Alice NewAlice NewSeptember 11, 2019
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10min468

Ranked in the global top 10 of the most desirable companies to work for, Netflix is an employer that clearly gives a great deal back to its employees in terms of salary, culture, and development opportunities.

However, it also expects a lot in return and is well-known for its unusual performance assessment method, the so called ‘Keeper Test’.

Instead of having traditional appraisals and annual reviews, Netflix has introduced a permanent evaluation process. Managers and team leaders are encouraged to ask themselves a simple question of colleagues: “If an employee told me he or she had found another job, would I do my best to keep him or her at Netflix?”

If the answer is “no”, the employee in question may be reviewed and eased out of the organisation.

That might be an extreme approach, but they are not alone. An ever-growing number of leading companies, especially those in the technology sectors, are moving away from traditional top down performance reviews and taking a continuous approach instead. Rather than highlighting room for improvement, often when it’s too late, their aim is to emphasise the positive, offering personal development and opportunities for growth.

One simple way companies can enable a continuous feedback approach is to introduce the concept of ‘good talks’. These are regular – but not necessarily informal – conversations, intended to engage, motivate, inspire, and improve employee productivity.

They replace the need for expensive formal assessment interviews conducted twice a year and mean that any issues can be addressed more quickly, before they become serious problems. This is an important factor.

More people leave their employer because of a poor relationship with the line manager and a dearth of development opportunities than for any other reason, including salary. Millennials in particular find that a non-hierarchical working relationship, with opportunities for continuous feedback, is very important, according to research conducted by Careerwise.

Five key ingredients for ‘good talks’

1. Flat hierarchy: Before the good conversations approach can be introduced, there needs to be equality in the relationship between a manager and their team members and an open company culture. There needs to be a feeling that people can speak openly and be listened to, without facing negative consequences.

2. Being well prepared: To be able to give your employees continuous feedback, it’s important to have a clear end goal and ask relevant questions. You also need to understand what motivates the person involved. Is it money, flexibility, autonomy, status or social interaction for instance? And offer them appropriate development opportunities.

Preparation should also include spending time observing their behaviour before any conversations start. This way you can go into depth during your talks and offer opportunities that will motivate them to achieve the best for themselves.

3. Introduce measurable changes: To ensure that routine conversations can become viable replacements for an annual review, implement the following measurable changes…

  • Increase the number of talks held per year. This can vary from once a month to having one every three months. It’s up to the manager and employee to agree the most worthwhile frequency to suit their goals.
  • Hand over ownership of these conversations to employees and make them more involved. Let them take the lead when preparing and handling mutual conversations and give them the opportunity to influence the right outcomes.

4. Ask the right questions: When preparing for good conversations, managers can consider the following questions as a starting point for a useful discussion.

  • What do changes in market/technology/society/politics require of my team, now and in the long term?
  • What influence do internal developments have on the expertise and skills of my team within the next three years?
  • How do I see the future of my team?
  • What are the three most important goals for my team in the coming years?
  • Which competences and skills are already available for this, and which are not?
  • How do I facilitate and stimulate a culture where learning and development are common?
  • To what extent am I an example when it comes to (career) development?
  • Who, or what, do I need to keep my team up to date?

5. Encourage employees to ask questions like these:

  • What developments do I see in my field and in the environment in the coming years?
  • Do I expect my position to change in the future?
  • How do I view this expected change?
  • Are other requirements set for me to continue to function well in the future?
  • What questions do I have about this with my supervisor?
  • What changes in the personal sphere do I experience and what does this mean for my development?
  • What do I need to keep functioning well and to keep work that suits me?

The best companies are moving away from formal review meetings held once or twice a year, and introducing continuous feedback loops instead. Rather than let poor performance and dissatisfaction or insecurity set in, informal discussions highlight any issues quickly, employees gain more insight into how current performance impacts strategic goals and have the chance to adjust as necessary.

Employees who receive regular feedback on their performance in an informal way enjoy their work more. When people feel listened to and have a say in work processes, their motivation gets a boost and this is always good for business.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 10, 2019
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7min532

A new report from customer engagement software firm Freshworks Inc has cast light on a staggering number of hours wasted annually by sales and service agents who struggle to navigate software they are forced to use, despite having no say in its implementation.

The Voice in the Choice survey, which was released at Freshworks’ user conference, Refresh ‘19, shows that US-based sales staff waste a combined 516 million hours a year as a result of top-down ‘software dictatorship’. The report shows that having no say in the choice of software, and using it despite the problems it creates, is costing firms time, money, and morale.

It is also affecting firms’ ability to control customer retention and satisfaction. It is estimated that in the US, the wasted hours amount to an incredible $8.3 billion in lost productivity every year.

The survey, which questioned 400 frontline customer service and success employees, showed that respondents feel powerless to determine which software they use, with 96 percent having little or no influence into its selection. Likewise, 57 percent have no clue who chooses the software they use, and 43 percent don’t know why the software was chosen. In fact, respondents indicated that they have greater control over snack selection at their offices than they do regarding the software that they use day in and day out.

Employee’s influence in decisions affecting their work life

  • Personal work schedule (28 percent)
  • Seat or desk assignment (20 percent)
  • Office snack selection (17 percent)
  • Software they use (7 percent)

Conversely, when it comes to the biggest impact on end users’ ability to do their jobs well, software becomes the top factor. Forty-seven percent say the software they use has a major or complete impact on their ability to do their jobs well.

Work life factors that improve employee performance

  • Software they use (47 percent)
  • Work schedule (41 percent)
  • Seat or desk assignment (16 percent)
  • Office snack selection (6 percent)
Demand freedom: ‘Hated’ software brings frustration to the workplace

The report shows that the pain of software dictatorship has both quantitative and qualitative ramifications. Half (50 percent) of respondents say that when they have to use software they hate, it is harder for them to satisfy their customers. One-in-five report that when they are frustrated with software, they are more likely to be rude to customers.

Exclusion from their organisations’ software decision-making also impacts overall employee morale and, ultimately, employee retention. Nearly one-in-four end users (24 percent) say that using software they hate makes them want to quit their jobs. This flight risk is more acute with millennials, with 30 percent reporting that handcuffing them to bad software makes them want to pack up and leave.

Tellingly, using ‘hated’ software brings frustration and unhappiness at work to more people (26 percent) than the drudgery of long hours and working overtime (23 percent).

The survey revealed that increased user involvement not only increases productivity but increases their job satisfaction as well. End users report that if management involved them in deciding what software to use, it would make them feel respected (60 percent) and empowered (40 percent) while boosting employee morale (43 percent).

The survey revealed that increased user involvement not only increases productivity but increases their job satisfaction as well. End users report that if management involved them in deciding what software to use, it would make them feel respected (60 percent) and empowered (40 percent) while boosting employee morale (43 percent).

Enlightened managers are adopting a more democratic approach to selecting software for net positive gains. Over half of end users say that helping to choose the software their company uses to engage with customers would result in happier customers (53 percent) and higher employee productivity (52 percent). In fact, over half of millennials (52 percent) report that they’d be at least 25 percent better at their job if they could choose the software they use.

Freshworks CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham, said: “This lack of employee involvement is an outrage for those on the frontlines of the customer relationship and should be a wake-up call for companies who are looking to increase both employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Organisations have a responsibility – to their employees, their customers and themselves – to bring the voice of their workers into the technology-buying process. The happiness of their employees and customers depends on it, as does the health of their business.

“As our productivity and happiness at work becomes more closely tied to the technology we use, executives and managers have a true opportunity to make better software choices by giving a voice to their employees. Organisations can enact a more democratic selection process through a number of best practices, including employee surveys, pilot programs, employee committees and many other tactics to ensure worker voices are heard and can be as productive as possible.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 30, 2019
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2min824

Forty percent of UK employees would consider working in a temporary, interim, or contract position, according to a new poll, in order to enjoy benefits including a better lifestyle.

