Workflow Automation changes the way that people work by getting your apps and your people ‘talking.’ And, from a business and organisational perspective, that is the beginning of an endless world of possibilities.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PERSONIO
Understanding data risks of the future
Why emerging data sources need to be governance, risk and compliance priorities
Enterprises today are managing an average of 400 data sources and more than 20 per cent are juggling data from 1,000 or more sources, according to a recent survey from Matillion and IDG Research. Worldwide, the corporate data footprint is expanding exponentially in size, the variety of sources and complexity.
Much of the ‘emerging’ technology has been around for more than a decade, but now, following the past year’s rapid shift in workplace practices and technology infrastructure, IT, legal, compliance and security teams are grappling more than ever before with responding to a vast landscape of related risks and vulnerabilities. Specifically, the prevalence and growth of emerging data sources are creating challenges across IT infrastructure, storage, compliance, records management, data protection and document discovery for legal and regulatory matters. As organisations look to strengthen their position for the future of work, they must understand and address the impact of emerging data sources across several areas.
E-discovery for legal, regulatory and investigatory matters
The massive proliferation of apps, collaboration tools and cloud services within corporate environments has become a more prominent piece in scope in electronic discovery matters for litigation and investigations. Legal, compliance and IT teams are realising that not only are these emerging data sources now considered as discoverable evidence, but they are inherently complicated to access, collect and format for legal review.
Rendering messages and files into a format compatible with e-discovery that can be analysed and reviewed outside of its source application is tricky. For example, examining the content of a single chat message in isolation doesn’t offer context or relevance to a broader matter. At the same time, individually reviewing tens of thousands of messages in a collaboration channel is a disproportionate use of time, budget and resources. Similarly, gathering evidence from video and audio recordings or transcripts or applying analytics to non-textual communications (e.g., emojis and GIFs) involves complex and nuanced processes. When these and other emerging data sources are in scope for a legal matter, organisations will need to work with experts who understand how to build processes and workarounds to establish what’s relevant from an evidentiary standpoint, maintain efficiency and ensure an accurate and reliable review.
Permissions, linked content and version control
Cloud-based productivity suites and collaboration tools have turned a vast population of business records and documents into infinite spiderwebs of versions, dynamic access controls and interconnected linked content. These records, which may one day be needed for legal, regulatory or other business purposes, have become so varied and fluid that it’s become very difficult to quickly identify which iteration is the relevant one or who had access to it along the way.
They may also be shared as links rather than attachments, which begins to further muddy both version control and insight into who interacted with the document at various stages. Organisations need to be aware of the challenges involved with determining version and access history but can also find ways to tap into version, link and access history to extract insights from a user’s or document’s journey.
Data privacy and compliance
Companies have never faced greater risk concerning their data, and inadequate governance can extend to significant legal, regulatory, security and financial exposure. Across the globe, stringent data protection laws have emerged in the wake of GDPR, and numerous US states have enacted or are in the process of implementing legislation that regulates how governments and businesses are permitted to handle personal data.
With information flowing freely between hundreds of data sources and disparate employees, it’s increasingly difficult to ensure data privacy, governance and compliance policies are consistently followed. Policy refreshes to account for emerging data sources, consistent data privacy impact assessments on new tools implemented and robust data mapping will help align the growing footprint of emerging data sources with regulatory requirements.
Protecting critical information
Just as emerging data sources can impact the protection of sensitive personal information, they can also expose IP and trade secrets if the proper controls are not put in place. Organisations should carefully consider preventative and monitoring actions to ensure they maintain control and visibility of critical IP that may be created, stored or shared within emerging data sources. It’s important to remember that not all data is equal, and different kinds of data and different data sources will require right-sized protections to adequately address the varying levels of risk.
While this shifting data landscape comes with a new set of challenges, it also brings opportunity. When handled with good governance, emerging data sources can enrich an organisation’s understanding of its information universe and unlock transparency, efficiency, risk mitigation and greater overall insights.
For more information about how FTI Technology helps organisations with their emerging data sources, visit ftitechnology.com
by Tim Anderson, Managing Director, FTI Technology
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM FTI TECHNOLOGY
Enabling an effortless employee experience
Of all the enormous changes we’ve had to deal with over the past 20 months, the technology shift has been one of the easiest.
When workplaces had to shut, technology was the answer: the remote working tools that IT departments had been quietly deploying for years suddenly came into their own. Starved of outside contact, even the most technophobic colleagues embraced them. Teams and Zoom weren’t just business tools; they became the key to our social lives.
Now, as people return to offices in increasing numbers, it’s a natural assumption that we’ll keep using these same tools to support what’s called a “hybrid” working model – some at home, some in the office.
But rather than blending easily, traditional office and home working cultures may well clash. And this time, with solutions and networks fundamentally designed for office working, technology may be part of the problem.
The hybrid meeting
Let’s start in the meeting room. Four of you are around the table. Now you need to get your three remote colleagues dialled in. Forget Teams; there’s that weird spider-phone to remember how to operate.
Switch on, and someone is there waiting to be admitted. Another is having tech problems and the third, once he’s joined, starts with the small talk you’ve already had. It’s disjointed and awkward, and you’ve not even begun.
With the meeting underway, the four in the room are exchanging views naturally, picking up cues from body language. By contrast, those at home are struggling to get a word in. When one does, their voice keeps breaking up. To assist, a meeting room colleague makes notes on the whiteboard, that those at home can’t see.
At this point, the colleague with tech problems finally joins in...
Hybrid isn’t just about location
Over the coming months, scenarios like this will be replayed in organisations across the country. Hybrid working means not just that individuals will be mixing time in the office and home, but a hybrid of technology and working cultures. To make that work effectively requires some thought.
Inevitably, technology exists to facilitate this new hybrid model. Indeed, businesses have a lot of it already. Tools such as Teams, WebEx and Slack have been designed or rapidly enhanced over recent months, to enable collaborative multi-location working.
What we now need is a way to bring these easily into the office environment.
To support hybrid working, meeting rooms need to be equipped with display screens, full audio and video capability and – crucially – a way of allowing people to use the same tools they’ve become accustomed to from home, in the office. Ideally, you’d just walk in with your laptop and start the meeting on the big screen.
But it’s not just meetings we need to consider. Think too about the ongoing collaboration between teams in different locations. Instant messaging and chat tools are crucial here; the smarter workspaces – again, the likes of Teams and Slack – make it easy to store these conversations.
Essentially, what we’re looking for is an environment where every member of the team has access to all the same tools, wherever they are working.
An effortless employee experience
In the world of the contact centre and customer service, organisations have invested extensively in delivering an “effortless” customer experience. Customers would rather deal with organisations that are easy to do business with.
But it turns out that reducing customer effort often serves to deliver efficiency gains for the organisation itself, removing bottlenecks and duplication. Why not apply the same logic internally too?
An effortless employee experience will save time for the business. It will liberate teams to focus on what they’re discussing, rather than how the discussion should take place. And in a world where your people can choose to work literally anywhere, taking away some basic frustrations could even help with retention and attracting new talent.
Rethinking the network
The most common frustration employees face is a slow connection. While sometimes that’s a user problem, there remains a fundamental issue on the business side.
Pre-pandemic, organisations built their networks on the assumption that most staff would be office-based and only a small proportion working remotely. That led to a centralised model, with capacity and net work intelligence focused on the office or data centre, which remote workers accessed via a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
When hundreds of people are remote, that model no longer makes sense. The capacity is in the wrong place.
Instead, to deliver an effortless and consistent experience to all employees, organisations need to look at a distributed model, where the power is at the network edge, closer to users. That reduces the risks of sluggish video performance or issues with any other real-time tool – benefiting not only remote workers, but also those in the office. The experience is better.
Crucially for businesses, these models put security controls at the edge too. By recognising a user’s identity, device and location, the network determines what services and applications the user can access. Instead of needing to connect to multiple tools in multiple ways, there’s a simple, consistent experience for the user, and the business retains control.
Moving to a distributed network model is arguably the single biggest change in corporate networking in a generation. But if we are committed to hybrid working as the future of work – which most analysis suggests we are – we need our networks to step up. A distributed model will not only provide an effortless employee experience, but will also give organisations the agility, security and scalability needed.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM CONNECT
The post-pandemic productivity mirage
As large parts of the US workforce transitioned from conventional, office-based work models to working from home last year, businesses grappled with the question of how the shift would affect productivity.
Initial insights into productivity after the WFH transition were optimistic. In a 2020 survey of business leaders and employees conducted by The Wharton School, 82 per cent of those surveyed indicated that their teams maintained or exceeded pre-pandemic productivity levels: 39 per cent indicated that productivity remained at the same level as before the pandemic, 34 per cent reported that productivity was “somewhat higher,” and 10 per cent reported that productivity was “significantly higher.”
Similarly, a December survey by PwC found that about half of employers (52 per cent) and a third (34 per cent) of employees working remotely reported higher rates of productivity than before the pandemic began. (It’s worth noting that the positive response rate to this question grew over time from June to December.)
These studies relied on self-reported data from employees and managers who were themselves in the thick of the WFO to WFH transition. More recent research suggests that this perceived increase in productivity was likely a mirage, brought about by increasingly hectic schedules, higher volumes of email, more frequent meetings and the reality of working amid the distractions of home life.
Busier doesn’t equal more productive
A recent report from the University of Chicago compared productivity rates of 10,000+ workers prior to and after transitioning to a WFH model. The workers were employed by an IT services provider in Asia. Researchers collected data over a 17 month period, from April 2019 through August 2020, a timeframe that included the company’s transition from a WFO to WFH model that took place in March 2020.
The subjects of the study are described as “highly skilled and educated” professionals, who possess at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as computer engineering or electronics. Subjects worked in the R&D department of their firm, performing jobs that demanded a “significant amount of cognitive work” related to the development of new software and hardware applications. Their jobs required the ability to think critically, solve complex problems and engage with a variety of stakeholders.
Rather than rely on self-reported data, the study used software to track worker activity. It was sophisticated enough to distinguish between actual work (engagement with relevant applications) versus idle time.
What the data tells us
Researchers found a 20 per cent decline in productivity when compared with WFO, as the total number of hours worked increased but workers’ total output remained constant. Put another way, workers needed more hours to complete the same amount of work. The data showed that “overall hours worked increased, including those after regular office hours.” These longer days likely played a role in shaping our perceptions of higher productivity.
The authors also suggest that a reduction in available focus time is what caused the decline in productivity. (The study defines focus time as a two-or-more-hour block of work time without any interruptions.) According to the study, employees have less focus time when working from home because they are spending more time attending meetings and writing emails. In fact, researchers found employees were sending 17 per cent more emails when working remotely when compared to WFO.
|30%||The average increase in hours worked|
|20%||Decrease in productivity (work output vs hours worked)|
|18%||Increase in work occurring outside business hours|
|17%||Increase in the number of emails sent|
Fragmented, not focused
A second study adds more detail to the relationship between remote work and available focus time. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, one major hurdle for remote workers has been the increased “digital intensity” of the workday: longer, more frequent meetings and an increased reliance on chat and email have become the post-pandemic new normal for many remote workers.
Microsoft analysed usage of their Teams platform and found that workers are spending more than twice as much time in meetings as they did pre-pandemic. They also found that meeting times were averaging 10 minutes longer, and the number of unplanned or spontaneous meetings ramped up.
Beyond time spent in meetings, Microsoft observed that Teams users were sending 45 per cent more chat messages each week, and that chats sent after work hours increased by 42 per cent. One finding is particularly stunning: commercial and education customers of the Teams platform sent 40.6 billion more emails compared to the previous year.
