Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 23, 2019
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4min1892

Festive traditions in the workplace can boost employee productivity according to new research.

In the study, 74 percent of employees said they were motivated to work harder if their employer embraces Christmas, despite only 36 percent of businesses offering a party for their staff and almost a quarter of businesses (24 percent) avoiding Christmas completely.

December is traditionally a low productivity month, but in the poll by artificial Xmas tree manufacturer Christmas Tree World, 78 percent claimed to work as hard or harder in December, with 22 percent of these citing the reason as so they can enjoy time off over the festive break.

The research of 1,000 UK workers also revealed that more than half (60 percent) of employees are likely to be more productive if Christmas incentives such as bonuses are available, despite only 15 percent of UK businesses offering this.

However, it’s not just financial rewards which are proven to drive productivity, with 74 percent of workers claiming office festivities, such as decorations, trees, and Secret Santa schemes boost morale and productivity, despite only 36 percent of workplaces investing in this.

Meanwhile, 39 percent of workers polled believe Christmas parties enhance productivity levels due to improving teamwork and communication.

Stephen Evans, Managing Director at Christmas Tree World, said: “It’s shocking to see the high number of businesses which are simply missing a trick in embracing the festive season as this research demonstrates it really does pay dividends in boosting staff morale, happiness and productivity.

“It’s understandable that some companies are unable to offer financial rewards such as Christmas bonuses, and even a Christmas party as costs can escalate, though it’s surprising to see how few companies even put up a Christmas tree and decorations in the workplace.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 17, 2019
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5min1931

A positive company culture is more important for businesses now that at any stage in their history, with a recent poll suggesting 92 percent of senior executives cite cultural change as a critical driver to increase their firm’s values, but only 16 percent agreeing their culture was where it needed to be.

As anyone in a management position can tell you, poor company culture can lead to workplace bullying, harassment, and a lack of productivity among other things, and a new book by Colin D Ellis, Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work is a game-changing guide to building an enviable company culture.

Ellis argues that culture is key to success for every organisation, and is increasingly critical for millennials, who are prioritising organisations which offer a great culture over other traditional factors such as salary.

Culture Fix contains exclusive case studies from brands such as HSBC, Zappos, Google, and Manchester United among others, and the author employs his experience from working with global brands including Red Bull, and the governments of Australia and New Zealand.

In a competitive jobs market, culture is essential to attracting – and retaining – top talent in a new era of employment. As flexible and remote working becomes the norm, Ellis reveals how to ensure this doesn’t negatively impact the drive, cohesion, shared purpose, and innovation of teams.

His highly practical book will teach CEOs, managers, and team leaders to build self-motivating teams that not only bring value but create a fantastic Employee Experience.

Culture Fix is based on the six pillars of company culture: Personality & Communication, Vision, Values, Behaviour, Collaboration, and Innovation. Readers will learn to build an aspirational vision for teams and organisations, and about the importance of emotional intelligence in a successful team.

The book will tell you if your current team is stagnant, and offer skills to manage diverse teams which often cross cultural barriers.

Speaking to CXM, Ellis said: “Culture pervades through absolutely everything that’s done on a day-to-day basis in every organisation around the world, from the behaviour of senior leaders in large global organisations to the way that a sports team trains for a game at the weekend.

Man of culture: Colin D Ellis

It dictates where people sit, how meetings are run, how decisions are made, how people are hired, how teams work together and how new ideas are implemented.

“When time is made for the staff to define the culture they need in order to be able to achieve the goals, then engagement will increase.

This leads to greater productivity, more sales, improved revenue, fewer safety incidents, reduced turnover of staff and, most importantly, happier staff and customers.

“This is why culture is important.”

 

Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work is out now, published by Wiley, priced £15.50.


Tony LynchTony LynchOctober 15, 2019
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18min2351

According to a recent survey published by Harvard Business Review, 41 percent of board members recognise their biggest challenge is attracting and retaining top talent.

We also know that with good leadership, talent does not come and go – rather talent comes and grows.

Effective leaders focus on ways of developing talent within their teams and organisations. Retaining and growing talented teams to reach their potential grows fulfilment, effectiveness, productivity, and profitability.

However, this all starts from recruiting the right type of people to your organisation. Selecting the right person to your team can be a challenging task. Having interviewed and hired numerous people for over 25 years, I fully understand the importance of getting this right.

The hiring of people to join your team can have a huge impact upon the company one way or the other. Therefore, the interview procedure must be carefully planned out. Strategic coaching questions should be crafted in order to get inside the heart and mind of the person you are interviewing.

The 7 C’s Strategic Approach for Successful Recruiting I am about to share with you will provide a solid process, which will enable greater success for you in hiring the right person to your team.

It is a process I have used and added to over the years. As a business consultant, I know that the process for selecting the initial interviews, the questions asked in the interview, and the process to the appointment can be weak and needs to be addressed.

I often say that in order to develop a company, develop the team – however for this to be successful you must have the right team members on board.

So be honest with yourself as you answer the following question:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how effective would you describe your recruitment process?

Which areas need to be up levelled in order to attract the very best to your company, and to ensure you are saving on recruitment fees?

It can often be said that when someone joins your team, they are one day closer to leaving. However, the aim and intention is that you attract the very best in the marketplace and that you both enjoy a long-term and very successful business relationship.

What should you be looking out for when recruiting someone to join your company? 

This is a key question that must be given great consideration before the interviews start. So where do you make a start?

Always have an agreed established process in place to ensure that you are making a wise judgement when offering someone an opportunity to join your team. Don’t rush this, think into this well. 

What will your process look like?

As I have previously mentioned, the interview process for some companies and teams may not be as robust as they could be, which can lead to the wrong person being offered a job as well as costing the company a large amount of time and money.