Research undertaken by staffing business Walters People found that for those who would take on such positions, 47 percent said the motive would be an improved lifestyle, 29 percent cited higher hourly pay, 26 percent said more flexibility, and 19 percent said they would accept a temp post in order to be exposed to new skills.

Regions where the ambition to contract is most prevalent include Wales (47 percent), Yorkshire & Humber (44 percent), East Midlands (42 percent), and London (40 percent).

Further analysis shows that for the first time in 18 months, contracting vacancies in the UK has seen a significant boost – increasing by 29 percent in Q2 of this year.

Regions which have seen the biggest increase in contract or interim vacancies over the past three months are Birmingham, Manchester, London, Bristol, and Leeds.

Director of Walters People London, Phill Westcott said: “There are almost 5 million self-employed people in the UK – ten years ago, this number would have been in the tens of thousands. This shift is not down to any one generation but is an indicator of where the mindset of the UK workforce is moving.

“Work life balance, reticence to be part of corporate structures, lack of training or progression, unpaid overtime, exposure to new industries, and the desire to seek out interesting project type work are just a few of the common reasons we often hear professionals who have made the contract-role switch or would like too.”

The desire to contract is most prevalent for professionals in Technology & IT (48 percent), Procurement & Supply Chain (46 percent), and Banking & Financial Services (45 percent).


Aidan CramerAidan CramerAugust 22, 2019
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6min986

The traditional recruitment model is broken.

In fact, anyone who has braved the world of CVs and cover letters, impersonal correspondence, and the apparent disappearance of all jobs that sound appealing will be hard-pressed not to reach that conclusion.

But the UK’s lagging productivity furnishes us with yet more proof. In April, Richard Hays of the Office for National Statistics told the BBC that “it has taken the UK a decade to deliver two percent growth, which historically was achieved in a single year”.

The headline of the article refers to the ‘lost decade’. This loss in productivity points to mass disengagement among the workforce, and the recruitment industry has to take its share of the blame. When the wrong people are in the wrong jobs, they switch off or become unhappy, neither of which is conducive to efficiency.

It would be easier not to criticise traditional recruitment if it were not such a vast and wealthy sector whose actions play an important role in the lives of individual people and the health of the economy. I was one of those graduates who spent days perusing job boards, speaking to recruiters and refining cover letters and CVs, and it was an experience that was frustrating and demotivating. I’ve heard countless stories of recent graduates who came out of university full of enthusiasm and ready to throw themselves wholeheartedly into a career only to find themselves in exactly the same position – regardless of grades or experience.

Especially damaging is the inexorable trend towards the commodification of candidates. These – we should remember – are young people at a very important and stressful time in their lives. In their eyes, the job they take next could define their entire career. And although those who’ve had several jobs would be quick to point out that a misfire (or two) doesn’t preclude you from a fulfilling career, that’s not the way you see it when you’ve just come out of university.

And yet the traditional recruitment industry has come to see graduates as units rather than people, and always puts the business first at their expense. Without understanding the candidate as an individual person with a unique set of skills and characteristics, it’s impossible to know in which jobs they’ll thrive – and this is as much to the detriment of businesses looking for people as it is to candidates.

Then there’s the CV and cover letter, which has its origins with Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago. That might be proof enough that change is overdue, but we see more proof in the industrialisation of the CV-and-cover-letter-writing process in many fee-paying schools. Young people at these schools are far more likely to have interview practice and training in finding a job, and this not only creates a lopsided world of work, with privileged candidates more likely to take privileged jobs, but breeds homogeneity: supposedly individual documents which somehow look the same for different people, and convey little of the personality and attitude that is so vital to work.

What we have is an entire industry that hasn’t caught up with the changes taking place in the world of work. Millennials and Generation Z are emerging into a post-recession digital world in which ‘disruption’ is always around the corner. Tech has overtaken finance as the most exciting sector, and the familiar promises of money and security ring hollow: those who watched the collapse of household-name companies from Lehman Brothers to Blockbuster are rightly suspicious of these kinds of appeals.

A gap has opened up between the recruiting industry, the candidates, and the companies, and we see evidence of that in a disengaged workforce and a trend towards ‘going it alone’ in the form of entrepreneurship.

As it is, the candidates are losing out and the companies are losing out. And in the long-term that’s bad news for everyone, not solely the companies or people losing out directly. What we should adopt instead is something 21st century and tech-powered. Most important of all, we should adopt something that puts the candidate first.


Christopher SavioChristopher SavioAugust 21, 2019
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11min1262

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become engrained in our day-to-day lives without us even noticing.

From basic voice assistants that can play music by just saying one word, to self-driving cars – there’s no turning back from the world of AI. Today’s tech-savvy consumers have grown to love AI so much due to its ability to improve overall Customer Experience and resolve issues in a timely way. As a result, businesses are jumping on board the AI journey at an unprecedented pace. There is little doubt in AI’s ability to dramatically transform CX, so why isn’t the same attention being given to the Employee Experience?   

Today’s workforce

Today’s workforce has changed dramatically compared to that of previous generations. More employees are working remotely than in traditional offices, and recent research shows that by the year 2020 more than 50 percent of employees will enjoy the benefits of working someplace other than a traditional office.

In addition to where we work, how we work is also changing. While millennials have had access to cell phones and the internet for virtually their entire lives, even generations that have not grown up with this technology are embracing well-designed, easy-to-use applications. Employees across industries expect technology to make jobs easier and more productive, however, the bar for what companies believe is user-friendly technology is often far too low. 

Even companies that are forward-thinking and want to move beyond antiquated systems, are struggling to implement technology that is as easy to use as Alexa, but also seamlessly fits into the current processes and workflow – and it’s having an impact on retention and employee satisfaction. Research suggests that a majority of employees that are looking for new jobs are doing so because of broken company processes, including being able to connect with support departments like IT and HR.

A direct correlation

One wrong Customer Experience can create a lasting impression. Therefore, businesses are now so focused on providing exceptional CX that Employee Experience becomes an afterthought. Businesses know that if they want to compete with the Amazons of the world, they need to go above and beyond to ensure a superior CX.

They have done this by pulling out all the stops and implementing new technologies that allow consumers to do things like virtually design homes with furniture they’re considering buying or try on clothing in a virtual dressing room. These innovations have changed the game when it comes to Customer Experience. But behind the curtain, employees are under constant pressure to provide this experience and are not equipped with the same flashy technologies to help them do their jobs. 

In fact, the technologies designed to support the modern workforce often times do the opposite – they hinder employees’ productivity, efficiency, and, as some would claim, even the ability to produce meaningful work.

In a business-driven world where time is money, no-one should struggle to figure out technologies that are supposed to ‘support’ them and make their lives easier. The reality is that many existing support solutions today are outdated and actually work against the employee, inhibiting the ability to help them and the business thrive.

Bright ideas: Artificial intelligence is crucial to future Employee Experience initiatives

The workplace of the future

In what ways can businesses improve Employee Experience whilst also giving their employees the freedom to do the best work? We already know that workplaces of the future are likely to be increasingly more remote, as more companies choose to run their businesses from co-working spaces or have no office space at all. With the workplace becoming more fluid and dynamic, and employees working out of home offices or coffee shops, in varying locations, businesses need to be prepared to support employees across state lines and time zones.

We also know that future of the workplace will be increasingly more digital, as the technical innovations that alter the way we live outside the office will become expected in the professional environment as well.