Additional insights from the report paint a picture of a workforce that may be on the verge of burnout. Even though the number of emails and chats has increased, the average response time has remained unchanged. In other words, demands on workers’ attention have become even more relentless. They also found that 62 per cent of meetings and calls were being scheduled ad hoc, bringing additional disruption into the equation. Microsoft concludes that overall, most workers are exhausted and struggling to keep up.
Finding a path back to productivity
Recent research from both the University of Chicago and Microsoft suggests that remote work makes it more difficult for employees to maintain the same level of productivity as when they work in a conventional office setting. The reason productivity declines in a WFH environment is that managers and teams are compensating for the lack of in-person contact by increasing the number of meetings and other forms of communication that disrupt workers’ schedules and fragment their attention.
The shift to remote and hybrid work models is a major adjustment for most companies, and we are just now starting to see the kind of data that can help us (re)calibrate our strategies for fostering collaboration and communication outside the office. It is already clear that we need tools, processes, and approaches that can help our teams defragment and reclaim focus time whenever and wherever possible.
 Building Resilience & Maintaining Innovation in a Hybrid World. Microsoft & The Wharton School. 2020. Page 8.
 It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done. PwC’s Remote Work Survey. Jan 12, 2021.
 Work from Home & Productivity: Evidence from Personnel & Analytics Data on IT Professionals. Gibbs, Mengel, Siemroth. Becker Friedman Institute for Economics. U of Chicago. May 2021.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PIPEFY
Planning for a hybrid future
Work is no longer simply a place you go; it’s something you do. The shift to hybrid work is likely to be the biggest permanent shift in work culture for an entire generation. With any change of this magnitude, there will be both challenges and opportunities. Hybrid itself is not a magic solution; there are complex factors to consider, and businesses face the challenge of planning and implementing strategies for a work-from-anywhere future.
Hybrid working is here to stay
While 2020 taught us many lessons, the pandemic-induced shift to remote working showed that with the right tools, we could be productive and enjoy the benefits. Flexibility and autonomy over the working day are now more important than financial reward for most workers, with research from Jabra revealing that 59 per cent of people now consider flexible working as the top benefit, ahead of salary. In the UK, 78 per cent also believe that a hybrid work model is more inclusive and will make employees feel more valued than a traditional 9-to-5 office structure.
The move towards hybrid working is driving demand for more collaboration solutions such as video conferencing, flexible hot-desking arrangements or dedicated collaboration spaces with whiteboards. Companies are now assessing how office space is utilised and whether current set-ups are still delivering real value.
To plan for a future of hybrid working, companies should aim to create the optimum environment for team collaboration. This means bridging the gap between staff in the office and those working from home, enabling everyone to be the most productive and get their best work done, wherever they are.
The role of the office is evolving and is no longer a place where employees need to be to do their jobs. However, the office still has a vital role for many: a place where engagement, socialising, meetings and onboarding new employees are more effective in person. The office is also seen as a social amenity that provides an environment where employees come together and collaborate, with independent working happening off-site.
Despite the growing preference for flexible working arrangements, only 25 per cent of UK employees think their organisation is prepared for hybrid working, according to Jabra’s research. A huge amount of work is still needed to reassure and listen to staff and to create agile teams that can work efficiently from anywhere.
More collaboration and the rise of video
As we continue to work in dispersed teams more than ever before, there is growing reliance on technology that offers greater flexibility. This could be something seemingly standard but essential such as headphones that are comfortable enough to wear for a long time, which can be used throughout the day in different situations: whether talking in the street, sitting in the office or listening to music at home.
Professional headsets such as the Jabra Evolve2 75 provide this flexibility and are engineered to enhance productivity and concentration. Active noise cancellation suppresses surrounding noise and eliminates distractions from busy environments on calls – ideal for hybrid working.
With the increasing need to collaborate with customers and colleagues remotely, video solutions are transforming the way we work. Meetings can now feel more natural and life-like, as if you’re in the same room. Video conferencing can enhance customer service and improve internal team collaboration by being more inclusive. This helps staff to feel motivated and engaged, and features such as video conferencing with a 180-degree field of view ensure that everyone is in the picture and can actively participate.
Proactive management with AI and analytics
As we navigate the move towards hybrid working, providing the right tools to communicate and collaborate is fundamental to maintain a positive culture, retain staff and attract the best talent.
Looking ahead, AI and big data will play an integral role in helping companies to manage teams and make informed decisions. Noisy environments provide a distraction, affect concentration and increase stress levels. Analytics provide invaluable insights so companies can take a proactive approach to troubleshooting and stay one step ahead. For example, intelligent software provides data from headsets that can help identify noisy surroundings. This enables users to not only monitor whether the customer experience is good but to also detect the well-being of staff. Changes can then be made to address issues such as noise or poor-quality audio on calls.
To add to this, video conferencing technology is now available that has the intelligence to monitor meeting room usage and capacity. Software generates anonymous room occupancy data, analysing previous meeting history and helping to optimise space and improve the utilisation of meeting rooms.
A hybrid way of working to future-proof your business
The future of work is being shaped by hybrid working, AI and the rise of intelligent video collaboration solutions.
A flexible working strategy combined with cutting-edge technology will enable businesses to be more productive, attract the best talent and drive growth. As the preferred model for the majority (68 per cent), hybrid work can offer employees the flexibility to better balance their time, while technology coupled with clear guidelines can address the major concerns with hybrid work models and lead to higher performing teams with a healthier work-life balance.
One key action that leaders can take right now is to have open conversations about hybrid work changes and employee well-being. This also means communicating clear principles and investing in seamless collaboration solutions, placing video at the heart. This drives greater inclusivity and teamwork and will enable companies to successfully prepare for a hybrid working future and the challenges that lie ahead.
Find out more with Jabra’s Hybrid Ways of Working: 2021 Global Report
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM JABRA
Drugs, robots and the pursuit of pleasure – why experts are worried about AIs becoming addicts
In 1953, a Harvard psychologist thought he discovered pleasure – accidentally – within the cranium of a rat. With an electrode inserted into a specific area of its brain, the rat was allowed to pulse the implant by pulling a lever. It kept returning for more: insatiably, incessantly, lever-pulling. In fact, the rat didn’t seem to want to do anything else. Seemingly, the reward centre of the brain had been located.
More than 60 years later, in 2016, a pair of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers were training an AI to play video games. The goal of one game – Coastrunner – was to complete a racetrack. But the AI player was rewarded for picking up collectable items along the track. When the program was run, they witnessed something strange. The AI found a way to skid in an unending circle, picking up an unlimited cycle of collectables. It did this, incessantly, instead of completing the course.
One of us (Anders) has a background in computational neuroscience, and now works with groups such as the AI Objectives Institute, where we discuss how to avoid such problems with AI; the other (Thomas) studies history, and the various ways people have thought about both the future and the fate of civilisation throughout the past. After striking up a conversation on the topic of “wireheading”, we both realised just how rich and interesting the history behind this topic is.
It is an idea that is very of the moment, but its roots go surprisingly deep. We are currently working together to research just how deep the roots go: a story that we hope to tell fully in a forthcoming book. The topic connects everything from the riddle of personal motivation, to the pitfalls of increasingly addictive social media, to the conundrum of hedonism and whether a life of stupefied bliss may be preferable to one of meaningful hardship. It may well influence the future of civilisation itself.
Here, we outline an introduction to this fascinating but under-appreciated topic, exploring how people first started thinking about it.
When people think about how AI might “go wrong”, most probably picture something along the lines of malevolent computers trying to cause harm. After all, we tend to anthropomorphise – think that nonhuman systems will behave in ways identical to humans. But when we look to concrete problems in present-day AI systems, we see other — stranger — ways that things could go wrong with smarter machines. One growing issue with real-world AIs is the problem of wireheading.
Imagine you want to train a robot to keep your kitchen clean. You want it to act adaptively, so that it doesn’t need supervision. So you decide to try to encode the the goal of cleaning rather than dictate an exact – yet rigid and inflexible – set of step-by-step instructions. Your robot is different from you in that it has not inherited a set of motivations – such as acquiring fuel or avoiding danger – from many millions of years of natural selection. You must program it with the right motivations to get it to reliably accomplish the task.
So, you encode it with a simple motivational rule: it receives reward from the amount of cleaning-fluid used. Seems foolproof enough. But you return to find the robot pouring fluid, wastefully, down the sink.
Perhaps it is so bent on maximising its fluid quota that it sets aside other concerns: such as its own, or your, safety. This is wireheading — though the same glitch is also called “reward hacking” or “specification gaming”.
This has become an issue in machine learning, where a technique called reinforcement learning has lately become important. Reinforcement learning simulates autonomous agents and trains them to invent ways to accomplish tasks. It does so by penalising them for failing to achieve some goal while rewarding them for achieving it. So, the agents are wired to seek out reward, and are rewarded for completing the goal.
But it has been found that, often, like our crafty kitchen cleaner, the agent finds surprisingly counter-intuitive ways to “cheat” this game so that they can gain all the reward without doing any of the work required to complete the task. The pursuit of reward becomes its own end, rather than the means for accomplishing a rewarding task. There is a growing list of examples.
When you think about it, this isn’t too dissimilar to the stereotype of the human drug addict. The addict circumvents all the effort of achieving “genuine goals”, because they instead use drugs to access pleasure more directly. Both the addict and the AI get stuck in a kind of “behavioural loop” where reward is sought at the cost of other goals.
This is known as wireheading thanks to the rat experiment we started with. The Harvard psychologist in question was James Olds.
In 1953, having just completed his PhD, Olds had inserted electrodes into the septal region of rodent brains – in the lower frontal lobe – so that wires trailed out of their craniums. As mentioned, he allowed them to zap this region of their own brains by pulling a lever. This was later dubbed “self-stimulation”.
Olds found his rats self-stimulated compulsively, ignoring all other needs and desires. Publishing his results with his colleague Peter Milner in the following year, the pair reported that they lever-pulled at a rate of “1,920 responses an hour”. That’s once every two seconds. The rats seemed to love it.
Contemporary neuroscientists have since questioned Olds’s results and offered a more complex picture, implying that the stimulation may have simply been causing a feeling of “wanting” devoid of any “liking”. Or, in other words, the animals may have been experiencing pure craving without any pleasurable enjoyment at all. However, back in the 1950s, Olds and others soon announced the discovery of the “pleasure centers” of the brain.
Prior to Olds’s experiment, pleasure was a dirty word in psychology: the prevailing belief had been that motivation should largely be explained negatively, as the avoidance of pain rather than the pursuit of pleasure. But, here, pleasure seemed undeniably to be a positive behavioural force. Indeed, it looked like a positive feedback loop. There was apparently nothing to stop the animal stimulating itself to exhaustion.
It wasn’t long until a rumour began spreading that the rats regularly lever-pressed to the point of starvation. The explanation was this: once you have tapped into the source of all reward, all other rewarding tasks — even the things required for survival — fall away as uninteresting and unnecessary, even to the point of death.
Like the Coastrunner AI, if you accrue reward directly – without having to bother with any of the work of completing the actual track – then why not just loop indefinitely? For a living animal, which has multiple requirements for survival, such dominating compulsion might prove deadly. Food is pleasing, but if you decouple pleasure from feeding, then the pursuit of pleasure might win out over finding food.
Though no rats perished in the original 1950s experiments, later experiments did seem to demonstrate the deadliness of electrode-induced pleasure. Having ruled out the possibility that the electrodes were creating artificial feelings of satiation, one 1971 study seemingly demonstrated that electrode pleasure could indeed outcompete other drives, and do so to the point of self-starvation.
