In the last couple of years, the world of work has turned upside down. The pandemic nudged organisations and leaders to rapidly adopt new behaviors and work practices that are likely to stay.
“It is a great time for us all to reimagine the entire concept of work, including how, when, why, and where we work,” said, Scott Cawood, CCP, GRP, CBP, CEO, WorldatWork, in a recent interview with People Matters.
What will drive this change?
Scott added, “Far more important than the numbers of people changing jobs, the rebalancing that is occurring around the globe is monumental and will have enormous implications on work, workplaces, and workforces.”
Prior to joining WorldatWork, Scott was the Leader of Organisational Effectiveness at W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., the maker of Gore-Tex. Scott has served as the President of Synygy, a global compensation and sales software company where he began as its chief operations and people officer.
Here's what Scott has to say on the future of work and how leaders can prepare to face it:
How do you see the 'now' and the 'future' of work shaping up?
In 2022, you will see a redefining of equity and fairness that will result in better work environments for some and potentially further gaps for others. For example, we will see younger workers assume higher-level roles since concepts like tenure will carry less weight in the fast-moving on-demand world we are now working in. In other cases, workers with more routine skills are likely to experience job losses unless they are able to reskill themselves quickly.
You will also see a lot more testing of non-traditional schedules outside the five-day, 40 hours work week mentality. This will also impact the frequency people will want to be paid, receive raises, get a bonus, and receive performance feedback. Any “annual” program is most likely too slow to make any impact. Not all companies will increase wages as a way to recruit and keep their people, so I expect we will see a lot of new incentives and new ways to engage people.
One of our surveys titled “Total Rewards Inventory Programs and Practices” conducted in 2021, highlighted that the future workplace is going to be more flexible with 72% of organizations indicating they are offering designed telework (e.g., full- or part-time) in 2021. This is a 9-percentage point increase from 2020. [n=831]
Retention of employees will continue to be an issue and employers will need to focus more on shorter-term employment options, with increased flexibility, and HR people will need to get very astute with hiring, onboarding, developing, and retaining talent digitally. Organisations will have to adjust to digital everything and move quickly to transfer in-person interactions to virtual opportunities.
Finally, 2022 will be a year of searching for the greater good, the bigger reason to exist, and those who have a meaningful purpose that is much more than profit and shareholder value will ultimately perform better.
How critical is Employee Experience to drive productivity and performance?
I think of EX as the total collection of what I experience as a human being whether that is related to my actual role as an employee or not. Very few things happen in life that are not attached to my identity as an employee or worker. If I want to buy a new car, I need money, and that is earned by my work. Maybe I want to learn a new skill, also linked to work. A new hobby? Likely funded by work, etc.
The EX also means anything that happens virtually, so I’d say the EX is the key lever for many things, including productivity and performance.
My coaching for 2022 and beyond is for employers to take the time to go through their entire employee life cycle (hiring to exit) to look for gaps that might exist and find ways to improve the experience on every level possible.
Keep in mind that post covid, employees have different expectations from their bosses and leaders. In the new era of work, employees will expect their employers to be involved in social and political issues and the vast majority will be watching to see if their employer takes a stand or remains silent on issues that are important to them, including social and environmental.
Our research titled “Bonus Programs and Practices” also shows that of organizations measuring their bonus program effectiveness, on-the-job performance/productivity is one of the top metrics mentioned for evaluation.
Do you think the larger focus on EX is helping businesses attract and retain the best talent around the world? What's working and where are the gaps?
I do think ultimately the focus on EX will achieve more results for organisations, but the bigger win is to think about the EX in the context of the life experience that person wants to have since our life choices dictate a lot of whether we feel successful or not at work.
Remember that there will be a lot more integration of the full person at work because many life issues of the time have robustly entered the workplace as two things shifted: the request for diversity and inclusion which meant more of myself is coming to work and the virtual workplace which gave much greater access to my home, pets, kids, hobbies, and life.
The traditional definitions of big constructs like leadership, tenure, power, titles, and office politics will be fundamentally changed due to the last two years. There will be gaps as it will take time for new behaviors to be adopted and the trust to be built that relies on digital interactions and not time in an office.
Think about it, even the phrase ‘are you in the office next week’ is quite out of date for many people around the world. There are many things about ‘work’ that just don’t fit any longer and for many, this will be challenging to accept and adopt. For others, it is a very welcome shift.
We observed some interesting statistics in our survey “Drivers of Employer Choice and Employee Retention” done in 2020. It highlighted companies that provide a good culture and recognise employees regularly have significantly lower turnover than organizations not focusing on these aspects of the employee experience. A 20-point difference in likelihood to seek a new job.
One of the phrases we have come to generally accept is that ‘employees are our greatest asset.’ If I want to surf in the mornings and that is core to my happiness, I need to find work that accommodates that.
How does a reward and recognition strategy impact productivity?
Let me answer that with a question to you; does your current company focus on building better people or better employees?
To me, that fundamental question will tell me a lot about your company and your intentions. We have all been to a lot of corporate training courses, all of which were likely aimed at you being a better version of the employee you are today.
Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t enough anymore, and we must also be in the business of building better people. This already happens in many organizations that offer bonuses to employees who give back to their communities. We have also seen our member companies do team building where a bunch of new hires had to build dollhouses in a race against time, then deliver the houses to local orphanages. Work and life are not separate, so when you think about rewards, go bigger, broader, and bolder than just recognising the employee---see that full person and how amazing she is in total.
Find ways to tap the full person, including rewarding and recognising them and that is your best chance at enhancing productivity as well as keeping them with you as a high performer.
My favorite corporate class I ever took was “finding the artist within” and it was related to being a more creative person. Did it help me be a better employee? Well, it made me a better person, and better people always make better employees.
What skills and behavioral changes, do companies and by extension employees need to nurture to stay productive and profitable in a world of work that is constantly changing and is more integrated than ever before?
My first thought is that we must understand that the workforce you sent home before Covid is not the workforce that you have today.
Leaders should start there and use this unique opportunity to focus on their purpose which is a direct influencer of productivity and profitability.
My second thought is that another person answered this question very well.
Futurist Alvin Toffler once wrote that “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
I think there is great power in that and it will be one of the most significant differentiators in how individuals, teams, and organisations perform.
A lot of what we thought about work has not only changed but may have never really worked to begin with. Be open to the shifts that let people do their best work by being their full self and never shy away from building better people as a way to build better productivity and profits!
Oh, and I’d advise you to hurry, speed will play a major role in every organisation and industry as we grapple with redefining the EX and Life Experience our employees want.
What is your personal productivity hack that works for you?
Let’s set aside my incredible enjoyment of Iced Tea and focus on the one thing that helps me the most. I have learned when to work alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good brainstorming session as well as intense collaboration. And, I also love knowing when it is that only me, myself, and I need to work on something in order to get it done.
Get an opportunity to meet Scott Cawood, CCP, GRP, CBP, CEO, WorldatWork and learn from him at People Matters Workforce Productivity Conference on 10th Feb, 2022.