Businesses need to reimagine the workplace the way they’ve reimagined the customer journey. Emerging technologies like AI-powered chatbots, for example, are helping with everything from onboarding and training, to providing assistance during meetings, to helping solve common employee questions that often plague IT, HR, facilities and other support teams at organisations. AI is helping businesses save time and energy – while still ensuring employees have help every step of the way. 

Inundations of Help Tickets

A great example of AI in the workplace is in IT, which isn’t surprising with IT being the backbone of technology exploration and vetting at organisations. These teams spend a good majority of their days working through cluttered support queues full of repetitive tickets – whether its password resets, email access or printer setups. These are questions that can often be found in knowledge management systems or intranets, but when employees have questions – especially if those issues are hindering them from getting work done – they would much rather ask their IT buddy than go searching through a sea of URLs and documents to find the answer.

This endless onslaught of requests cuts down on the amount of time the IT team can devote to higher-value problem solving or long-term strategic initiatives. Not to mention, it must be incredibly frustrating when ten people in one day ask you how to access a remote server – copy and paste at its finest. IT teams, which are already stretched thin, are drowning in these requests day in and day out, and it becomes a problem for the entire business operation.

And IT isn’t the only one affected by this cyclical support queue. While the help desk team is busy working its way through tickets or dealing with an unexpected ‘fire drills’, employees who are waiting for support grow frustrated with resolution time.

Sometimes they even turn to unauthorised solutions that bring their own security implications. Employing an AI-powered support partner to help answer these questions removes the pain of searching through outdated and hard-to-read knowledge articles, empowers employees to self-serve and opens up the IT team to work with the employees who need them the most. Thanks to Google, today’s workforce is programmed to take a DIY-approach to problem solving and often prefers self-service, so organisations need to embrace and capitalise on this – and AI is one of the ways to help bring it to the workplace. 

Time is money

The famous saying, “time is money”, must be remembered. However, if businesses don’t focus on Employee Experience, they will be diminishing their success in the long-run, creating lasting inefficiencies for the bottom line. Now is the time to start removing friction from the day-to-day by using tools that will enable employees to do their best work. Ultimately, these efforts will allow businesses to thrive as employees will feel motivated to become more productive and simultaneously more satisfied.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 16, 2019
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3min806

A petition by UK employees is calling for workers to be allowed “bereavement leave” in the event of a pet’s death.

The campaign began after 18-year-old sandwich shop worker Emma McNulty, of Baillieston in Scotland, was fired after missing a day following the death of her Yorkshire terrier Milly.

Despite having the dog in her life from the age of four, Emma was sacked the day after informing bosses she was unable to attend because she lost her “best friend”.

A petition calling for the allowance of bereavement leave following the death of a pet has nearly reached 10,000 signatures. Emma started the petition in the hopes that other employees facing similar circumstances can take compassionate leave and not place their job at risk.

Dog-gone: Calls have been made to compassion to be shown to bereaved pet owners

In the UK, all employees have the right to take time off to deal with an emergency concerning a dependant. This can apply to spouses, parents, grandparents, children, or someone who depends on you for care.

However, more employees than ever consider pets as family, with 85 percent of millennials agreeing pets should be treated as loved ones. Fifty-three percent of millennials also believe employers should allow for a period of ‘pet-ernity leave’ to spend time with newly arrived pets.

The survey revealed that 46 percent of millennials see themselves as a ‘pet parent’ rather than a pet owner.

Dr Steph Wenban, Front of The Pack’s vet and pet wellbeing expert, said: “For many homes, pets constitute as family members and are treated with the same love and care as a relative. Therefore, the loss of a pet is extremely saddening and can affect the owners ability to function just as the bereavement of a normal family member. Employers should recognise this, compassionate leave should be granted on emotional attachment and subsequent loss, not black and white guidelines that are hugely subjective from person to person as to what constitutes as loss.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 12, 2019
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19min1237
Gethin Nadin is a world-renowned Employee Experience expert, who has lent his knowledge to the judging panels of events including the UK Employee Experience Awards.
 
A psychology graduate, Gethin understands the thought process behind what brands need to ensure effective employee engagement, and his new book, A World of GoodLessons from Around the World in Improving the Employee Experienceis teaching organisations the steps required to make any workplace a happier place to be.
 
Fellow EX visionary, author, and Employee Experience Masterclass leader, Ben Whitter, has offered his seal of approval to Gethin’s book, describing it as “a great read and a great message to the world”.
 
Gethin, who is Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, spoke with Customer Experience Magazine to discuss A World of Good, his inspirations, and why Employee Experience continues to be of vital importance for business.

Hi Gethin, tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background

After graduating with a psychology degree, I worked in television for a few years for the BBC, Channel 4, and a stint in local radio (even racking up some production credits on IMDB). Struggling to get work in the media, I got a job working in pensions at Legal and General. Five years later I was managing the key accounts team and had developed some strong pensions knowledge as well as CII and ILM qualifications.

After leaving L&G, I moved to Barclays, where I started working in employee benefits technology for clients like GSK, Coca Cola, and British American Tobacco. Fast forward a few years later and I set up the employee benefits department for (at the time) one of Europe’s largest insurance brokers.

I then moved to Benefex, where I have been for eight years as part of the senior management team. My time at Benefex is when my interest in Employee Experience really took off. As well as working closely with organisations like EY and PwC, I started writing and speaking publicly to share my growing knowledge of ways to improve EX.

Benefex has given me the opportunity to help some of the worlds biggest brands to develop their employee engagement, experience, and wellbeing strategies. It’s also give my own best Employee Experience to date.

What led you towards the world of Employee Experience? Did your own previous experiences influence you positively or negatively?

For years I was passionate about improving engagement at work and was lucky enough to help great employers do amazing things to get their people more engaged. But while all of this was going on, there was a growing trend for employers to take a different view of engagement – that it was a psychological product of how we designed employees’ experiences.

In the same way organisations had focussed on how great Customer Experience led to better sales and loyalty, the most progressive ones had now realised that a carefully designed Employee Experience was the best way to boost employee engagement. At the time, Jacob Morgan’s book, The Employee Experience Advantage, really opened my eyes to how the most experimental organisations were achieving this.

When I started to think about my own experiences, I started to realise that historically, when I had been disengaged at work, it was as a result of lots of things – difficult commutes, poor technology, uncomfortable offices, lack of autonomy, etc. I’ve had some of the best and worst experiences that both had an impact on my wellbeing. I wanted to make sure that I could help as many employees as possible have a great experience at work and this started by writing my thoughts down in a book.

Tell us about the book and your inspirations/influences in writing it.

Aside from my own experiences, I became really taken with the idea that employment in general has a significant effect on humans. Work has become a big part of our lives and rightly or wrongly, plays a part in how we identify ourselves and how we define success. The lines between home and work life rarely exist anymore, which means the way we feel about our experiences at work have a big effect on how we feel about our lives.

The more I read, researched and wrote about people’s experiences at work, the more I found the growing body of evidence for how treating employees well leads to business growth. I also found that the more time I spent with employers, the more I realised that lots of this knowledge wasn’t well known.

In 2017, many employers were still treating employees unfairly. However, what did start to happen at that time was that the media was paying close attention. As whistle-blowers started to expose poor employment practices, we saw well known brands dragged through the mud.

This started to have a big impact on consumer behaviour for those brands and so suddenly, lots of organisations really started to see that they had to treat employees better if they were going to deliver the kind of Customer Experience they needed to. At the time though, the big issue seemed to be that many organisations didn’t know how to improve the Employee Experience. Most organisations couldn’t afford to be as experimental as the likes of Google, so I saw an opportunity to help these employers improve the experience easily and with little investment.