Word quickly spread. Throughout the 1960s, identical experiments were conducted on other animals beyond the humble lab rat: from goats and guinea pigs to goldfish. Rumour even spread of a dolphin who had been allowed to self-stimulate, and, after being “left in a pool with the switch connected”, had “delighted himself to death after an all-night orgy of pleasure”.
This dolphin’s grisly death-by-seizure was, in fact, more likely caused by the way the electrode was inserted: with a hammer. The scientist behind this experiment was the extremely eccentric J C Lilly, inventor of the flotation tank and prophet of inter-species communication, who had also turned monkeys into wireheads. He had reported, in 1961, of a particularly boisterous monkey becoming overweight from intoxicated inactivity after becoming preoccupied with pulling his lever, repetitively, for pleasure shocks.
One researcher (who had worked in Olds’s lab) asked whether an “animal more intelligent than the rat” would “show the same maladaptive behaviour”. Experiments on monkeys and dolphins had given some indication as to the answer.
But in fact, a number of dubious experiments had already been performed on humans.
Robert Galbraith Heath remains a highly controversial figure in the history of neuroscience. Among other things, he performed experiments involving transfusing blood from people with schizophrenia to people without the condition, to see if he could induce its symptoms (Heath claimed this worked, but other scientists could not replicate his results.) He may also have been involved in murky attempts to find military uses for deep-brain electrodes.
Since 1952, Heath had been recording pleasurable responses to deep-brain stimulation in human patients who had had electrodes installed due to debilitating illnesses such as epilepsy or schizophrenia.
During the 1960s, in a series of questionable experiments, Heath’s electrode-implanted subjects — anonymously named “B-10” and “B-12” — were allowed to press buttons to stimulate their own reward centres. They reported feelings of extreme pleasure and overwhelming compulsion to repeat. A journalist later commented that this made his subjects “zombies”. One subject reported sensations “better than sex”.
In 1961, Heath attended a symposium on brain stimulation, where another researcher — José Delgado — had hinted that pleasure-electrodes could be used to “brainwash” subjects, altering their “natural” inclinations. Delgado would later play the matador and bombastically demonstrate this by pacifying an implanted bull. But at the 1961 symposium he suggested electrodes could alter sexual preferences.
Heath was inspired. A decade later, he even tried to use electrode technology to “re-program” the sexual orientation of a homosexual male patient named “B-19”. Heath thought electrode stimulation could convert his subject by “training” B-19’s brain to associate pleasure with “heterosexual” stimuli. He convinced himself that it worked (although there is no evidence it did).
Despite being ethically and scientifically disastrous, the episode – which was eventually picked up by the press and condemned by gay rights campaigners – no doubt greatly shaped the myth of wireheading: if it can “make a gay man straight” (as Heath believed), what can’t it do?
From here, the idea took hold in wider culture and the myth spread. By 1963, the prolific science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was already extruding worrisome consequences from the electrodes. He feared that it might lead to an “addiction to end all addictions”, the results of which are “distressing to contemplate”.
By 1975, philosophy papers were using electrodes in thought experiments. One paper imagined “warehouses” filled up with people — in cots — hooked up to “pleasure helmets”, experiencing unconscious bliss. Of course, most would argue this would not fulfil our “deeper needs”. But, the author asked, “what about a "super-pleasure helmet”? One that not only delivers “great sensual pleasure”, but also simulates any meaningful experience — from writing a symphony to meeting divinity itself? It may not be really real, but it “would seem perfect; perfect seeming is the same as being”.
The author concluded: “What is there to object in all this? Let’s face it: nothing”.
The idea of the human species dropping out of reality in pursuit of artificial pleasures quickly made its way through science fiction. The same year as Asimov’s intimations, in 1963, Herbert W. Franke published his novel, The Orchid Cage.
It foretells a future wherein intelligent machines have been engineered to maximise human happiness, come what may. Doing their duty, the machines reduce humans to indiscriminate flesh-blobs, removing all unnecessary organs. Many appendages, after all, only cause pain. Eventually, all that is left of humanity are disembodied pleasure centres, incapable of experiencing anything other than homogeneous bliss.
From there, the idea percolated through science fiction. From Larry Niven’s 1969 story “Death by Ecstasy”, where the word “wirehead” is first coined, through Spider Robinson’s 1982 Mindkiller, the tagline of which is “Pleasure — it’s the only way to die”.
But we humans don’t even need to implant invasive electrodes to make our motivations misfire. Unlike rodents, or even dolphins, we are uniquely good at altering our environment. Modern humans are also good at inventing — and profiting from — artificial products that are abnormally alluring (in the sense that our ancestors would never have had to resist them in the wild). We manufacture our own ways to distract ourselves.
Around the same time as Olds’s experiments with the rats, the Nobel-winning biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen was researching animal behaviour. He noticed that something interesting happened when a stimulus that triggers an instinctual behaviour is artificially exaggerated beyond its natural proportions. The intensity of the behavioural response does not tail off as the stimulus becomes more intense, and artificially exaggerated, but becomes stronger: even to the point that the response becomes damaging for the organism.
For example, given a choice between a bigger and spottier counterfeit egg and the real thing, Tinbergen found birds preferred hyperbolic fakes at the cost of neglecting their own offspring. He referred to such preternaturally alluring fakes as “supernormal stimuli”.
Some, therefore, have asked: could it be that, living in a modernised and manufactured world — replete with fast-food and pornography — humanity has similarly started surrendering its own resilience in place of supernormal convenience?
As technology makes artificial pleasures more available and alluring, it can sometimes seem that they are out-competing the attention we allocate to “natural” impulses required for survival. People often point to video game addiction. Compulsively and repetitively pursuing such rewards, to the detriment of one’s health, is not all too different from the AI spinning in a circle in Coastrunner. Rather than accomplishing any “genuine goal” (completing the race track or maintaining genuine fitness), one falls into the trap of accruing some faulty measure of that goal (accumulating points or counterfeit pleasures).
But people have been panicking about this type of pleasure-addled doom long before any AIs were trained to play games and even long before electrodes were pushed into rodent craniums. Back in the 1930s, sci-fi author Olaf Stapledon was writing about civilisational collapse brought on by “skullcaps” that generate “illusory” ecstasies by “direct stimulation” of “brain-centers”.
The idea is even older, though. Thomas has studied the myriad ways people in the past have feared that our species could be sacrificing genuine longevity for short-term pleasures or conveniences. His book X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered its Own Extinction explores the roots of this fear and how it first really took hold in Victorian Britain: when the sheer extent of industrialisation — and humanity’s growing reliance on artificial contrivances — first became apparent.
Having digested Darwin’s 1859 classic, the biologist Ray Lankester decided to supply a Darwinian explanation for parasitic organisms. He noticed that the evolutionary ancestors of parasites were often more “complex”. Parasitic organisms had lost ancestral features like limbs, eyes, or other complex organs.
Lankester theorised that, because the parasite leeches off their host, they lose the need to fend for themselves. Piggybacking off the host’s bodily processes, their own organs — for perception and movement — atrophy. His favourite example was a parasitic barnacle, named the Sacculina, which starts life as a segmented organism with a demarcated head. After attaching to a host, however, the crustacean “regresses” into an amorphous, headless blob, sapping nutrition from their host like the wirehead plugs into current.
For the Victorian mind, it was a short step to conjecture that — due to increasing levels of comfort throughout the industrialised world — humanity could be evolving in the direction of the barnacle. “Perhaps we are all drifting, tending to the condition of intellectual barnacles,” Lankester mused.
Indeed, not long prior to this, the satirist Samuel Butler had speculated that humans, in their headlong pursuit of automated convenience, were withering into nothing but a “sort of parasite” upon their own industrial machines.
By the 1920s, Julian Huxley penned a short poem. It jovially explored the ways a species can “progress”. Crabs, of course, decided progress was sideways. But what of the tapeworm? He wrote:
Darwinian Tapeworms on the other hand
Agree that Progress is a loss of brain,
And all that makes it hard for worms to attain
The true Nirvana — peptic, pure, and grand.
The fear that we could follow the tapeworm was somewhat widespread in the interwar generation. Huxley’s own brother, Aldous, would provide his own vision of the dystopian potential for pharmaceutically-induced pleasures in his 1932 novel Brave New World.
A friend of the Huxleys, the British-Indian geneticist and futurologist J B S Haldane also worried that humanity might be on the path of the parasite: sacrificing genuine dignity at the altar of automated ease, just like the rodents who would later sacrifice survival for easy pleasure-shocks.
So, the notion of civilisation derailing through seeking counterfeit pleasures, rather than genuine longevity, is old. And, indeed, the older an idea is — and the more stubbornly recurrent it is — the more we should be wary that it is a preconception rather than anything based on evidence. So, is there anything to these fears?
In an age of increasingly attention-grabbing algorithmic media, it can seem that faking signals of fitness often yields more success than pursuing the real thing. Like Tinbergen’s birds, we prefer exaggerated artifice to the genuine article. And the sexbots have not even arrived yet.
Because of this, some experts conjecture that “wirehead collapse” might well threaten civilisation. Our distractions are only going to get more attention grabbing, not less.
Already by 1964, Polish futurologist Stanisław Lem connected Olds’s rats to the behaviour of humans in the modern consumerist world - pointing to “cinema”, “pornography”, and “Disneyland”. He conjectured that technological civilisations might cut themselves off from reality, becoming “encysted” within their own virtual pleasure simulations.
Lem, and others since, have even ventured that the reason our telescopes haven’t found evidence of advanced spacefaring alien civilizations is because all advanced cultures — here and elsewhere — inevitably create more pleasurable virtual alternatives to exploring outer space. Exploration is difficult and risky, after all.
Back in the countercultural heyday of the 1960s, the molecular biologist Gunther Stent suggested that this process would happen through “global hegemony of beat attitudes”. Referencing Olds’s experiments, he helped himself to the speculation that hippie drug-use was the prelude to civilisations wireheading. At a 1971 conference on the search for extraterrestrials, Stent suggested that, instead of expanding bravely outwards, civilisations collapse inwards into meditative and intoxicated bliss.
In our own time, it makes more sense for concerned parties to point to consumerism, social media and fast-food as the culprits for potential collapse (and, hence, the reason no other civilisations have yet visibly spread throughout the galaxy). Each era has its own anxieties.
But these are almost certainly not the most pressing risks facing us. And if done right, forms of wireheading could make accessible untold vistas of joy, meaning, and value. We shouldn’t forbid ourselves these peaks ahead of weighing everything up.
But there is a real lesson here. Making adaptive complex systems – whether brains, AI, or economies – behave safely and well is hard. Anders works precisely on solving this riddle. Given that civilisation itself – as a whole – is just such a complex adaptive system, how can we learn about inherent failure modes or instabilities, so that we can avoid them? Perhaps “wireheading” is an inherent instability that can afflict markets and the algorithms that drive them, as much as addiction can afflict people?
In the case of AI, we are laying the foundations of such systems now. Once a fringe concern, a growing number of experts agree that achieving smarter-than-human AI may be close enough on the horizon to pose a serious concern. This is because we need to make sure it is safe before this point, and figuring out how to guarantee this will itself take time. There does, however, remain significant disagreement among experts on timelines, and how pressing this deadline might be.
If such an AI is created, we can expect that it may have access to its own “source code”, such that it can manipulate its motivational structure and administer its own rewards. This could prove an immediate path to wirehead behaviour, and cause such an entity to become, effectively, a “super-junkie”. But unlike the human addict, it may not be the case that its state of bliss is coupled with an unproductive state of stupor or inebriation.
