New Ways of Working

Why employees deserve big data too

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SONY DSCBig data is no longer a novelty for corporate organisations, nor is it the territory of those companies that are particularly pioneering. It frequently makes its way into board meetings and the C-Suite see the value of their organisation using the vast data points that technology now makes available to them. Then why is it only customers, and not employees, feeling the benefit of these advances?

Let’s take a look at how much big data has revolutionised the way that companies market their products and tailor experiences to the individual customer. Amazon has even introduced anticipatory shipping in order to ensure that one of the key differentiators of their service, speed of delivery, remains ahead of their competitors. The company collects a huge volume of data on buyers’ previous purchases, where they hover their mouse and their demography. Complex algorithms allow Amazon to predict what the customer will buy next and they then ship this product to a warehouse or transit van near the customer, ready for their click and buy. The item is subsequently delivered in a matter of minutes or hours rather than the conventional days or weeks, and Amazon maintains its competitive edge.

If organisations have this level of big data on their customers to ensure the company can consistently deliver on their USP, why are they not doing the same for their people? We know that employees are increasingly mobile and retention of the best talent is a huge focus for many organisations. By using big data about their people, organisations can contribute to the employee experience that people want.

At the Hot Spots Movement we have been struck by the benefits of using big data within organisations. When our clients look to bring about a major organisational change, they come to us to run a Jam – a global conversation lasting up to 72-hours. The Jam enables our clients to get the input they need drawing on expertise, experience and creativity from different functions and geographies from across their company. Analysing this thoughtful, extended conversation in the platform allows our clients to have access to the kind of qualitative big data they require. Challenges that have been tackled through this qualitative big data have included work/life balance, brand values and unleashing talent potential.

Our plea to the C-Suite of big corporate organisations? Use the data they have available to them within their companies to help tailor the employee experience and provide an environment they want to stay in.

 

Preparing Australia for the Future of Work

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We’ve noticed a significant interest in FoW coming from Australia over the past year or so, and as befits a research consultancy, we were intrigued to know the source of this interest. We asked Kristen Miller, Workplace Transformation Director at Westpac Group to provide us with a perspective and here’s what she had to say…

32738af“Today, Australia’s population of about 23 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. As a result, Australian workplaces need to be prepared to deal with the challenges and opportunities this presents.

In recent times, Australian companies have dealt with workplace challenges that have led them to focus on preparing better for the future. For example, the mining boom in 2011 led to skill shortages, the “war for talent”, economic prosperity and wage growth. Coupled with a decade of economic growth and record-low unemployment rates, companies felt challenged in an unknown territory – people. Traditional (and successful) industries found themselves challenged with regard to how, when and what people worked on as the employee/employer power shifted increasingly toward employee choice – many companies were ill-prepared.

Changing where, when and how we work
In terms of working habits, government investment in the National Broadband Network (NBN) is designed to provide access to a minimum level of broadband service across the nation. This initiative has led to an increase in opportunities in education, business, entertainment, health care and sociability giving everyone the potential to be more productive, more creative, more efficient and more connected for decades to come. Importantly, working from home has become a real option for many now that anyone can experience a fast and reliable internet connection in the home.

This connectivity is vital for other reasons. Australia is a high wage-earning country and because of this, many companies within Australia have moved to offshoring and partnering arrangements to initially minimise cost. The changing landscape of on-going globalisation, and Australia’s relative distance from other parts of the world, is making work international, networked, culturally diverse and 24/7. Value creation and productivity for Australia will depend on its ability to build and maintain networks across regional and national boundaries, meaning that Australian companies have to be focussed on the global talent pool when it comes to employing the next generation of workers.

Gearing up for marathon careers
Like many other countries around the world, Australia has an aging population. Combined with high quality health care, this means that a larger proportion of the population is moving towards retirement and living far longer. The impact of this is that current superannuation plans are not expected to sustain people for their retired lifetime resulting in an increased burden on social welfare. As a result there has been increased focus from the Federal Government on raising the pension age, and organisations are now starting to think about ways to engage and support an aging workforce.

Recent years have also seen increased media coverage of the importance of work/life balance, wellbeing in the workplace, activity based working and employers of choice. These stories are often used as ways to highlight what employers should be considering as a way to attract and retain key talent. As a result, a number of organisations are seeking out additional or more progressive ways to differentiate themselves from competitors – raising the bar for everyone in the process.