As I started writing the book, I realised that so many of the new and progressive EX practices companies were using were actually really old. In some countries, they were hundreds of years old!

That’s when the format came to me – I could use lessons from different countries and cultures all over the world as a way of telling a story I could then back up with academic research. Where possible, these would be stories that could help organisations take a different view of their employees’ experiences and the impact old ways of thinking were having.

Since its publication, the book has hit the Amazon HR bestseller list and won an award. But the most rewarding achievements come from the messages I receive from the people managers who tell me they’ve changed their EX after reading the book. In some cases, decades old HR policies have been binned in favour of ones that improve the lives of their employees. I never expected that would happen!

Employee Experience is now a deciding factor for job seekers. Can you tell us where many firms are going wrong when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?

One of the most popular reasons employees give for leaving a new job is that the experience didn’t match up with the expectation. Many employers spend huge amounts of effort developing an employer brand and an employee value proposition, but if the reality is that their employees are struggling at work, it becomes wasted effort.

We live in a world where your employment practices can be publicly discussed. Organisations can now analyse your employer brand to see how ex-employees talk about you online. Employees can also rate and review their employers.

We have never had transparency like this before!

Add that to low unemployment and a shortage of talent and suddenly, the job is the product and the employee is the consumer. The employee now has the choice and ease to decide who they want to work with. This means employers have never had to work harder to recruit and retain employees. 

Where lots of organisations are now going wrong is that they aren’t thinking about how their experiences are being designed. Your EX shouldn’t be something that just happens; it should be something you have carefully designed.

This begins with empathising with your employees. Take something like changing jobs: when an employee has signed a contract with you and quit their old job, they are an engaged employee in their prime. They are excited, but they are also nervous. Changing jobs is stressful and ridden with anxiety, yet many organisations don’t empathise with these feelings.

We make potential employees wait weeks to hear from us after an interview and then after we’ve signed their contract, we don’t speak to them again until their first day. Then we give them lots of paperwork to do and so rather than a fun, exciting first day, it’s usually full of admin that could have been done weeks before.

World view: Gethin Nadin, author of A World of Good: Lessons from Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience

On a more positive note, what are your experiences of interacting with organisations that are getting Employee Experience right?

Its probably the question I get asked most: “Who is doing Employee Experience well?”, but it’s not the question employers should be asking.

We are obsessed with wanting to know what other companies are doing in a desire to do it better than them. When it comes to EX, every employee has different wants and needs and what employers should be concentrating on is developing the best experience they can for them. A unique experience that you can deliver will be your USP. A potential employees’ best experience to date will be their benchmark, so you should be focussed on making an experience that is better than that, rather than a competitor. Every company is unique, so the kind of experience you can offer should be too.

Where I see organisations with great employee experiences, there is trust. I believe its at the heart of any great experience at work. When real trust exists, employers can get the employees to design their own experiences. When we trust employees to make the right decisions, great things happen.

Employee Experience naturally leads to better Customer Experience. Can you tell explain why this is the case to any organisations that might not yet realise this?

When I come across organisations that are doing the experience right, I can really feel it. I notice this more as a consumer than I do as someone working in the industry. We can’t expect employees to deliver the best CX unless they are cared for and treated well themselves. You can follow a great Customer Experience backwards and find a great Employee Experience. The best CX will always start with Employee Experience!

There are some really good examples of where great EX has enabled employees to do great things for customers. A UK bank gives employees a discretionary budget each to empower them to make their customers’ day great. I’ve seen them buy pizza for a hungry customer visiting the bank on their lunch break, and deliver flowers to a customer that was having a difficult day. As humans, we love to do things for other people and when we make others happy, it makes us happy.

We are also seeing how some major brands are now using their EX to market themselves. When John Lewis re-branded as ‘John Lewis and Partners’, it was to reflect the key role their staff play in the company’s success. An expensive advert campaign declared ‘When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’. Brands now know that the way they treat their staff will play a part in whether you want to buy their products or services. When organisations have struggled to realise that, they’ve felt the damage. We’ve seen this with Uber, Amazon, and Sports Direct.

As I write in the preface of the book – more than ever, a company’s front line affects their bottom line. Improving the lives of employees should be a priority for every employer. Nowhere is this more important than with those who deal directly with your customers.

 


Cameron SmithCameron SmithAugust 9, 2019
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8min1823

At its best, science fiction taps into our contemporary anxieties to predict the fate of humanity.

An episode of Doctor Who, for example, featured robotised mega-corporations, human irrelevance, and despair. The Doctor may be sci-fi fantasy, but the issues are real.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is reshaping many sectors – for both good and ill. Gartner predicted that artificial intelligence would generate $1.2 trillion in business value in 2018 – an increase of 70 percent from 2017. But on the negative side, it creates much anxiety about the elimination of jobs, and prolonged focus on the cost and job-cutting aspects of AI has overshadowed how the technology can help human employees.

The CX example: how tools can hinder trade

In the customer service sector the rise in AI, decision-support, automation, and chatbots has exploded across the industry, driving multi-channel customer experience (CX). But adoption of these technologies for employee engagement has been slow. Contact centres have some of the highest employee turnover rates in the world, and there’s been troubling analysis suggesting new technology is inhibiting employee performance, engagement, and satisfaction.

Gartner analysis reveals service representatives use the mindboggling average of 8.2 different systems and tools during a customer interaction. Small wonder, then, that talk-time is up nearly 14 percent while call volume has remained the same.

We have amazing systems driving less-than-amazing experiences for the people charged with using them. A primary source of the problem stems from something obvious. We’re measuring the wrong things.

Just exactly what should we measure?

In our rush to capitalise on AI technologies, we’re failing to evaluate the way they ultimately integrate into human workflows. In the customer service sector, technology is better at handling many discrete tasks but does not replace human representatives.

It’s becoming standard practice, for example, for companies to host automated, largely self-service interaction options for customers that are always available. Digital account portals supply constant access and handy personalisation capabilities, while well-designed chatbots and virtual assistants are excellent at taking orders, payment processing, status checks, or informational queries.

But for more complex requests that require human nuance and context, technology-enhanced services can complicate the situation. When dealing with the customer, human agents are at a loss without access to what transpired during those digital interactions. And even when human agents can access those systems, they shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between applications and databases while attempting to deliver proper support to a customer.

This problem is perfect for AI solutions. Analytics engines that deliver historical and/or relevant customer information to support agents automatically and in real time can speed rather than delay productive conversation. Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems recognise spoken keywords and supply agents with useful prompts or notes, sparing them from app fatigue and task-switching. Virtualised on-demand training systems can keep them stimulated and engaged.

This employee-centric AI deserves more study and development. Systems that aren’t generating a positive Employee Experience will negatively affect the Customer Experience they deliver. Exploring ways AI can better serve employees is the solution. And measuring how employees view these tools should be the first metric for success, not an afterthought.

Collaborate to work out what best to measure

Applying AI to better serve the employee is crucial, but should be measured and managed with caution, given the enormous amount of data available.

One of the greatest struggles from an AI development perspective is determining how often a system should prompt the employee and whether there should be a trigger. Can such a mechanism be ranked? Do we allow the employee to turn off certain notifications because they’re annoying?

There’s a risk of overdoing AI assistance for Employee Experience. It could get very frustrating, very quickly. The only way to arrive at balanced employee-centric AI application is through collaboration. The people using the technology should have representation at the development table, which is also an excellent way to increase job satisfaction.

The future will require us to adapt what we measure

As AI technology becomes integrated into the enterprise, we must adapt how we gauge human performance. In CX management, technological innovation dictates that businesses restructure how they view customer contacts and the human staff who perform those jobs.