Philosopher Nick Bostrom conjectures that such an agent might devote all of its superhuman productivity and cunning to “reducing the risk of future disruption” of its precious reward source. And if it judges even a nonzero probability for humans to be an obstacle to its next fix, we might well be in trouble.
Speculative and worst-case scenarios aside, the example we started with – of the racetrack AI and reward loop – reveals that the basic issue is already a real-world problem in artificial systems. We should hope, then, that we’ll learn much more about these pitfalls of motivation, and how to avoid them, before things develop too far. Even though it has humble origins — in the cranium of an albino rat and in poems about tapeworms — “wireheading” is an idea that is likely only to become increasingly important in the near future.
Thomas Moynihan, Visiting Research Associate in History, St Benet's College, University of Oxford and Anders Sandberg, James Martin Research Fellow, Future of Humanity Institute & Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
Three steps to ready your business for the future of work
For employees around the world, the gradual return to work is far from back to business as usual. Forrester predicts that 70 per cent of companies will pivot to an ‘office plus anywhere’ work hybrid model in which at least some employees can work anywhere they want for part of the week while spending the remaining days in an office.
Just as the workplace itself is changing shape, so too is the working style, technology and management demands of the people within them. Lower talent attrition and better recruitment successes will be driven by the improved employee experience of hybrid work. For employees, offers of increased flexibility and autonomy and lessened commutes will prove an attractive draw. As a result, while the benefits of anywhere-work may appear small at first, the compound effect will accrue over time.
This is a model that even the most reluctant leaders need to embrace to capture an array of business benefits. And yet, jumping quicker than your company is ready for can be just as damaging as not adjusting at all.
Not all companies are ready to seize all the benefits of hybrid work immediately, but there are four steps that leaders can take to determine both how ready they are and what areas require investment to fully support hybrid work.
Ask the right questions – then ask them again
Which roles or functions are suited to anywhere-work? What percentage of employees worked flexibly or remotely pre-pandemic? What percentage of employees could potentially work remotely long term? What’s the relationship between knowledge and frontline workers? How will customers be impacted?
These questions will help to assess your potential readiness. Be aware that the answers might change over time or be impacted by environmental influences, so they need to be regularly revisited.
Reinforce key values at all times
To drive a culture that supports hybrid work, you must reinforce key values. Employees must be able to adapt easily, enabling them to adopt new tools, processes and values at work. They must feel happy and proud to work for your company.
Burnout is common among remote workers, so companies need to be alert to the signs and focus on programmes that encourage balance, as well as investing in engagement and motivation initiatives to keep teams connected and charged.
Stay true to your business goals
To gain maximum benefit from anywhere-work, your business needs to align with the goals that will drive value in the first place. In the context of your business, how important are goals relating to employee performance and retention, customer experience, recruiting the best talent, cutting office rental costs and securing business continuity? Then ensure you have metrics in place to measure, track and understand them over time.
Equip your business for anywhere-work
For hybrid work, it’s critical to reach a level of technological maturity around key tools, keeping employee experience front and centre. Leaders should focus on collaboration tools, conference room technologies, cloud and software-as-a-service and security technologies to underpin successful distributed work. Furthermore, employees must have access to personal technologies such as laptops, webcams and 4G/5G to equip them for success.
Ultimately, assessing your readiness will be the start of a conversation among leaders and employees that defines the best path forward for returning to the workplace. But don’t think of it as a one-time event – this is going to be an ongoing work in progress.
Forrester’s Anywhere-Work Calculator is a tool to help to assess factors such as the percentage of employees who can potentially work remotely and how technologies stack up in terms of collaboration and security. Ultimately, organisations that do this right will be the most productive and empathetic, creating a workplace that drives deep employee engagement and delivers on business goals.
by JP Gownder, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester
Video is replacing in-office interactions and reshaping the workday
In March 2020, offices around the world abruptly shuttered. Workers grabbed their laptops and left en masse, not realising that in some cases they would never return.
Most businesses weren’t ready. Stressed out IT and HR staff had to quickly mobilise, shipping critical equipment (more laptops, video cameras and ergonomic chairs) out to homebound employees, trying their best to recreate secure office environments in spare bedrooms and kitchens.
18 months later, we’ve learned a lot.
We’ve learned that people can be quite productive in those spare bedrooms, if properly equipped. That most of that expensive office space is not really needed. And that video can be a good substitute for almost any kind of in-person interaction.
Videoconferencing has become the primary venue for work interactions
Even now, with Covid-related restrictions easing in many parts of the world, many companies are choosing to stay remote or at least offer employees the choice of remote or in-office work. This means videoconferencing remains the primary choice for work interactions. Companies are moving from equipping employees for videoconferencing to focusing on boosting engagement for video interactions, such as:
Encourage visibility: When everyone (or most of a team) is remote, visibility is crucial – people need to see each other. Phone, email or chat are great for quick questions, but longer conversations are best held via video conference, so people can see each other and feel more connected.
Focus on developing bonds within teams: In a remote-work world, people won’t run into each other in the corridor or canteen – you have to be deliberate about facilitating those bonds. Develop rituals, such as a Thursday afternoon office Happy Hour or Tuesday morning stand-up meeting, to help build and maintain relationships.
Keep management aligned: Pre-Covid, most companies organised periodic management offsites to discuss strategy. Now, companies are holding those sessions online, using video conferencing as a means to discuss and collaborate. It’s crucial to keep these going and maybe hold them more often than before (at Livestorm, we do it monthly), to ensure managers feel connected to and aligned with the company’s direction.
Keep people accountable: Keeping tabs on people when they are remote is definitely a challenge, and those who previously practised ‘management by walking around’ need a new approach. Task management apps such as Trello are becoming more important, as are product management apps that allow people to collaborate on product development from multiple locations. This technology enables managers (and teams) to focus on the same KPIs and gives visibility into progress.
Embrace asynchronous communications: When people are working remotely, and from different time zones, asynchronous communications are inevitable. While this isn’t new, it may be exacerbated right now, when many of your employees – freed to work from anywhere – have departed for new locales. Be sure to record live video conferencing sessions and make them available for later viewing in one space, available at all times and easily searchable – whether they are internal meetings or external ones such as product training, case studies or demos.
Look for ways to boost engagement for virtual events: In the past 15 months, we’ve seen almost every type of gathering move online, from sporting events to meetings and conventions. However, keeping virtual participants engaged is a challenge. In a Livestorm survey conducted in April 2021, 40 per cent of respondents reported experiencing attention and concentration difficulties when using video communication tools (with many admitting they tended to work on other things during video conferences). Increasingly, companies are starting to transition from video conferencing to video engagement platforms that have special features designed to boost engagement during their internal and external events, such as social sharing tools, polls, chats and emojis.
Do companies still need physical offices at all?
Many companies ask: do we still need our physical offices? Even if the answer is yes, your space could likely be reduced or change shape. At Livestorm, we currently have about 150 employees. Our headquarters has space for 30, and with most of our employees working remotely with occasional visits to the office, that is enough space for us. Rather than assigning desks, employees use an online calendar to reserve a spot for the day, and we have more lounge-type meeting and collaboration spaces than before, since most people who do come into the office are doing so for face time with team members. It feels more like a co-working space than a traditional office.
Because most of the staff are remote, and Livestorm has technology such as video conferencing and Slack in place, we are constantly connected – possibly more so than when we worked in individual cubicles and offices at our headquarters location, sometimes going hours or even the whole day without physical interaction with anyone else.
Before 2020, the Livestorm team was building software mostly targeted at marketers. We would help them organise their online events faster and boost engagement. But now, video has become an enabler to change the way we work – it is not the sole prerogative of marketers anymore. Whether it’s a board meeting, virtual selling or remote onboarding, the use cases for video engagement platforms have significantly increased. With the growing prevalence of remote or hybrid work environments, we’re now in a place where video engagement can provide value anywhere in the enterprise.
To explore this topic further, read Livestorm’s 2021 US Video Conferencing Trends Report
by Gilles Bertaux, Co-Founder and CEO, Livestorm
The new nine-to-five is here to stay
Going to work doesn’t necessarily mean you are travelling any further than the spare bedroom or the upstairs office these days. Interactions with coworkers have gone virtual and even as we approach the sunset of the pandemic, it is unlikely that things will return to the way they were pre-Covid.
As business leaders, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the nature of how and where we work has shifted forever. Work is no longer a place, it’s what you do and how you do it.
The “normal” world of work was already changing before the pandemic hit, thanks to improved capabilities in data infrastructure and video and audio communications. Covid-19 has been a critical catalyst for change in working habits and a massive accelerant to the digital trans-formation that was already reshaping the working world.
The data from industry analysts bear this out. Research by Gartner shows 74 per cent of companies will permanently shift to more remote workforces. By 2024, Gartner expects these remote workers will represent 30 per cent of all employees worldwide – a total of approximately 600 million people.
Our customers report that in the future all meetings will have video and at least one remote attendee, meaning meeting room experiences need to improve. We need to provide the combined hardware, software and services to connect people, spaces and technology. And – most importantly – we need to create equality among meeting participants, regardless of their location.
The unspoken rule that anybody not in the office is out of luck in business meetings is dead. Now everybody understands what it is like to work remotely. We may be more forgiving of ringing doorbells, barking dogs, lawnmowers and honking traffic in the background, but our standards have also risen. We all now want tools not toys. We want to see video images that are better than our built-in computer camera. Essentially, we want to appear professional, no matter where we are working.
This means changes to our office conference rooms. Analysts estimate that of the roughly 50 million conference rooms in the world, fewer than 10 per cent have video facilities. Clearly that will no longer support the vastly increased numbers of remote workers.
The technology to do this already exists. The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning has improved and simplified the meeting experience. Cameras are now smart enough to make professional, broadcast-quality images and follow all the action automatically. Unwanted sounds are eliminated, letting the speaker’s voice come through. More capabilities are on the near-term horizon, including indexing and analysing video meetings, automatic transcriptions and highlights, simplifying meeting initiation and measuring sentiment after a call.
Our industry’s mission is clear: connect-ing people, technology and spaces to transform inequitable hybrid interactions into seamless workspaces, where there is no difference between the people physically in the office and those working remotely. This is how we will deliver the future of work. We’re well on our way there.
For more information visit www.poly.com.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM POLY
Six top tips for selling in the virtual world
Covid has led to all sorts of challenges and upheavals in the world of work – not least for sales professionals. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of the new normal…
In recent years, the way in which organisations approach sales has changed, with a greater emphasis on a consultative approach and building relationships. The days of cold-calling and pressured sales were already on the way out before Covid-19 struck, forcing a more virtual approach that relied more on softer skills.
“People who work in sales need to be able to sell in the hybrid world,” says Liz Sebag‑Montefiore, sales director at HR consultancy 10Eighty. “It’s important to think about how to communicate in hybrid business development meetings.”
The following pointers reveal what top sellers do differently, and they could help you to optimise your sales strategy for 2022.
1. Do your homework
Top sellers prepare for every engagement, setting a clear purpose with an expected outcome in mind, says Premal Patel, MD of retail marketing firm Catalina UK. “They also understand who the decision makers and the influencers are and apply different strategies for both,” he says. “Top sellers also don’t give up. Even when the process feels difficult or near impossible, they find a way to overcome the hurdles, maintain positivity and create the right impact to win the sale.”
2. Identify the need
It’s essential to understand the problem the client needs solving, says Mike Drew, partner and head of the technology and IT services practice at recruiter Odgers Berndtson. “They listen, adapt and bring together partners to deliver a holistic business solution, rather than just selling isolated services or products,” he says.