Australian organisations are keen not only to learn how to deal with the implications of these shifts, but also to prepare for the changes will follow them. Participating in the Future of Work Research Consortium has been a great way for Westpac to gain deeper insights into the forces shaping the world we work in and how we can respond to them.”

Do you work for an Australian-based organisation that’s tackling these issues? Contact tina@hotspotsmovement.com to find out how joining the Future of Work Research Consortium could help.

Why we need to stop sending mixed messages about flexible working

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Emma

by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work

Thanks to Twitter, I came across this blog by Microsoft HR Director Theresa McHenry for HR Magazine. McHenry’s main thrust is to remind us of the big changes taking place in business, society and our day-to-day working lives. However, at the same time, her post highlights the confusing advice we all receive around flexibility in the workplace. She starts off telling the reader to: “encourage employees to work flexibly” and then, a few lines down, reminds them to “where possible, reintroduce boundaries… and encourage colleagues to switch off in the evenings and weekends.” So, which one is it? If we are to create truly flexible organisations whereby work is no longer a place we go, but a thing we do, perhaps we need to wave goodbye to the idea of a Monday-Friday working week.

Flexibility requires us to look beyond the false dichotomy of “work” and “life”. Rather than perpetuating the narrative of achieving “balance” between the two, we must be bolder and aspire to the harmonious integration of all parts of our lives. This aspiration will be particularly important for the future of work as people embrace portfolio careers, working for many organisations and individuals at the same time. Preserving the traditional work schedules in this context will be increasingly challenging and, likely, unappealing.

At the Future of Work Research Consortium, we collaborate with some of the world’s leading organisations to find new solutions to long-standing challenges, and gain surprising insights into issues such as flexible working by taking deeper look. To find out more about how your organsation can get involved, contact tina@hotspotsmovement.com.

Insights from the New Ways of Working Masterclass

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Emma

by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work

We started this week with a bang by hosting one of our Future of Work masterclasses on the subject of New Ways of Working. Here are some of the highlights.

The impact of social networks

It’s no surprise that social media was a major discussion point. As Lynda pointed out in her keynote, social media has already had a huge impact – but it isn’t quite as entrenched as other habits. While 70% of companies now use social structures and communities internally, with 90% reporting benefits, email remains dominant and many companies struggle to exploit social media’s collaborative potential. Most businesses are only just realising that online communities are becoming just as important as physical communities and many-to-many communication hold great value for the future. Increasingly, social media is becoming the only way to ensure disparate groups of employees make the connections that will help boost productivity and strengthen teams.

Guest speaker Darren Keegan of Tycoon Systems expanded on this theme by highlighting the value of virtual reality workspaces – and why they shouldn’t be ignored as a tool for enabling geographically diverse teams to collaborate effectively.

Global talent pools and hyperspecialised work

Our speakers also focused on job design and the trend towards complex work. With many of the most talented workers choosing portfolio careers and virtual working becoming embedded in corporate culture, companies are waking up to the fact that they can acquire specialist skills virtually instead of hiring experts full-time. By allowing employers to share the most talented workers rather than competing for them this model offers huge benefits such as enabling businesses to carry out complex projects at a reasonable cost. However, it also poses some unique challenges, including the question of how best to assemble teams when some workers are remote, and how to ensure employees stay motivated. Guest speaker Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk – also a renowned expert on the future of work – provided practical insights into this new way of working by describing how oDesk’s business model helps workers build more meaningful, varied and lucrative careers while at the same time enabling businesses to streamline hiring processes and access high-quality work at the best price.

New ways of managing performance

As job design changes, performance management methods have to be updated accordingly. In a world where teams aren’t necessarily co-located, employees frequently work on many projects with different leaders and peers, performance management is following the same patterns as communication and evolving from a one-to-one model to a many-to-many model.

As with communication, social media would seem to be a great solution to this – platforms like Work.com are already offering such services. The real issue around performance management, however, is behaviour. There is no escaping the fact that remote workers receive lower performance appraisals than co-located team members and that people give feedback based on how well they like someone rather than their skill level. Once again, Gary Swart’s take on this provided a glimpse into the future: freelancers on oDesk are already assessed based on their skills rather than what a manager thinks of them.

Finally, we invited members to think outside the box by looking at ways in which human resources professionals can learn from marketing firms when it comes to observing and influencing behaviour. Jonathan Chippindale of Holition provided unique and fascinating insights into how concepts such as augmented reality and gamification are revolutionising consumer behaviours.