Contact centre positions will no longer be entry-level or outsourceable roles. With automation handling all the basic contact tasks, human customer service becomes a more specialised profession. Savvy and emotionally intelligent customer service employees with thorough understanding of a business and its technology will be a necessity. They’ll be managing only the most important, complex, or delicate customer concerns.

Today’s metrics, such as talk-time or calls-per-hour, provide little quantification under such circumstances – but the quality of this work will largely determine a company’s reputation among human beings.

And that’s not science fiction!


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 8, 2019
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3min973

Data harvested from Google Images has revealed the extent to which women around the world appear to be underrepresented in senior management roles, compared to the actual number of women holding these posts in real life.

Global data provider Creditsafe replicated a standard first impression for a search engine results page and looked at the top 25 Google Image results for the search term ‘CEO’ in 15 countries to see how many times women were shown.

According to statistics from the International Labour Organisation, women represent an average of 31.3 percent of the world’s senior business leaders. However, just 11.9 percent of Google Images results for the search ‘CEO’ were of women.

In the Creditsafe research, Colombia was revealed to be the country with the largest discrepancy between Google’s results (zero percent) with the country’s actual percentage of women in managerial roles (53.1 percent). Russia, Norway, Mexico, and Japan were the only other countries to have no female representation in their respective top 25 Google Images results.

The UK was found to have a negative discrepancy of just over 15 percent. With 34 percent of the nation’s business leaders being female, just 19 percent of search results showcased women in these types of leadership roles.

Meanwhile, Canada was the only country in this analysis to have a higher percentage of women in its Google Images than in real life (up by 2.68 percent). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) depicted the truest representation out of all countries referenced in the research, however, this was reliant on the country only having 10 percent of women in senior managerial positions.

Commenting on the results, Carys Hughes, CFO at Creditsafe, said: “Google collects images from sites across the web and shows an aggregation to users. If we want to change this, we need to ensure women are being represented accurately in our media, as well as our boardrooms.

“Data accuracy is crucial to our performance as an international business intelligence supplier. It allows our customers to make informed decisions to help grow their organisations and we think it’s astounding that the statistics are so far from reality in most countries around the world. Our analysis has revealed that once again a source such as Google is not always the most accurate and whatever we are researching always needs to be backed up with accurate and up-to-date information.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 8, 2019
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3min1304

British Airways is among firms taking part in a new initiative to boost productivity by having staff go on a week-long “workation” to Lithuania.

The Workstation Vilinius programme offers firms the chance to send staff to the Lithuanian capital to work, with the change in environment believed to stimulate employee engagement. The scheme reflects a rise in remote working that could see as much as 50 percent of the global workforce not tied to offices by 2020.

Three international companies – Monese, British Airways, and Siemens – won this year’s Workstation Vilinius places, and three teams of up to 10 employees from each firm will travel to Vilinius in September for a week of working against an inspiring new backdrop. They will be welcomed by Go Vilinius, the official development agency of the city.

Heroes and Vilnius: the Lithianian capital is hosting global employees for a week-long ‘workation’

General Manager of Go Vilnius, Inga Romanovskienė, said: “During the first Workation Vilnius programme that took place last year, we welcomed teams from British Telecom, Expedia, and OrderYoyo.

“By having such high-calibre applicants for the second year in a row, we believe that Vilnius is able to position itself amongst Europe’s top capitals for doing business. This is not only due to the international mindset which is adopted by our city’s business sector. It is also a result of our emphasis on the establishment of a healthy work-life balance for our professionals.”

A British Airways spokesperson said: “As a global organisation, we seek to enhance our cross-market working environments. Having the opportunity to work from Vilnius would strengthen our teams’ relationships and empower our employees.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 7, 2019
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3min780

A majority of UK adults are worried for the future of their jobs due to the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), a new report has revealed.

According to the findings of think tank Fountech.ai, 67 percent of 2,000 adults polled are worried AI will result in machines taking people’s jobs. Meanwhile, the survey also shows that 58 percent find the use of AI tools such as those used by Amazon and Netflix to recommend products to us “creepy”, and 59 percent are nervous about the way their personal data is collected and used since the rise of AI tech.

However, according to the poll, 62 percent believe AI will do more good than harm to the world, while 37 percent admit they do not fully understand what AI means.

Furthermore, only 30 percent claim to regularly use technologies powered by AI. This is despite the fact that popular tools such as Google’s search engine, Siri, most major email providers, and Facebook – as well as the aforementioned Amazon and Netflix platforms – all use AI.

One-in-three (31 percent) respondents said they do not think AI will ever be able to truly replicate the cognitive ability of humans. Nevertheless, three quarters (74 percent) want to see the UK government do more to govern the way AI technologies are developed and used.

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and founder of Fountech, said: “People tend to fear what they don’t understand, and today’s research is an example of this. For decades, AI has been misrepresented in sci-fi movies and literary fiction, but we should not let this blinker our view of how this amazing technology can enhance the world around us.

“AI can solve problems and achieve tasks that we previously considered impossible – it will undoubtedly open doors to countless opportunities so we can make the world a better place. Importantly, as this study shows, the technology must be harnessed and used in the right way – the ethical questions surrounding the development of AI will rightly remain until both governments and businesses show they are applying it in responsible, safe ways.”


Lucy SloanLucy SloanAugust 6, 2019
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10min867

Described as a ‘generation disrupted’, millennials are a pivotal talking point in every sphere.

Deloitte’s most recent millennial survey uncovers the impact continuous change and instability has had on younger generations. Their lack of trust towards employers and business leaders has bred cynicism and dissatisfaction towards their financial situations and jobs. 

The rapidly changing world of business, where an increasing number of organisations are determined to grow quickly and become more profitable with fewer resources, could be a contributing factor to this view. It’s unsurprising that millennial cynicism is breeding a new set of workplace standards that’s forcing businesses to revaluate the way they address engagement to attract and retain millennial talent.

But why is engaging this particular generation so important? In years to come millennials and Gen Ys will make up the bulk of the workforce and whilst they won’t completely rule the roost, they’re already shaping and influencing business and workforce landscapes. There’s an increasing need to build their trust and inspire loyalty.

So, what do these insights mean for organisations and the way they engage with this particular workforce?

Skill-set support

Alongside millennials, technology and digitisation are rapidly shaping the business landscape. We’re in the midst of a transition into a new working world also known as ‘Industry 4.0’. With artificial intelligence taking on more roles in the workplace and widening industries providing the ability to define new jobs, shifts and subsequent challenges are rocking the employment world.

The impact on workers is clear and although this new industry 4.0 is a work in progress, there will be a change in demand of skills required. A significant proportion of millennials and Gen Zs feel they aren’t fully equipped with these skills, and expect they’ll have to evolve their own capabilities to increase their value to employers.

The debate over how these skills will be acquired and who’s primarily responsible for preparing workers for the future is interesting. Millennials put the onus on employers. However, a separate 2019 Deloitte global survey focussing on Industry 4.0, found that leaders were more likely to say the responsibility fell on government and schools rather than businesses.

This shows a significant disconnect between employers and young employees on who should take responsibility for preparing them for future skills requirements that will result from Industry 4.0. It’s within the company’s best interests to support and invest in their employees otherwise they’re just adding minimal value or actively working against the organisation.

The temptation to go alone

The report also found that nearly half of millennials would, given the choice, quit their current jobs in the next two years. Their reasons for this revolve around pay, and lack of both opportunities to advance and learning development. Although it’s easier to pretend that retention isn’t an issue, it is. Not only is recruitment expensive and time consuming, a high employee turnover rate doesn’t exactly enhance morale and makes it much harder for other remaining employees to maintain productivity.