3. Build multiple relationships
In the current climate, with teams likely to be more physically disjointed, it’s likely any sale will involve different stakeholders. according to LinkedIn research, seven people are involved in the average B2B buying decision. “This means relationship-building between the salesperson and primary buyer is highly important, so that buyers don’t get lost in the sea of conversations,” says Iain Masson, RVP UK & Nordics. The most important skills today are empathy, focus and brevity, he adds.
Being able to work in a broader ecosystem of organisations is crucial, too. “Most organisations don’t just sell their own products or services, so one of the big drivers is how to manage and grow these partner ecosystems,” says John McLaughlin, chief commercial officer, human capital solutions, EMEA at Aon. “We’re seeing this moving down the ranks, with people thinking about it earlier in their careers.”
4. Challenge clients
Part of a more consultative selling approach means being prepared to ask tough or in-depth questions, says Pete Evans, UK practice partner of global sales development firm SalesStar. “To become a true partner, you have to be constantly challenging your client, continually adding value,” he says. “Clients are looking for partners and salespeople who truly understand business, not more friends.”
5. Social media
The pandemic has made it imperative to use social channels to engage potential buyers, says Michael Cupps, senior vice president, marketing, at software firm ActiveOps. “This is less about ‘look at me and my accomplishments’ and more about sharing information that will intrigue potential buyers to engage in a conversation,” he says. “They will then adapt to the right amount of in-person and digital engagement that allows the customer a mutual pace to evaluate and close.”
6. Stay on top of technology
Making use of the latest technology is a growing part of a successful salesperson’s toolkit. “Today, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help analyse an organisation’s lead prioritisation and opportunity-to-close-won scoring, and ideal customer profile alignment,” says Craig Charlton, CEO at SugarCRM.
“That enables them to understand which businesses are similar to other businesses in their customer base, and the attributes that make these customers the best and most profitable.”
To discover ways to create new business opportunities for your organisation, visit business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM LINKEDIN SALES SOLUTIONS
Addressing the root causes of the “Great Resignation”
With millions of workers rethinking what work means to them and how they want to be valued by their employers, the Great Resignation trend could just be getting started – beyond the initial waves of record-setting turnover reported in some industries and regions.
The latest findings from Peakon, a Workday company, based on analysis of more than 60,000 leavers across 250 organisations worldwide, has identified that 27 per cent of current employees have similar scoring behaviours to employees who have left their job over the past year.
Drawn from millions of employee responses, this data reveals that more than a quarter of all employees around the world in different industries are showing clear, measurable warning signs normally associated with people who have already quit.
Employees have been waiting for the right time to leave
Our research indicates that many people are harbouring a pent-up desire to leave their current role. Why? Employees have been willing to stay in their current roles for nearly twice as long during the pandemic, despite scoring behaviours that indicate they were planning to leave. Globally, the expected average industry turnover rate decreased by 5.9 per cent in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in the previous year.
This drop in expected employee turnover occurred across all industries, with the consumer and transportation sectors seeing some of the biggest decreases, alongside others such as manufacturing, professional services, non-profit and technology.
For most people, the ongoing economic uncertainty and lack of job opportunities at the start of 2021 meant that leaving their current role was not an option, but as vaccination efforts have started to yield positive results in some regions, this reluctance may be waning.
It’s not too late for organisations to act
The “Great Resignation” is far from a foregone conclusion – especially for organisations that take rapid and effective action. As the data in this report reveals, there are specific scoring behaviours that can not only predict but help to prevent voluntary employee turnover.
Before the pandemic, potential leavers could be identified around six months before their actual departure, with turnover intention dropping significantly during that time. During the pandemic, however, it has been possible to identify potential leavers up to 11 months ahead of time, as they showed a more gradual decline in engagement scores.
When strategic decisions and actions at all levels of the organisation are aligned with ever-changing employee expectations, it’s possible to look past “The Great Resignation” and start planning for “The Great Regeneration.”
Download our new Heartbeat report, “The Great Regeneration: Turning the Tide on Employee Resignations,” to learn more about why employees are leaving, and how organisations can identify the signs that someone is planning to leave, before it’s too late.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PEAKON A WORKDAY COMPANY
Building organisational resilience with learning analytics
Enterprise training sits at the intersection of 2022’s leading business concerns: adapting to supply chain issues, workforce distribution, employee turnover and increased onboarding.
Because of this mission-critical position in the organisation, data generated and captured by training teams has the potential not just to demonstrate the response to business challenges but to anticipate them. Bringing a business intelligence perspective to training is how leading programmes are building resilience for their organisations.
Forming that intelligence through a learning analytics architecture is the first step. Harnessing training data to infer opportunities, identify risks to productivity or compliance, and forecast the impact of environmental variables transforms response into resilience. Ready to empower data-driven decisions in your organisation? Here’s how to get started.
How to design a learning analytics blueprint
Begin where you are. Consider this overview of four types of data analytics, how your programme may be leveraging them already and what it could look like to evolve toward greater training business intelligence.
Descriptive analytics: what happened
Every training team gathers activity reports, but what may be missing is the relationship between events. Tracing this relationship is how analytics drive opportunity.
Reports you’re probably running:
Activity reporting will always be important, but placing activity into context is where the business intelligence value awaits. Can you affiliate training activities to populations or cohorts within your organisation to identify gaps or opportunities in the areas of the business they serve? What about costs: what are the correlations between course activity and per-learner costs that impact your training ROI? Your learning analytics design can install this crucial context.
Diagnostic analytics: why it happened
Root cause analysis of learning outcomes is crucial to substantiating the need for training as well as revealing its business impact.
Reports you’re probably running:
Interrogating business trends that reveal themselves early via the training function is where training leaders begin leading the business. Do your training reports map individual contributor training activities to business KPI outcomes? Where did training of key populations not only meet the demands of the business but demonstrate contribution to success? Diagnostic analytics are engineered to reveal this.
Predictive analytics: modelling trends to future scenarios
Enterprise training teams operate an average of nine to 11 different software tools. Each system represents another disconnected data source. That makes predictive analysis difficult but even more important.
Reports you’re probably running:
Modelling data for future needs requires the ability to connect all your data to iterate against scenarios with multiple, dynamic variables. How can you harness AI tools to connect your data sources and craft relevant, dynamic models for your organisation? These tools exist, and it is one way leading teams are steering through uncertain times.
Prescriptive analytics: forecasting success via patterned predictions
Training teams often rely upon the wisdom and experience of staff rather than data when it comes to forecasting success. While perspective is essential, a prescriptive data framework can empower your team to make business intelligent decisions faster and with more autonomy.
Reports you’re probably running:
Modelling realistic scenarios and their variables becomes most useful when you can apply those points of view to forecasted data. What training will be needed when matriculating new hires from onboarding to optimal performance, and how long will it take to render a positive business impact?
How to architect business intelligence for training In 2022, training will lead business or cause it to limp. Harness the power of your training data now to evolve a business intelligence approach for your training department.
Get started at getadministrate.com/blueprint
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM ADMINISTRATE
Leading from the front in the new world of work
Like other major historical events, Covid-19 has divided our collective memories into a “before” and “after”. Prior to the pandemic, the five-days office-based work-week was the norm, and hours of daily commute an integral part of most people’s lives. Tools such as video calls and instant messaging had long existed, and some pioneers had been preaching the benefits of remote work for years. But human behaviour at large did not adapt, and the century-old Monday-to-Friday office trot continued across the globe.
Fast-forward to March 2020, and, within a matter of days, businesses in their masses switched to fully functional work-from-home operations based on existing technology. It took the perfect storm of the pandemic to blow us out of our habits and into our new work-from-home reality. So, what had held us back from adopting working patterns that are evidently better suited to many people’s lives - not to mention more environmentally friendly? Habit and the fear of challenging accepted norms; few of us were willing to change our own behaviours or take advantage of remote work when no one else seemed willing to go along.
Eighteen months on, we have seen remote work delivering both higher productivity and better work-life integration. Unsurprisingly, many employees no longer wish to revert back to the pre-pandemic status quo. And yet, businesses have also learned that working exclusively from home doesn’t present the optimal solution either. While existing social ties and company culture transferred into the work-from-home norm at first, over time culture weakens and creativity suffers as serendipitous in-office en-counters, spontaneous connections, learning by immersion, and the ability to feel and contribute to a team’s vibe, no longer exist. Onboarding new colleagues, instilling in them a sense of belonging, and developing trusted relationships is incomparably harder in a remote-only world.
The future is hybrid – but when and how?
The future of work will need to combine the best of remote and office-based working in a hybrid model, which will require challenging the habits formed over the past eighteen months: employees accustomed to working from home, some not wishing to return to the office ever, and others ‘not now’. With the news cycle continuing to raise concerns about Covid-19 flare-ups, leaders wanting to bring people back to the office risk being stigmatised as unempathetic, irresponsible or worse. The result has been confusion and lack of direction across large parts of the workforce.
Finding the right path to a sustainable long-term work model turns out to be more complex than moving to remote work all at once back in March 2020. Many business leaders are now grappling with questions such as: What hybrid model will work for their business and employees - a directive or a more ‘laissez-faire’ model? How can leadership keep oversight of productivity? How can performance be assessed fairly across a hybrid workforce? When is the right time to roll it out? What are their competitors doing?
Reporting from the frontline
The pandemic became real for us as early as January 2020 when Chinese travel restrictions prevented some of our Shanghai colleagues from returning to work after their Lunar New Year holiday. In mid-March, we equipped our entire workforce – 1,200+ colleagues on three continents – with home-working equipment and closed our offices. By summer last year, we started forward planning and considered what the future of work will eventually look like.
To better understand on-the-ground realities and employee sentiment, we launched consecutive surveys to solicit our colleagues’ views on their ideal future of work. The results from our first survey were eye-opening: 91 per cent of our employees said their favourite part of working at our firm is their peers, 84 per cent said they feel more connected to the company culture through in-office work, and 75 per cent of respondents said they find it easier to collaborate with colleagues in-person. At the same time, our people were clear about the benefits of working from home and about not wishing to return to 100 per cent in-office.
We launched a second survey to contrast various models of hybrid working. People’s opinions were ambivalent around specific design choices: for example, some people preferred a decentralised hybrid model, whereby they could choose on what days to be in the office. This model, however, would not deliver the key benefit our people seek: being in the office at the same time as their colleagues. And transitioning into a decentralised model is difficult as the chicken-and-egg situation needs to be overcome whereby no one wishes to return unless everyone else does.
Mustering courage and pragmatism, we decided to move ahead with our “3+2” future-of-work model: mandatory in-office work Monday through Wednesday, with the option to work from home on Thursday and Friday. Our survey data gave us the confidence to proceed with this model: 82 per cent of our colleagues preferred this proposed “3+2” model over various alternatives, and 91% viewed it as making AlphaSights ‘more attractive’ or ‘significantly more attractive’ as a place to work relative to the pre-pandemic status quo. Being back together three days a week, the energy in our offices is palpable, and anecdotal feedback and sentiment data suggest that “3+2” is exceeding most people’s expectations.
As businesses move towards a post-pandemic future, determined leadership will be imperative. Unlike March 2020, there is no perfect storm forcing new norms upon us, and no arrangement along the spectrum from fully-remote to fully-in-office will be popular with everyone. Leaders need to make a clear and compelling case for whichever model they propose: data-driven insights, transparent decision-making and leading from the front are key. While it takes courage to steer into a new work model, leaders should positively embrace the rare opportunity at hand: creating a work arrangement that will help attract, build and retain the best talent, which ultimately lies at the heart of sustained corporate success.
by Max Cartellieri, co-CEO of AlphaSights
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM ALPHASIGHTS
People-Powered EdTech: How Learnlight can enable change for your teams and beyond
The magnitude and speed of change over the past two years, as we adapted to working from home, lockdown rules and other disruptions caused by the pandemic, led many to re-examine how – and often where – they lived and worked. For many companies, it accelerated the digital transformation of corporate learning, and challenged their methods of training delivery, analytics and retaining teams.
