Many of our clients are preparing for the future of work. Technological, economic and demographic forces are causing disruption and change. Companies are adjusting their strategies so they can adapt and capture growth. They are also thinking about what it means for how they lead their people.
What are some of the things they’re thinking about? We asked leaders in our recent Future of Work Survey and the answers challenge some widely-held ideas.
For example, when it comes to AI and robotics, rather than simply replacing people as many commentators fear, most respondents (57%) see automation as a way of augmenting human performance. The big implication for many companies, therefore, is on improving the way people interact with technology. It means focusing more on human-machine interaction, on combining human skills and machine tasks, and on improving user experience.
In addition, rather than automation leading to de-skilling – a new digital Taylorism as The Economist recently put it – many organisations (27%) are already changing the design of jobs to require more skills. In fact, many organisations have a big focus on capability-building. They realise they need to make learning easier and more continuous. With a multi-generational workforce they need to support employees making different career and job transitions.
In the future, organisations will also rely a more diverse mix of worker types to deliver their services, including freelancers, contractors, and partners. A lot has been written about the rise of the gig economy and new talent platforms such as Upwork. However, the contribution of free-agent workers is only set to rise from 4% to 6% in the next 3 years. This means that the focus that most leading organisations already have on employee engagement, employee commitment, and employee retention remains critical to their success as a business.
So what are companies doing to prepare for these future trends? For one thing, they are listening to employees more often and more continuously. There is more interest in employee research now than there has ever been. Last year was the busiest twelve months in the 40+ year history of the employee insights team at Willis Towers Watson.
Many of our clients are now licensing our self-service Pulse Software to capture employee voice on an agile basis. Our Pulse Software allows them to run surveys as often as they like, as and when they need to, and to track engagement in real time.
Employee engagement surveys are also now part of a continuous listening strategy, which incorporates joiner, leaver, and key-cohort surveys. Clients are also using tools like our Virtual Focus Group Software for active listening and jams – creating conversation and dialogue with hundreds of employees at a time.
They are also using technology and analytics to understand their workforce better. For example, we use smart machine analytics to suggest the specific actions that individual managers can take to improve their team’s performance. We also connect engagement data to other workforce and business data, in order to reduce employee turnover, improve sales, productivity, customer retention, and so on. Predictive analytics like these help companies transition from a point-in-time perspective to a process of continuous improvement.
As well as listening more and understanding people better, when it comes to taking action on engagement, many companies are thinking about it through the lens of employee experience (EX). What do we mean by EX? It comprises all the elements of the employment deal and psychological contract. This includes challenging work, effective rewards, strong teams, and a clear purpose. Often our clients are thinking about EX as part of an overall culture transformation, because they are making a shift to a more digital business strategy.
It’s an exciting time for anyone involved in employee research and people analytics as both are key elements in helping leaders navigate towards the opportunities provided by the future of work.
- Are you ready for the future of work? Key insights from Willis Towers Watson research
- Continuous listening strategies: Organizations staying ahead of the curve
- Employee insights for a better employee experience
Tags: #FutureOfWork #EmployeeExperience #EmployeeSurveys #PeopleAnalytics
This article was first published on LinkedIn on July 17, 2018