World at their feet?: Many millennials are choosing the gig economy for work, though this can mean financial uncertainty

We also can’t ignore the fact it’s an employee’s job market. If your workplace culture doesn’t meet millennials needs, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if they leave – even if they don’t have a job lined up. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is a big contributing factor to this. This mainly refers to freelance or contract work and 84 percent of millennials said they would consider joining it. Although it brings uncertainty there are clear advantages such as the opportunity to earn more money, work the hours they want and achieve a better work/life balance.

Flexibility

We’re already beginning to see how some of these millennial attitudes are impacting and shaping the workplace. The number of companies offering flexible working arrangements and other ‘gig-like’ features such as sabbatical programmes is a clear sign of these impacts. Giving employees a break every five years can give them something additional to work towards. It’s a reward that offers invaluable opportunities such as travelling, studying or spending time with family.

These programmes vary from employer to employer. Nando’s offers a paid four-week sabbatical for every five years of continual service. Similarly, EY in Australia has introduced a number of new flexible work initiatives, including the option for employees to take up to 12 weeks of ‘Life Leave’. Although these initiatives can just be seen as another retention tool, they do come with their benefits. In a talent market where a lot of employers are saying the same thing, the only way to truly differentiate yourself is to create policies that support your claims.

Offering flexible working, autonomy, opportunities to make an impact and sabbatical programmes demonstrate trust in employees and shows that you respect their professional and personal lives as well as their general wellbeing. This is a huge differentiator when it comes to marketing yourself as a good employer. Free lunches, beanbags, and gym memberships are all well and good, but nothing can compete with time for personal growth or time spent with family.

What should organisations do differently?

Millennials and Gen Zs who responded to this report want all of the talk organisations gives to their purpose, culture, and values to become meaningful action, and to serve as agents for positive change. To inspire trust and loyalty, businesses need to demonstrate how they’re supporting their younger workforce and do so in a way that’s meaningful and authentic.

For millennials to have such an appetite and expectations for organisations to be enhancing lives, it’s no surprise they’re distrusting and cynical when they don’t see enough businesses taking responsibility for investing in their people. When this generation are going to make up the bulk of the workforce and become the main influencers of your organisation, they’ll be the first to call out when you stray from your purpose and values.

All of this means that investing in and showing genuine support towards your employees shouldn’t be limited generationally. The world of work is changing, and companies can no longer turn a blind eye to how much they rely on the energy, loyalty and engagement of all of their employees to survive.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 5, 2019
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6min1098

There isn’t a lot that Ben Whitter doesn’t know about when it comes to employee engagement and getting the best out of a workforce.

Known throughout the UK and further afield as Mr Employee Experience, the founder and Chief Experience Officer at the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI) also shares his expert knowledge at the Employee Experience Masterclass, the next of which is taking place in London this October.

Now Ben (pictured left) plans to reach an even wider audience with the publication of his debut book – a text certain to become required reading for HR staff, CEOs, and more across the land as ever more firms switch on to the benefits of providing an exceptional Employee Experience – for the benefit of both staff and the company’s bottom line.

Succinctly titled Employee Experience, the book is described as a guide to developing a “happy, productive and supported workforce for exceptional individual and business performance”. As the author outlines, Employee Experience (EX) is “every experience and interaction an employee has with a business”.

It is a broad, strategic approach that is challenging every support function to define what really matters to a brand and ensure this is reflected in its how its employees interact with the business. If this is optimised, people can perform to the best of their abilities.

Ben’s new book is a practical guide to achieving this through embedding EX in your organisation’s processes and culture, from the moment an employee sees a job advert until the moment they leave the company.

Full of tools, tips, and advice to help HR professionals and business leaders motivate, support, and develop their staff, Employee Experienceincludes a foreword by Global Industry Analyst Josh Bersin and case studies from companies including Airbnb, Starbucks, and Sky.

Praise for the book has been forthcoming from business figures including Bruce Daisley, Vice-President of social media behemoth Twitter.

“Navigating the complexities of Employee Experience has become the biggest differentiator of great workplaces. At last, a book that gives us a routemap,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ben himself told CXM of his hopes for the book as it reaches a global audience.

“After being immersed in EX for so long, I thought it was about time I put pen to paper for my first book,” he said.

“This is an outcome of an intense and lengthy period of focus working with brands and colleagues worldwide to determine how EX is being successfully applied and scaled in practice. As a result, I present a new model and lens, the holistic employee experience (HEX), that can be used by all business and HR leaders to deliver exceptional human and business outcomes.

“It’s based on the evidence I have been exposed to across many countries and cultures, and the book shares the key elements of EX and how they can be connected to powerfully shape and drive business growth. My concept of the HEX helps companies and colleagues to successfully establish, sustain, and scale a positive Employee Experience.

“Now in book form, I do hope that HEX goes on to inspire many more people and leaders around the world, at every level of the economy, to fully embrace EX as part of their core business strategy. This is great for business, humans, and society as a whole.”

Employee Experience by Ben Whitter is out now, published by Kogan Page.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 5, 2019
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4min889

A digital skills shortage is preventing employers from filling vacancies, new research warns.

The UK Consumer Digital Index, from Lloyds Bank, has been examined by Reboot Online Digital Marketing Company, which discovered that while more than half of the UK uses the internet in their roles, 53 percent of employees do not have the essential digital skills needed for work.

According to the report, since last year 1.8 million more people have the highest digital capability. However 37 percent of the UK are still at risk of being left behind as we continue to advance technologically.

Revealing the most significant digital skills gaps within the workplace, the report highlights h0w 38 percent cannot ‘use the internet to find information that helps solve problems’; 40 percent cannot ‘recognise and avoid suspicious links and pop-ups’; and 44 percent cannot ‘set privacy settings on work-related social media and other accounts.

Martin Calvert, a Director at digital marketing agency Blueclaw, spoke with Reboot and suggests that the digital skills gap is visible in different ways across different generations:

“We work in a very technical industry, with a lot of specialist software and tools so we don’t expect new team members to know everything,” he said.

“Even so, when bringing early-career employees on board, there can be some surprising gaps. At the other end of the age spectrum, we’ve worked with some phenomenally experienced professionals but sometimes they need support to be pointed towards the best tools and technology available in 2019 – even if they’re extremely savvy and capable when using more ‘industry standard’ technologies that have been established for years. 

“We always need to be looking for new ways to get better at what we do, so regardless of where the team member is in their career, it’s vital that we’re open and honest about how we can help them to work more effectively with the right technology. In that sense the most important digital skills is more of a trait – openness to new ways of working, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to teach us too.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 5, 2019
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3min740

Summertime may be fun for the kids when school’s out, but for home workers it can lead to days filled with noise and distractions.

With an ever-growing number of the UK workforce operating from home offices, the summer holidays can be a cause of stress instead of a time for rest and relaxation for working parents, a new survey has found.

The 2019 Global Workspace Survey, conducted by flexible workspace provider, IWG, has revealed that interruptions from children or other family members is the number one obstacle being faced by professionals who take advantage of home working.

The study of over 2,000 respondents from the UK found that 65 percent are distracted by family demanding attention when they work from home. The second most common complaint is having professional calls interrupted by children, family, and pets (49 percent).

The third hindrance is a slow or unreliable internet connection (45 percent), followed by problems accessing typical office equipment such as printers and photocopiers. The fifth problem for home-based professionals is the temptation to have a television on in the background to provide “company” during the day, leading to further distractions.

A spokesperson for IWG said: “Increasingly, businesses are providing their employees with the option to decide where, when and how they would like to work and there are benefits on both sides of the exchange. Flexibility not only makes workers happier and healthier, but it can also have a direct impact on the health of a business, with 82 percent of organisations reporting a significant increase in the productivity of their workforce as a result.