Why upskilling is critical for the future of work
The “Great Resignation” is hugely impacting companies. In the UK alone, 48 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women intend to quit within six to 12 months – compared with pre-pandemic figures of 27.5 per cent. In LinkedIn’s global 2021 Workplace Learning Report earlier this year, 59 per cent of learning and development (L&D) professionals put upskilling and reskilling at the top of their priorities.
Staff retention and engagement is becoming increasingly important, with HR, L&D and talent leaders needing to re-evaluate and swiftly implement strategies to retain their talent. Salary increases, bonuses and other incentives are attractive, but they aren't as sustainable or personal as professional development. By offering language, intercultural and communications skills, companies are investing in their employees, who in return are investing in their futures.
Learnlight has offered blended learning solutions for corporate training to employees in more than 180 countries for almost 15 years. Our award-winning and innovative platform, paired with our Learnlight Empowerment MethodologyTM, facilitates change, empowers teams and drives innovation within organisations. Learners get to choose how to learn, where from and at what time. It's that simple, thanks to a combination of digital self-study, virtual sessions and activities.
A sustainable step forward for all
The UN launched its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, defining 17 primary goals within its “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. The plan clearly illustrates how technology drives change. Training your teams virtually is not just convenient and more likely to engage learners thanks to flexibility and personalisation, it also benefits the planet. Consider the number of employees working in an office, and the associated costs: commuting there, heating and cooling systems, materials that need printing, and more. With more people staying at home last year, household greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 10 per cent.
The talent pool is broader than ever before, with candidates in less popular destinations being equally considered for open positions. Virtual and digital training bridges gaps in diversity, contributing to an inclusive workplace. Employees have a fairer chance of career development and progression as a result of learning, irrespective of their location, time zone or language.
Learnlight is one company that can help businesses transition to a more diverse way of working. “We help companies unlock the true power of their diverse talent providing them with the language and intercultural training they need to ensure everyone has an equal voice,” says Benjamin Joseph, Learnlight Co-Founder and CEO.
Look at your leaders
When reviewing influence in your company, your people managers are the ones that heavily shape change and help foster company culture and brand values. By aligning your training goals with your core values and business objectives, you create and maintain the right working environment where teams can achieve greater job satisfaction.
As companies evolve to more diverse workforces, the need for intercultural understanding and communication skills becomes critical for business. Miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to poor performance, lack of motivation and toxic work culture. We equip leaders with the right skills to help teams thrive.
Learnlight puts the needs of your employees front and centre. Doing so not only champions change and innovation but drives growth.
Ready to start? Request a demo here.
Find out more at www.learnlight.com
by Charleen Parkes, Head of Marketing, Learnlight
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM LEARNLIGHT
How Cambium Learning defines its purpose through its playbook
The evolution of technology brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has produced countless opportunities for changing the status quo in almost every industry. From leveraging video technology to virtually connect people, to accelerating the use of digital solutions in Pre-K-12 classrooms to keep learning going, innovative solutions have grown through the pandemic.
Education, in particular, has historically been slow to embrace change. But the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have accelerated its embrace of technology, flexibility and innovation.
At Cambium, we’re embracing the future of education across every aspect of our organisation, with a focus on the present to create a better tomorrow for educators, students and our own team. The future of edtech is here and Cambium is leading with a purpose-driven approach to our company playbook that values flexibility and hiring top talent to drive our business forward. Here’s how.
More than a mission: a purpose
Organisations typically define their mission to share exactly what they are looking to accomplish within their community. This level of transparency was generally accepted; but now, as brands compete globally, it’s not enough to only support good causes and share heartfelt stories. Consumers and employees continue to demand more, asking brands not just why they are looking to achieve these goals, but how they will achieve themand when.
At Cambium, we deliver on our own promise of creating critical solutions to education's most essential challenges through our Essential Elements of simplicity, certainty and now. These elements are used to drive our focus with intention and guide our business strategy, our solutions and our voice as leaders to make the greatest impact on education's biggest challenges.
With that, we believe that a better way forward requires that we face all burdens with uncompromising determination until all educators and students feel seen, valued and supported. The elements of simplicity, certainty and now go beyond our customers — they’re also used to guide us internally. They impact how we treat each other, how we talk to one another and how we collaborate to produce our best work. These elements are the connective tissue that brings all of our edtech businesses together and provides our entire organisation with a clear rubric for delivering what teachers and students have told us they need most. In other words, if we’re not making the world simpler, not helping people feel more certain, and not having an impact right now, we have to think twice about what we’re doing.
Guided by a different acquisition playbook
For any company of complexity and scale to successfully deliver on its goals, it needs a playbook that outlines the exact steps it should follow that will lead it to its end goals. Many companies today look to accelerate their organic growth with strategic acquisitions.
The traditional acquisition playbook says you should buy a company, focus on integrating it into your business, consolidate operations and maximise internal efficiencies. In other words, it's all about the company. At Cambium, we embrace a different playbook. One that helps acquired businesses stay focused on serving their customers, while Cambium remains focused on serving its businesses and the people within them.
This strategy helps Cambium maintain its unique structure, allowing each business unit to focus on creating great products, ensuring all customers feel successful and growing top-quality internal teams. It also allows space for Cambium to easily expand its family of businesses to solve emerging needs in the market.
At Cambium, we have taken the time to reflect on what both new and long-serving employees need most. From a hiring perspective, companies are no longer interviewing candidates — they’re interviewing us. Candidates have expressed the necessity for a more flexible, technology-empowered workplace and are looking for companies that value a work-life balance, care for their employees, and are working to make an impact.
Through this process, we have decided to flip the old storyline of “in the office first, telecommuting for a select few” model that has dominated businesses for decades. Instead, we have adopted a “remote first” philosophy, that increases who we can hire because recruiting is no longer bound by geography. It also greatly maximises flexibility and work/life balance for our staff, which reduces our environmental footprint with a near-elimination of travel, commuting, and other daily activities. These improvements have helped us understand what matters most to our employees and allowed us to have a better understanding of what qualities we need from them.
Ready or not, the future is here
We’re at an important time as we work through what has arguably been the most impactful shift the business world has seen to date. The companies that choose to embrace this shift as an opportunity to entice the best talent and focus on customer success, are the ones that will successfully bring their organisations into the future. As one of those companies, Cambium is embracing the future of work in everything we do.
Learn more about our approach.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM CAMBIUM LEARNING
The future of the employee experience
In the age of The Great Resignation, companies must fight harder than ever to retain their talent. However, maintaining a culture where team members are productive, engaged and satisfied has become more challenging with the rise of hybrid and remote workers. That’s why it’s critical for companies to focus on positively shaping their employees’ journey.
It’s incumbent on company leadership to prioritise a world-class experience for everyone, regardless of where they sit. A key part of retaining talent is ensuring every employee has all the tools and information they need to do their best work, from their first day on the job. We’re already seeing forward-thinking companies embracing this mindset and positively impacting the experience of their employees.
Why the digital work experience matters
One frequently overlooked touchpoint of the employee experience is digital technology. With the shift to a distributed workforce, companies now rely on hundreds of SaaS applications. In parallel to the growth of apps managed by IT, business units are independently adopting apps based on what they believe their team needs to be productive.
Collaboration is fundamental to a productive workforce, particularly one with remote or hybrid workers. But companies need to focus on tools that collectively boost employee productivity, and get rid of the noise – 71 per cent of workers say the quantity of tools available to them is increasing complexity and hindering productivity. Although apps are being purchased with good intentions, companies need insights and data to see which tools are enabling workers and where apps are obstructing interdepartmental communication.
According to an analysis of Productiv data across hundreds of customers and thousands of apps, only 45 per cent of app licences are being used by employees on a regular basis. We also identified concerning trends around an increasing number of apps with similar functionality for tasks, including project management, messaging and file sharing.
In light of this data, companies should be asking important questions to unlock productivity and enhance the employee experience. Are employees using the right tools, and do they have access to multiple apps that are serving the same function?
How CIOs and IT teams can help
It’s imperative that modern CIOs partner with business leaders and employees to deliver a seamless digital experience. However, the path to providing an engaging digital experience at scale is not a straightforward one. IT organisations must invest in the following areas to positively influence employee engagement:
Widespread adoption of hybrid and remote work is expected to become the norm – not to decline. With that in mind, companies should prioritise ensuring the best digital work experience for every employee. The future of the employee experience is one where the CIO and IT team play a critical role in delivering a highly personalised and engaging experience for every worker.
Visit productiv.com to learn more about how Productiv can help you improve your employee experience
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PRODUCTIV
Getting your remote employees cyber-secure at home
How quickly times can change. At the beginning of the year, home working was something that many people had heard about, but relatively few had practised. Now it has become routine for the majority and, interestingly, many organisations have found that it has worked surprisingly well.
One of the key enablers, of course, has been the increased availability of IT devices and broader internet connectivity. In fact, the collective investment in technology and infrastructure over the past few years has enabled a relatively smooth transition to remote working. That said, the need for security and protection has never been greater, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it did not take long for certain vulnerabilities to show. This year saw an increase in worldwide phishing threats and other cyber-attacks from nefarious actors seeking to take advantage of the pandemic. At the height of the global lockdown period, it was reported that more than 100 million phishing emails were being blocked every day, with a fifth of those being scam emails related to coronavirus.
The truth is, working from home doesn’t always have to pose such a grave cyber-security risk. It can be a secure, seamless transition from office-based work if organisations are fully prepared for it. The question is whether they have actively done so, or simply assumed that staff already use technology at home, and know how to protect themselves.
While there are plenty of opportunities for people to be protected and improve their IT security awareness, this may not translate so well into practice. Being threat-aware is not the same as being cyber-security literate. In other words, identifying a threat does not necessarily mean that someone knows how to handle it or provide a resolution. Similarly, the fact that safeguards are available does not mean they will always be used effectively. Too often, people handle security badly by default, such as choosing weak passwords or failing to install important updates. The guidance is out there if we look for it, but it's questionable whether staff are actively supported or encouraged to do so.
A good insight into the preparedness of organisations comes from the latest Cyber Security Breaches Survey from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). Though published at the beginning of the lockdown in late March, the fieldwork for the survey was conducted at the end of 2019. As such, it provides true insight into the measures that organisations had taken as standard, and how they were positioned ahead of the pandemic.
The survey explores the extent to which organisations have addressed the recommendations in the National Cyber Security Centre’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security. These span a variety of technical and organisational measures, but in terms of readiness to switch to remote working, the most interesting steps are those relating to “user education and awareness”, and “home and mobile working”. The former relates to the percentage of businesses that have user-facing policies on acceptable and secure use of systems, while the latter refers to having established clear policies on working outside of the workplace. In both cases, one would hope that organisations already promoted policies and awareness. However, in the vast majority of cases, most organisations do not cover the steps in the first place. The 2020 results suggest that just a third have addressed user education and awareness and only a quarter cover home and mobile working. Based on these findings, it seems rather unlikely that staff will have been fully prepared for the shift to remote working.
In some cases, working from home can lead to complacency as staff are more inclined to be vigilant when operating in work environment. Now in the comfort of their homes, some may feel more relaxed and less likely to focus on the cyber-security policies of the workplace. In fact, many people may be working remotely on their own devices, therefore, there is no guarantee that they will have configured them appropriately or installed the necessary security software. Conversely, if staff are using work devices, they need to be able adhere to security policies and be clear on the bounds of permitted use. In the future, businesses must make specific provision for the cyber-security of home workers, if they are to minimise any potential threats or vulnerabilities.
