Today's world of work is undergoing major changes in certain key aspects: productivity, technology, workforce composition, and others. People Matters asked Graeme Beardsell, Managing Director APJ for distributed computing giant Akamai, for his take on how some of these areas are evolving. Here's what he shared.
What are your thoughts on measuring workforce performance and productivity in the workplace of the future? How can leaders and managers reconcile the old "butts-in-seats" view with the reality of the dispersed workforce?
This is a question that we are thinking about a lot, and that is no longer a future possibility but a current reality. Many businesses will be working from home forever, or at least the longer term.
At Akamai, we have given our employees the option to work from home for the rest of 2020, regardless of whether their local office has opened. This means that we are already considering how to measure performance and productivity in this style of workplace. We are lucky that, as a global technology company, we are set up and ready for working from home and our essential business model means that the transition from office to working from home was smooth. We have equipped our employees at home as well and have given money or tools to people to set up their home offices with good ergonomics in mind.
The implementation of wellness sessions, social events and online learning is essential to keep morale and productivity high. These activities are implemented with our employees at the centre of our decisions.
What kind of place do you think work-life balance and family friendliness will hold moving forward?
This is a very important consideration, particularly now that our employees have the choice about working from home. We have implemented training for managers and employees as well as programmes that support work-life balance and positive mental health. One such programme is our Employee Assistance Programme in which managers undertake Leading With Empathy webinars which have focus on employee care and flexibility for those with children. There are also company sponsored activities that employees are encouraged to make use of, for example, Yoga, Meditation and Tai Chi. We actively encourage our employees to set clear boundaries around their working hours to ensure that they work reasonable hours, and we recently announced three global Wellness Days, that employees can take off to focus on themselves.
Upskilling is a huge focus right now, with technology skills being a priority. As a leader of a tech company, what's your perspective on that?
The workplace is a constantly evolving place and it is hard to predict the detailed shifts in skills that are needed for graduates or for experienced professionals who have recently found themselves out of work.
Yet from our perspective there will always be a need in the technology workforce for innovative and analytical minds that are not daunted by complex problems.
We support ISEF and STEM education in general as we believe these subjects create thinkers who are able to tackle these challenges. The Akamai Foundation in particular aims to support local charities and nongovernment organizations across the world to develop STEM-related skills in populations that are underrepresented in the technology workforce.
As to particular areas that we expect to see emerge as a focus when it comes to upskilling the workforce, coding is currently the most popular Udemy course, which suggests that employees are recognizing the importance of this skill.
How do you think the profile of the workforce might be affected by all these changes?
There will be a need for all companies to leverage digital and AI technologies as a result of this pandemic. This has been recognized by businesses such as Boston Consultancy Group who have said that the most successful companies in the future will combine power, speed and transparency with the experience of their human capital.
For our own part, we are constantly leveraging on technology that can help our workforce become more digitally skilled so that customer needs are met. These include online learning as well as ensuring there is employee engagement in specific trainings and surveys that we run. A major result of this pandemic will be that companies are forced to digitalize at a higher rate than pre-pandemic.
Finally, what are your thoughts on how the new workplace is changing the relationships between people and people, and people and technology?
As many employees have grappled with video calls and the problems with microphones or headsets that result, it is obvious that there has been a shift in attitude towards how people view technology.
We expect that this use of technology will remain as the return to work happens in stages across the world. This will mean that employees develop a richer relationship with the technology that they are becoming accustomed to. However, we don’t foresee the relationships between people and people deteriorating.
As a leader, I see huge value in ensuring our employees feel empowered and ready to come back to work with a renewed desire to work with each other to deliver our business offerings to the highest quality. We will continue to foster these important intra-team relationships as this is key to guaranteeing that we as a company continue to remain innovative with our solutions to our customers.