“Location is a key factor in determining how easily workers can pivot between work and home life – particularly for parents in the summer holidays. According to IWG, a rise in flexible working could save individuals nationwide 115 hours of commuting time per annum – the equivalent to 14 million days spent at work. With nearly half of Brits (41 percent) citing commuting as the worst part of their day, working closer to home is an increasingly favoured option.”


Annemarie WalklingAnnemarie WalklingAugust 2, 2019
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8min2581

The workplace as we know it is transforming, as digital innovation creates new ways of working and many employees operate across more devices, time zones, and locations than ever before.

The uptake of flexible, off-site, and remote working trends has also shifted the balance in many businesses. Today, decision makers are tasked with building smarter workspaces which mobilise a more dispersed, digital workforce and maintain the level of employee engagement required to keep driving the business forward.

In light of continued efforts to digitise previously manual communication processes, the very definition of engagement itself has also been turned on its head. No longer does employee engagement simply mean ensuring staff are interacting with each other during the days in the office; it now means enabling instant communication at any time and connecting people regardless of their location and type of device available. Designing these experiences therefore requires a shift in attitudes from business leaders, moving away from isolated internal systems and towards a more diverse and far-reaching approach to communication.

The fruits of this labour are plain to see, with research now indicating that organisations with an engaged cohort of staff can exceed those without by more than 200 percent. With the potential return on investment so high, companies must now be looking to integrate communication tools which have the power to transform any place into a smarter workspace, ensuring that staff can collaborate seamlessly and generate new ideas through productive, enjoyable interactions.

Jumping over the hurdles

That said, achieving this is undoubtedly a challenge for modern businesses – particularly for larger organisations with vast workforces which are often siloed into teams based on their different locations around the globe. The changing nature of the workplace itself has created significant roadblocks for many leaders trying to maintain strong and meaningful employee collaboration.

Employees are increasingly in favour of a more versatile and accommodating avenues of communication; meanwhile the need for decision makers to maintain efficiency and minimise expenditure continues to impact the choices made investing in new solutions which are able to facilitate this. Yet with workspaces moving continually towards a digital-only future and the opportunity for improvements clear, most modern businesses are being encouraged to follow suit. Inevitably, the systems needed to overcome these challenges and enable smarter, better exchanges between staff are now in high demand.

Remote control: Workspaces are moving towards a digital-only future

For example, the rise in systems which create an intelligent and unified approach to communication can make pivotal changes for companies worldwide. By mobilising employees regardless of device, location or time, leaders can encourage the digital connections staff need to generate new ideas and keep employees happy, flexible and motivated from anywhere.

These sentiments were echoed in a 2018 survey of 7,000 employees globally, in which 73 percent of employees who work in a fully-enabled digital workplace reported a positive impact on their productivity, and 70 percent cited improved collaboration thanks to digital technologies. As a result, the key to success not only lies in digitising traditional communication channels across a business, but selecting the right digital technologies which are capable of enhancing engagement with smart interactions for the end user.

Smart communication in practice

In an effort to future-proof their communications infrastructure and drive productivity, modern businesses are exploring the different technologies now able to create digital workspaces, which ultimately deliver business value and drive employee engagement as workplace culture evolves. However, enabling smarter engagements across an entire workforce cannot be achieved by simply implementing isolated telephony systems or web and audio conferencing for employees to communicate; businesses must now knit together a range of tools, working seamlessly together to create a unified ecosystem which meets the needs of every individual.

No two businesses are the same and this is where unified communication (UC) systems comes into its  own. Not only does it provide employees with a plethora of communication tools, it enables companies to diversify their offerings and build a smart communication network able to both deliver on the demands of a more dynamic, digital workspace and drive employee productivity through easier engagement. Now, this trend looks set to continue, with the UC market forecast to reach an exponential size of $143.49bn by 2024 – an exciting time for businesses globally.

While the premise of creating a network of smart communication systems may sound daunting on paper, implementing UC tools into existing infrastructure can help to subside the expense of completely overhauling the systems already in place. Irrespective of supplier or level of intricacy, integrating a suite of smart communication tools to build one unified network is now the true key for creating the spaces required for keeping employees engaged.

Achieving this on a business-wide scale is now fundamental for driving productivity and better ideas across an entire workforce, in turn maximising business value as we enter the next phase of enterprise innovation.


Diana TheodoresDiana TheodoresAugust 1, 2019
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8min806

Diana Theodores is an international women’s leadership coach. Her new book Performing As You: How to have authentic impact in every role you play is out now.

 

Think about a compliment you recently received from a friend or colleague and the ‘feel good’ glow you experienced in the moment.

Now think about a negative or thoughtless remark someone made to you. Which experience are you still holding on to more? It’s likely the negative remark affected you more deeply – maybe even consumed your thoughts for days.

The negativity bias refers to the tendency we humans have to pay more attention, or give more weight, to negative experiences over positive ones. This is because in evolutionary terms, we’re fighting or fleeing from predators – reacting in the moment to threat (the negative). This basic survival radar is hardwired into us, even if we’re no longer navigating around predators. This is exactly why we need to hit the fast-forward button in our personal evolution and build on more positive and nuanced instincts.

Feedback is a minefield. You say you want it, but how do you hear it and what do you do with it? Our responses to feedback – from 360 reviews to year-end appraisals, from performance reviews to the more casual, conversational moments of ‘helpful observations’ – are all too often mired in negativity. Dwelling on the negatives at the expense of the positives reinforces the myth that you’re lacking something and need fixing.

Truly hearing and valuing the positive feedback you receive builds your forward momentum and gives you the confidence to use feedback as it has meaning and relevance for you.

Lauren, a bright, creative go-getter I worked with in a global accountancy firm, wanted to discuss the results of her 360 review. First, I summarised the outstandingly positive feedback regarding her strengths, her impact, and her contributions to her team. Lauren listened and made no response other than an occasional half-laugh.

Next, we discussed the areas for improvement, which totalled only two points, contextualised around a specific moment and a specific person. From that moment, Lauren kept steering our discussion back to these two points, holding on to them for dear life.

I could practically see her knuckles turning white from the effort, and this was over the phone! I led our discussion back to the positive feedback and asked Lauren how she felt about it. It was clear she hadn’t even heard this feedback, let alone received or processed it.

Radical-action alert! I asked Lauren to get into a relaxed position, take a deep breath, close her eyes…and just listen.

Once she was settled, I read the positive feedback to her, slowly and deliberately, framing each point with a pause, like a gilded frame around a valuable painting. When I finished reading, I requested that we end our call without any further discussion. I wanted the last note Lauren heard to be positive.

Six months later, Lauren and I had another conversation. The woman on the other end of the phone sounded strong and upbeat. Her energy was palpable. Over those six months, Lauren had acted on her goals, made a real impact on her organisation, led some creative initiatives and was being put forward for a major promotion. When I asked Lauren what had shifted for her since our 360-review discussion, she replied: “Hearing my positive feedback read aloud to me and really listening. I heard it for the first time.”

Best light: Feedback can be an empowering agent for positive change and growth

Truly hearing the positive feedback allowed Lauren to use it as a body of evidence about when and how she was at her best. Further, she processed it as a resource, an ally with which to shift her story, upgrade her self-belief and move forward in her visibility and credibility.

In the packed schedules and time pressures of the workplace, your responses to feedback can be rushed through and habitualised towards focusing on what you see as negative. Remember, feedback is impressionistic, human and highly subjective. It is contextual and often time-specific, relating to a particular time, place and scenario. It can reflect perceptions gathered over a range of experiences that suggest a pattern or theme in the way you’re seen and heard.