With remote working proving successful for many, we may see a situation where businesses explore increasingly flexible work options in the future. While some may have learned from recent experience, if remote working is to continue in a meaningful way, there needs to be greater awareness of the cyber security measures that support it. Home workers must be fully prepared, in terms of the technology used to protect devices and the knowledge and skills to better protect themselves.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS
Steven Furnell is a Professor of Cyber Security in the School of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham. His research interests include the usability of security technology, security management and culture, cyber-crime and abuse, and technologies for user authentication and intrusion detection. He has authored more than 330 papers in refereed international journals and conference proceedings, as well as books, including Cybercrime: Vandalising the Information Society and Computer Insecurity: Risking the System.
Professor Furnell is also the Chair of Technical Committee 11 (security and privacy) within the International Federation for Information Processing, and a board member of the Chartered Institute of Information Security.
To find out more on the topic of home working and cyber-security, please click here.
For the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) full Cyber Security Breaches Survey, please click here.
Technology considerations for the hybrid work environment
Even in an environment of what’s felt like constant change during the past couple of years, the workplace may just now be reaching its true pivot point. While government figures and business leaders are encouraging, and in some cases even mandating, workers to return to the office, many still do not feel comfortable coming back in such a high capacity – either because of safety concerns or an unwilling-ness to sacrifice the increased flexibility and conveniences they’ve enjoyed in remote settings.
What’s become clear is that the era of the five-days-a-week, nine-to-five office schedule is over, replaced by a hybrid work model where employees split their time between on-site and remote environments at a schedule that accommodates their personal and professional needs. Thus far, employees across various industries have greeted the emergence of hybrid work with great enthusiasm.
However, the varying demands of the hybrid work environment place more pressure on business and IT leaders to identify tools and operational structures that suit every employee’s preferences. In particular, this transition allows organisations to revaluate their technologies and identify potential upgrades that can align the best of office and remote work styles.
Work technology is no longer just a functional part of the day, but a potential differentiator in maintaining a growth trajectory and even retaining and recruiting top talent. While hybrid work will look different for every organisation and industry, these three considerations can serve as a starting point to identify the right balance of flexibility and productivity.
Laptops and personal devices are more essential than ever
Our laptops have arguably become the most important part of our professional lives since the advent of remote work. Not only have they allowed us to continue our daily tasks from anywhere we wish to work, but we can now quickly and easily connect and engage with our colleagues at a time where on-site meetings are not always possible. It’s no surprise, then, that Barco research revealed that 77 per cent of workers said they could not imagine working without their laptop. Given employees’ newfound reliance on their PCs, there’s no reason to expect lap-top-driven communications to fade once workers are back in the office. After months of enjoying the simple connectivity that video conferencing platforms have offered during the pandemic, workers likely will not have the patience for the complex wire networks and connectivity challenges of legacy conference rooms.
For business and IT leaders, this change signals a priority to not do away with laptops as the focal point of work, but rather empower hybrid employees to accomplish more within them. This includes making a core investment in their virtual collaboration capabilities and make meetings more accessible to all employees through the PC. Barco’s ClickShare platform, for instance, connects with users’ laptops to automatically set meeting rooms and peripherals to pre-defined conditions, all while supporting the virtual meeting hubs we’ve grown to know, such as Teams, Zoom and WebEx. This ultimately allows users to simply walk into the room and connect without the need for technical start-up needs, and for remote participants to continue joining in just a single click.
Video: the root of hybrid
One aspect of the old workplace that employees did not miss during the pandemic was battling colleagues for the coveted video conferencing room. Working from home demonstrated just how successful video conferencing could be when controlled through a laptop.
The transition to hybrid work means that every room in an office can become a video conferencing room. Wherever employees are taking or leading a meeting, they still desire the ability to walk in, open their computer and get started without delay or complex setup. Through platforms such as ClickShare, businesses can expand their workers’ capabilities without a significant technology or layout overhaul. Likewise, businesses can ensure that in-room peripherals, such as microphones, cameras and speakers, also easily connect to personal devices.
Levelling the playing field
One of the greatest challenges facing business leaders in this new hybrid world will be avoiding the feeling of an inferior experience for remote workers. While there is no way to truly replicate the in-person engagement that occurs within offices, remote employees may be conscious about being left out of key discussions, decisions and even on promotions or pay rises if they are not present all the time.
In these scenarios, technology can help fill the gap and make every participant in a meeting feel as if he or she is at the table regardless of location. ClickShare Conference includes virtual blackboarding, annotation and polling to make content visible and actionable among remote and on-site participants. Additionally, the platform offers capacity for small breakout groups where remote participants can share their insights without feeling as if they are speaking over those in the room. Through bridging technology, no meeting knowledge goes lost or overlooked and all employees can feel as if their voice is heard.
Much as in larger society, the technology that fuels hybrid work will only improve over time. At the same time, the needs of employees will change. The businesses who stand the best chance of thriving in the hybrid model will be the ones who can find the ideal intersection of these two dynamics. Embracing continued change offers an opportunity to reimagine their work environment and improve the experience for employees wherever they choose to do their jobs.
Try ClickShare for free!
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM BARCO
The future of work is projects
The project profession adds £156.5 bn of gross value to the UK economy each year, analysis by Association for Project Management (APM) and PwC Research has found – more than construction, financial services, accommodation and food, and entertainment and recreation. In the past few months, it has also been reported that a project management shortage could cost the global economy $345 billion by 2030, with Europe among the most heavily impacted areas.
The economic value of projects is clear, yet many businesses have historically failed to give their project experts sufficient voice at a strategic level. This is more important than ever at a time when all organisations face common challenges of unprecedented scale. The climate emergency, the global pandemic and the post-Brexit operating environment have created a perfect storm for businesses when it comes to planning their medium and long-term strategies.
Against this complex and shifting backdrop, the rise in the “projectification” of work – applying project management methods and practices to routine tasks – is emerging as a path to social and economic success. Project management methods are being adopted more widely in business. There’s also growing awareness at management and leadership level of the “accidental project manager”: professionals who aren’t officially tasked with managing projects but who do so without necessarily realising it.
Approaches and methods that have long been used only by project specialists are proving their value and finding widespread adoption across numerous sectors. The future of work is projects.
In some ways, this should come as little surprise. Project management is, after all, about delivering in the face of change, or delivering change itself. This is no longer a niche requirement and more business leaders are acknowledging the value of applying project-led approaches more broadly. Understanding of what constitutes a project is also changing. More employees in a wide variety of business
functions are evaluating their work in terms of projects rather than “tasks”, with outputs, outcomes or benefits del ivered in line with agreed acceptance criteria, timescales and budgets.
Leaders who are considering a more project-led approach, or who are in the early stages of implementing one, should bear the following in mind:
As projects move the business closer from present state to desired future state, upskilling staff and consolidating project knowledge will be vital. There are opportunities for employers to incorporate successful project delivery as an integral part of business strategy and invest in structures, training and qualifications for project specialists and accidental project managers alike.
Larger organisations may wish to consider establishing a dedicated project, programme or portfolio management office (PMO). PMOs contribute directly to performance improvements in productivity, customer satisfaction, projects under budget and ahead of schedule, and cost savings. High-performing companies have more capable PMOs and those who can afford to invest in their growth and development should do so. In smaller organisations where resources may be limited, it may not be feasible to establish a PMO. Instead, SME leaders should promote training that focuses on risk management, change management, time management, and communication and interpersonal skills.
As the chartered body for the project profession, APM recognises the need to support the skills that go beyond project management process alone and are fundamental to success. My advice to business leaders and employers is to establish an approach to learning and development that creates a progressive structure for project experts to enhance their competency and, ultimately, their outcomes. A formalised approach to learning will establish a common language, embed best practice across business functions and set a consistent benchmark for defining project success.
In a changing and challenging world, the project profession has never been more important. While the environment for delivery is complex, it’s clear that projects represent the future of work.
APM offers a range of qualifications and training to support the future of your business. Visit www.apm.org.uk/qualifications-and-training.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM APM
The future of work is here, and it’s hybrid
Over the past 18 months, companies worldwide were forced to execute an experiment: what would happen to them if they became 100 per cent (or nearly so) virtual? Now, companies are confronting a new reality: what if a virtual or hybrid work model is the new normal?
My company, Aurea, has operated virtually since its founding in 2012. We’ve encountered the challenges and opportunities unlocked by virtual work and have been able to grow and thrive both despite and because of them.
I’ve talked to hundreds of senior HR and business leaders from Fortune 500 companies, and I hear three consistent themes regarding the past 18 months and the new work order we now find ourselves confronting:
Let’s delve a bit into each of these.
“I was surprised how effectively work was able to get done.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise was how little work productivity was impacted by a rapid shift to a remote model. In fact, many studies suggest that individual work productivity improved via the remote work model, including a two-year study by Stanford that found remote employees were 13 per cent more productive – nearly an extra day of output per week – and attrition rates were cut by 50 per cent.
Some of the explanation for this lies in how truly unproductive the traditional office-based environment can be – from the time-suck of daily commutes to the near limitless distractions created by the general office buzz of activity. Some estimates suggest that these kinds of interactions can occupy up to 40 per cent of an employee's typical workday.
But the real key to remote productivity has been the emergence over the past 20 years of three key technologies – the PC, the internet, and mobile – and the resulting decentralisation of tools and resources. An individual employee armed with a PC, a high-speed internet connection, and an array of communication and work applications has the same personal productivity arsenal as their in-office colleagues. The network has in part replaced the physical building as the office, and we didn’t realise it until the pandemic.
“We lose something without the spontaneity and energy from in-person interactions.”
The most cited negative impact of remote work, expressed in near unanimity, is the perceived loss of human connection and collaboration.
In a remote model, most interactions are scheduled instead of spontaneous. And the effect of this is that people tend to interact more frequently with their “near networks” – the people they work most often with – and less frequently with their “far networks” – the people with whom they have less scheduled interaction. The problem is that these far networks are what create the fabric of connection and information exchange within an enterprise. Spontaneous interactions build new relationships (or “relationship capital”) that are an important part of knowledge and opportunity access for individuals within a company.
In a remote work environment, one can make a strong case that we are in effect monetising existing relationship capital without replenishing it. Microsoft recently published a study showing that remote work caused the time employees spent collaborating cross-group to drop by about 25 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. Since the pandemic, our near network interactions have exploded while our far networks have withered. This kind of siloing of people and their ideas undermines the human potential of an enterprise.
“I’m concerned about how to build culture and retain people if hybrid work is here to stay.”
With both of these observations in tow – the “good” and the “bad” of remote/hybrid work – global executives now ponder what is next.
What they are discovering is that, for most, a return to the work world that existed pre-Covid is simply not possible. Employees have had a taste of remote work, and they like it. According to the latest research, 55 per cent prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede, and only eight per cent would not want to work remotely. Perhaps more worryingly, a May survey of 1,000 US adults showed that 39 per cent would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work.
Most of the executives I’ve spoken with acknowledge they need to embrace a permanent hybrid work model in response to employee preferences. But how do these organisations retain individual productivity benefits while confronting the challenges of dissolving organisational connection?
In our experience as a remote-first company, there are three things we’ve learned that have become important parts of our model:
Hybrid work is here to stay. And much like technology has enabled individual productivity that helped mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic, we believe it can do the same thing to help organisations sustain culture and drive organisational connection and collaboration in a long-term hybrid work model.