Feedback is an opportunity for reflection and choice. It’s not designed for wholesale acceptance and unfiltered absorption. It’s designed to be an empowering agent for positive change and growth. Empowerment requires questions. Again, you don’t need fixing; you are not lacking. You are a work in progress.

Always pay attention to positive feedback. Not only does it contribute to your strength-building story, it’s also a practical resource for improvement. The more you understand your ‘at your best’ strengths, the more successfully you can apply them to your challenging scenarios with positive results. But none of this can happen unless you hear, acknowledge, receive and value your positive feedback.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 31, 2019
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2min748

‘Generic’ or rare praise from managers is turning off the UK’s employees, a new study shows.

Global employee engagement firm Reward Gateway surveyed 500 employees in the UK, and revealed that generic and annual recognition or rewards are inadequate as employees demand to be recognised in more timely and meaningful ways.

Only 18 percent of employees said they liked receiving praise at a single event or function, and 70 percent agreed that their managers could do more to praise and thank them in a timely, specific way, highlighting the importance of in-the-moment recognition.

In addition, 76 percent of employees agreed that motivation and morale would improve at their company if managers simply said “thank you” more and noticed when people do good work.

The research also found a lack of effective recognition in offices in the UK, with over half (52 percent) of employees feeling their manager unfairly rewards certain people over others, while 42 percent agreed they had received a reward that did not reflect the work put into it.

Commenting on the research, Doug Butler, CEO at Reward Gateway, said: “Companies need to be investing in the right kind of recognition and reward programs that fit both the employees’ and company’s goals.”


Nic RedfernJuly 29, 2019
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8min699

Over the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in the way society perceives the environment.

Having seen the impact pollution and carbon emissions is having on the ecological system, consumers and businesses alike are adopting new practices in a bid to sustainably manage the planet’s resources. 

As a result, consumers are increasingly making the conscious decision to engage with companies that are actively supporting environmental initiatives, or who have adopted greener practices. According to a global survey by Nielsen, 81 percent of consumers feel strongly that companies should actively help improve the environment.

For a business, adopting greener work ethics isn’t just good for the planet – there are also cost-reduction benefits that arise when pursuing more eco-friendly objectives. As someone who has worked closely with companies large and small, I have seen first-hand that with careful planning, reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint can have significant cost-efficient outcomes and reduce unnecessary expenditures.

This might appear easier said than done, so let’s consider some ways that companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and reap the cost-benefits that could arise from this change. 

What is a carbon footprint?

While the term is becoming more commonly used in day-to-day life, what exactly do we mean by the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ when applied to businesses? In simple terms, a carbon footprint is the best estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly operate a business.

A business’ carbon footprint could therefore be the emissions produced in the manufacturing of a product, or the amount of electricity consumed by a company to facilitate its daily operations. Importantly, regardless of the product or service being offered, there are a number of simple ways that businesses can cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, this task has become much easier now thanks to technological innovations that can streamline and simplify operations.

Lowering a carbon footprint doesn’t have to be needlessly complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as switching to a renewable energy supplier.

Some widely used energy providers offer renewable energy solutions, with many of these backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. To cut down on excessive energy usage and find a cleaner alternative, be sure to seek out solutions with REGO, which guarantees that the origin of the energy supplied is renewably resourced.

What’s more, besides helping businesses become more sustainable, embracing energy efficiency can also deliver energy cost savings. To find the best deal on business energy prices, be sure to compare tariffs on online comparison websites to find one best suited to your needs. 

Re-evaluating daily practices and educating staff

Awareness is at the heart of change, so it’s important to ensure that all staff members are well-versed in the simple steps they can take at work to reduce carbon emissions. Holding staff education initiatives is a great way of spreading awareness about environmentally damaging practices, and the solutions available to address these.

Utilise existing and readily available tech

Did you know that the pulp, paper and print industry accounts for 3.1 percent of Europe’s total energy consumption? The environmental impact of paper is significant, even with growing recycling efforts.

To combat this problem, businesses need to be aware of the impact printing and extensive hard copy record-keeping can have on the environment and be encouraged to reduce the amount of paper they consume. The advent of cloud computing has paved the way for this, allowing businesses to offer digital versions of documents in computerised management systems which can be accessed at any time, and in any place.

Reassess work commutes

It’s also important not to overlook the indirect contributions to an organisation’s carbon emissions, including those which arise from staff commuting to and from work every day using cars. Technological advances in connectivity mean than employees can now work efficiently from home, removing the need to venture into the office every morning.

Xerox recently followed this path and designed a Virtual Workforce Programme to use the benefits of working from home as a means to both run a productive company and benefit the environment. Through the programme, 11 percent of its workforce work from home full-time. But how does this translate to tangible results? Through ‘telecommuting’, Xerox managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40,894 metric tonnes.

Alternatively, if possible, staff should be encouraged to cycle or walk to work – not only will this reduce potential carbon emissions, it will also encourage a healthier lifestyle for employees. So, for businesses keen to make the necessary changes to reduce their carbon footprint, promoting remote working should be high on the priority list.

Reducing a company’s carbon footprint doesn’t just have a positive impact on the environment – it can also deliver huge energy savings by helping to identify ways to reduce costs and consumption, and ultimately improve their operational efficiency. The above suggestions are but a handful of solutions that can be readily adopted. As such, I would encourage businesses of all sizes to explore ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint, and at the same time evaluate how they stand to benefit from the cost saving potential.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 25, 2019
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6min815

Despite recent headlines on sexism in the workplace, over half of women in a new survey say they feel empowered, well-managed, and fairly treated in their roles.

The Women in the Workplace 2019 study by The Knowledge Academy found that 52 percent of 1,424 women from across all ages and industries said they feel empowered at work, and 54 percent agree they are paid fairly.

When it comes to advancement in the workplace, 59% of respondents are offered training in their place of work, while a further 65 percent are encouraged to attend training of any kind.

There was a positive response to questions on management, with 69 percent of women surveyed said their manager provides the resources needed to succeed, and an even greater 77 percent said their manager helps them to balance their work and personal demands.

Over half (54 percent) of respondents added their manager creates opportunities for them to showcase their work, while 77 percent believe their manager promotes their contributions to others.

Challenges: Survey respondents have highlighted issues that remain of concern in the workplace

However, although the majority of the feedback is encouraging, the survey highlighted challenges to overcome in certain areas.

For example, 69 percent of women feel they have had their judgement questioned in their area of expertise, while 77 percent of women feel they have had to prove their ability in the workplace more than others. Sixty-five percent say they have been addressed in a less than professional way when at work, and the same percentage  feel they have had their work contributions ignored.

To extend their research, The Knowledge Academy spoke with women in the workplace, to better understand their personal experiences. 

Alice Coleman, a 27-year-old Marketing Officer at Aston University, said: “I didn’t find any difficulties finding work in my local region – I think most organisations consider equality and diversity when employing people now.

In my department, there are more women than men, my manager is a woman, and also the head of the department is a woman, which is really encouraging. However, when liaising with other departments, I feel like as a woman – particularly under the age of 30 – it can be difficult to be listened to, or almost ‘taken seriously’.

During equality and diversity training at my workplace, it was noted that there aren’t many women in managerial positions. Although we’ve made progress, I still think there’s a long way to go in making sure that attitudes towards women are the same as men in the workplace.”

Emily Garner (23), a Content Specialist at Blueclaw, added: “I think one of the main things that attracted me to digital marketing was the workplace diversity, as I know many amazing women who hold prestigious positions within digital agencies, including our own.

“I do feel, during my initial job search, I was overlooked in favour of more experienced and primarily male candidates. But in my current role, I wouldn’t say I’ve been held back by my gender. However, I can’t help but think that I’d be more comfortable being assertive and taking control in any scenario, both business and personal, were I a man.”




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