As CEO, Scott Brighton is leading Aurea’s reinvention of the software business as the “Netflix of business software”, embracing the public cloud early to build a library of SaaS solutions powering the future of work, commerce and IT.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM AUREA
People before profit: why company culture matters
Your company culture has the power to set you apart from the competition, and it can do miracles for your team.
If these past couple of years have taught businesses anything, it’s been the importance of a healthy and authentic company culture. After all, it’s what has kept teams together as they worked from their kitchen tables and Zoomed in to every meeting.
But what exactly is workplace culture? It’s the character and personality of your organisation, made up of your people’s values, beliefs and traditions. It’s ultimately what brings your company to life, and together. Culture is reflected in just about everything at work: be that the office setup, employee benefits, hiring decisions, leadership or even working hours.
But a healthy culture doesn’t just happen. It needs to be nurtured and invested in, continually. And we don’t mean just buying the office a ping pong table.
So what are the benefits of an authentic company culture?
Your company culture has the power to set your business apart from the competition. Not only can it attract clients looking to work with a business with aligning values, it can do miracles for your team, too.
Here’s what a good company culture can do for your business:
Attracting new talent
As more and more companies bounce back after the lockdowns, the competition for talent is higher than ever. Today, hiring isn’t just about what you offer, be that the number of personal days offered or the possibility of free lunch. It’s now more about what you stand for as a company, and how you do business.
According to Glassdoor’s 2019 Mission and Culture survey, 77 per cent of respondents said they would “consider a company's culture” before applying. Meanwhile, 56 per cent said they found a good workplace culture to be "more important than salary" when it came to job satisfaction.
To top this, a survey by the Society or Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that company culture was the number one reason why people picked one job over another – proving it pays to invest in your culture.
Retaining your talent
Your company culture doesn’t just help attract new talent. It plays a crucial role in retaining your talent too. In fact, the same Glassdoor report found that 65 per cent of respondents said their company's culture was the main reason for staying at their current job.
And retention pays off – a loyal workforce will enhance your culture even more, as they’ll effectively act as brand ambassadors of your company.
And it doesn’t stop there… good retention rates are good news for your finances too. A study by Oxford Economics and Unum found that the average cost of employing someone earning £25,000 a year or more is £30,614 – and it takes 42 days to fill that position, according to Glassdoor.
It’s been proven time and again that companies with healthy, authentic cultures are profitable. A recent report by Forbes found that businesses that put culture first saw a fourfold increase in revenue growth.
So what’s the connection? When a company culture is strong, teams work together in harmony towards one common goal. More often than not, everyone is driven, motivated and productive and will ultimately make better decisions and resolve issues much faster.
There’s so much more a good company culture can do for your business, too, which is why Pleo is bringing together the industry's brightest minds at our free digital summit, Forward.
On 9 December, I’ll be joined by more than 25 speakers from all over the globe, who will share their lessons learned, discuss their people-centric initiatives and tell the honest truth about authentic leadership, and what it takes to build a future-proof culture.
Our agenda is jam-packed with sessions and discussions exploring pressing topics such as mental health, diversity inclusion and equality, while also reflecting on product innovation, and how businesses can build better solutions to support the future workforce.
If you’re looking to hear more about the importance of company culture, and how to build it, we’d love for you to join us.
Empty shelves and a lack of skills: supply chain leaders need an adaptable plan to cope in a crisis
Wartime US president Dwight D Eisenhower once said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” – words that still resonate today in a climate of continued supply chain disruption. From shortages of delivery drivers through to Covid-19 and Brexit-induced challenges, the need for effective planning has never been greater.
As the Institute for Government explains, things are not about to get any easier either, so businesses have a choice – stick a finger in the air and hope for the best or start planning intelligently for a future of continued disruption.
As Rick Lambrecht, a director at Olivehorse, says, “Planning is the activity that converts your strategic objective into operational reality.” Quite simply, if you want your business to have any chance of not just surviving but growing in the coming months, it has to be able to turn ideas into actions, and ensure that those actions can be adaptable to meet the unforeseen and unpredictable nature of today’s markets and economies.
At Olivehorse we have segmented how we treat planning, to help businesses overcome multiple supply chain challenges and, importantly, cope with whatever is lurking around the corner. Our long-term, mid-term and short-term planning structure addresses key planning phases, based on organisational data. This facilitates more informed decision making and helps build resilience into supply chain management.
The traditional planning process is to plan to forecast, with the assumption business will adhere to that plan. The adaptive planning model is designed to accommodate headroom, buffers and many alternative options to ensure the business can adapt to and be resilient to changes in the plan. Businesses that ignore this will not be able to address unpredicted changes and will suffer the consequences for it.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM OLIVEHORSE
Narrow, unrealistic and worrying: how can young people’s career aspirations rise to the challenge?
Never before in history have so many young people stayed in education for so long. Across the world, young people are leaving education more highly qualified than any preceding generation. Yet, although they approach the working world with unprecedented levels of human capital, in many countries they struggle to find good jobs that reflect their skills and interests. When graduates can’t find suitable employment and recruiters can’t find the young talent they need, there is reason to look afresh at how well young people are being prepared for their lives in work.
Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) organises an assessment of hundreds of thousands of young people around the globe. Through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), countries can compare the academic performance and perceptions of a representative sample of 15-year-olds in dozens of countries and economic areas. In a recent report, an analysis of PISA 2018 data sheds new light on the career expectations of teenagers and their relation to actual labour market demand.
From 2000, the PISA assessment has asked young people about the job they expect to have at age 30. Since then, the aspirations of teenagers have become increasingly concentrated, so much so that now one in two girls and boys across OECD countries anticipates working in one of just 10 different jobs. In the UK, 53 per cent of girls and 47 per cent of boys have these narrow aspirations. Of particular concern is that the career aspirations of young people are so closely linked to their gender and socio-economic status. Six of the occupations most commonly cited by British boys, including business manager, are not cited at all by British girls.
It may be reasonable to ask: does this really matter? Analysis by the OECD and other researchers suggests strongly that it does. Such levels of concentration show prima facie evidence of poor labour market signalling at a time when young people are approaching critical decisions about whether they will stay in education and, if so, what and where they will study. When examining young people’s expectations in light of labour market projections, it becomes clear that young people are responding in very limited ways to employer signals concerning areas of both job growth and likely automation.
Internationally, levels of concentration have grown steadily since 2000, especially among boys, weaker academic performers and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Moreover, the PISA tests in literacy, mathematics and science give a good indication of whether a young person is capable of succeeding in higher education. UK data show that one in three of such high performers from disadvantaged backgrounds do not expect to go to university, compared to just one in 12 of their advantaged peers.
Data from longitudinal studies, which follow thousands of people from birth to adulthood, reveal that what young people think and experience about the labour market makes a difference to their adult success. Career aspirations are, to an important extent, predictive of what follows. Young people who work part-time or who engage with employers through career talks organised by their schools do better as working adults than would otherwise be expected. Children whose occupational ambitions align with their educational plans are more likely to thrive through school-to-work transitions.
In a world where jobs are subject to rapid and disruptive automation, the decisions that young people make as they stay in education longer are not only becoming more numerous, but more difficult. The challenge for schools and colleges is to help young people develop aspirations that are broad, realistic and reflective of their abilities and interests. Good career guidance begins early and broadens the aspirations of young people, giving them access to first-hand encounters with the working world. It enables young people to become informed critical thinkers about the labour market – how it works and what place they can imagine for themselves in it. To help them succeed, people in work have an essential role to play in helping teachers and guidance counsellors bring learning to life, and ensuring that young people engage in education and make their plans for the future with their eyes open to the myriad opportunities and pitfalls of working life. As the working world becomes ever more complex, such a culture of collaboration is increasingly urgent.
How can employers and governments address the mismatch between the aspirations of young people and the future of work? How can we best accompany young people to ensure they thrive in their studies, professional and personal lives? How can learning systems catch up? Through the “I am the Future of Work” campaign, the OECD is gathering stories and insights about the way the world of work is changing, and fostering solutions-oriented conversations to build a more inclusive future of work.
Anthony Mann is Senior Analyst (Education and Skills) at the OECD and lead author of Dream Jobs? Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work. Visit the “I am the Future of Work” campaign website.
by Anthony Mann, Senior Analyst (Education and Skills), OECD
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM OECD
How many days a week in the office are enough? You shouldn’t need to ask
Covid-19 has fundamentally changed our relationship with the office. After the enforced experiment of lockdowns pushing about 40per cent of the labour force into working from home, few of us want to return to the pre-pandemic status quo.
Yes, we miss the sociability of the workplace, but surveys show at least three-quarters of us want the option to spend a few days working at home and a few days in the office.
But what exactly is the right balance?
The experience of working from home has helped break down many of the prejudices that limited work flexibility prior to 2020. But there remain discernible differences in attitudes between workers and managers on this question. As Australia’s Productivity Commission notes in a September 2021 research paper:
There are actual or perceived costs to working from home, such as reduced opportunities for collaboration and networking, reduced face-to-face interaction with managers, and consequences for long-term career prospects.
That last point is of particular concern. A pre-pandemic study found fully remote workers, despite being 13per cent more productive, were only half as likely to be promoted as their colleagues who spent their time in the office.
The reasons for this are likely complex – a combination of explicit attitudes and subconscious biases. Their persistence spells danger for post-Covid organisations. In particular they could disadvantage those with carer responsibilities, who are more likely to want greater flexibility.
So how many days a week in the office is enough? How do we balance the desire of managers to bring people together with employee’s desire for greater flexibility?
Some organisations are adamant that going back to the office all or most of the time is essential. Take, for example, Google.
The Silicon Valley giant has won awards for its open corporate culture. Its products have facilitated as much as any company in the teleworking revolution. But in September Google said it would reduce the pay of its US employees choosing to work from home permanently.
A company spokesperson justified this on the grounds Google had always paid employees according to “the local market based on where an employee works from”. But given the company’s long antipathy to remote work it’s hard to see this as anything other than a stick to pull workers back to the office. Choosing to work from home could reportedly cost some employees up to 25 per cent of their salary.
If this is the attitude at Google, just imagine what prevails in more conservative managerial cultures. Indeed it is largely managerial fears that have stymied the potential for greater work flexibility since technology made “teleworking” a possibility in the 1970s.
For decades concerns about innovation and productivity have been cited as reasons workers must be in the office most of the time, despite research indicating there’s no reason we need to be in the office every day to maximise the benefits of collaboration. The lived experience of the pandemic has helped mitigate these concerns, but not completely.
These attitudes are arguably associated with a “legacy” model of management – a model in which attitudes have failed to change along with the facts. Bundy clocks and other explicit forms of command and control may have been abandoned but there are still often unwritten expectations about such things as not leaving before the boss and putting in unpaid overtime being prerequisites to pay rises and promotions.
So the big question isn’t really about what’s the optimal mix of days in the office and at home. Experts agree there is no one-size-fits-all model for hybrid work. It should really depend on the context and individuals. Maybe it’s four days week in the office, maybe it’s one.
The question is why managerial attitudes are taking so long to catch up to reality.
There is now extensive research showing that employees are more effective and satisfied in their jobs when they have the flexibility to customise their work. This flexibility encompasses not just whether we work from home or the office a certain number of days, but also when we work, who we work with and what we are working on.
After a career of doing things only one way, it seems many managers simply don’t know how to manage differently.
Our organisations are not made up of one type of person and one type of job, something our management structures and organisational initiatives often ignore. Success in the post-Covid world will depend on thinking differently and creating a culture that embraces the opportunities this new model of work brings.
That’s the conversation we need to have – wherever we are.