Too much money is being wasted when it comes to recruiting. Successful recruiting allows you to reinvest in your own business. Making the wrong choice when it comes to increasing your team can have huge financial implications for the company. 

For small companies with less than five people, this can even lead to the company failing. Don’t let this happen to you – the pain is far too great and not needed!

So, first, recognise that hiring the best staff is an art. It takes time and wisdom as you seek to determine who could be the best candidate to fill a function or role you have available.

Good employers ask great questions – at the interview stage, well-crafted, well-thought questions will help to determine the quality of answer that you are looking for. Never rush this process; consider in advance the questions you want to be asking.

Don’t just think of questions during the interview. If there is a panel interview, decide in advance which questions each of you will be asking. Don’t put yourself in the position that you say after the interview has finished thinking to yourself I forgot to ask a good question!

Prepare in advance for the interviewing process. Always use a personality profile approach as this will help to reveal the strengths and limitations of an individual, but will also reveal how they respond to being part of a team.

As a Business Consultant I would highly recommend for you The Seven C’s Strategic Approach for Successful Recruiting:

1. Character

A member of staff with a good attitude, who is able to learn, and with skills that can be developed will have huge positive effect on your team, productivity, and profitability. Character is often described as what are we like when no one is watching.

Good character will ensure you have someone working not just for you but with you, someone who is honest with you, the customer, and themselves. They will not be compromised.

2. Coachable

Are they coachable or do they think they know everything there is to know?

Are they open to change? When you employ coachable people on your team, you can be assured they will have a great attitude. A coachable person will always go far within a team. You can see this in business as well as in sport.

A team member with a very pleasant attitude is a great person to be working with. It will be easier to work with someone with a good coachable attitude than with a poor one.

3. Care

Do they care?

It is so important to have team members who care – about the vision, mission, fellow team members, and values of the company. Caring team members know how to care for their customers.

Caring team members will go the extra mile. They care about the work they do. Ask them to share with you some examples of how they have displayed a caring approach in their work situation. You want to hear their stories about this.

4. Conscientious

You can always spot conscientious team members; they are often good listeners.

They will always look out for what is best for the company, team, and customers. They can often be great thinkers.

You want these types of people on your team. They won’t be looking to cut corners. They have high standards and will always seek to do their best.

5. Can-do attitude

Do they have a can-do attitude? Do they see the possibilities, or do they just see the problems? 

A can-do attitude is very contagious; it spreads well within a team and causes it to become very courageous. Are they prepared to have a go and take on new responsibility?

When you have a can-do attitude amongst your team, when it becomes part of the team DNA, it inspires everyone to step up. Ask leading questions to find out if they have this approach and if they do, ask them for a few specific examples and the difference it made.

6. Competent

Do they have the competency to fulfil the position you are offering? Can they do this role today and are they someone you can develop for a wider role in the future?

Do they have the skills and talents you could develop as you look to grow your business? A good leader will look to develop the talents in each member of their team, both for now and the future.

Therefore, it’s important to see if they have the capacity for growth as you grow your business.

As I mentioned earlier, with good leadership talent does not come and go – rather it comes and grows. It’s important never to despise a small acorn when it comes to talents. If you want to grow your company, grow the talents within your team.

7. Chemistry

Can I really work with this person? Can they work with me? Is there a personality clash? Can they work with the team? Are they a good team player? Will they be accountable?

Get this one wrong and it can spoil your entire team. Just because someone is competent does not mean they are a right match for your team! 

There have been times when I have not appointed someone to join my team, not because they lacked the competency –  in fact they could do the role very well – however they were simply not the right match for the others.

The chemistry just did not fit. Team to me is more important than just one person.

You need to be asking tough questions such as: will this person not just work for me, but will they work with me?

Is it all about them or is it about working towards the vision and mission of the company? There is a huge difference between someone just working for you (pay cheque) and someone working with you (loyalty).

Don’t be tempted just to take someone on because of their reputation or record achievements alone; you are interested in the future success of your team and company.

Get this one right and you are doing your best in building a great team. This is so important, please read this part again! I really want you to succeed with this.

So, when recruiting, consider The Seven C’s Strategic Approach for Successful Recruiting. 

You may be a manager, or in HR, or maybe it’s your job to lead the interview process. Ensure you have a solid process and plan ahead to stay ahead when it comes to recruiting.

Your ability to recruit well will determine the success of your team and company. These effective recruitment strategies and practices will save you time and money so that you continue to build a successful and sustainable business.

Some final questions to consider:

  • How will you upgrade your process for successful recruiting?
  • What could the impact be on the company once you make those changes in the next 12 months?
  • What could the impact be on the company in the next 12 months if you did not actively change your recruiting process?

Tony Lynch has authored a white paper, Developing and Growing a Team for Optimal Performance: A Close Up Look at a Team Development Model That has Stood the Test of Timewhich is available to download for free from Keep Thinking Big.

 


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamOctober 9, 2019
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4min2052

Most UK employees anticipate a positive impact from artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace, a new report from Genesys has revealed.

The global leader in omnichannel Customer Experience and contact centre solutions studied the evolving relationship between employees and technology in the workplace. They found that 64 percent say they value AI, but the exact same percentage believe there should be a legal requirement for companies to maintain a minimum percentage of human workers and for relevant bodies to implement regulation around it. 

The survey also found that while employees welcome new technological tools, a significant majority (86 percent) expect their employers to provide training for working with AI-based tech, as less than half of all respondents say they possess the right skills.

When asked whether they would use augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) for job training, more than half (53 percent) of employees said they would be willing to do so. This finding is significantly higher than those who would be open to being trained by an AI-powered robot, with just over a third (35 percent) of employees accepting this method. 

The convergence between humans and technology is increasing, as reflected by the fact 41 percent of millennials say they spend at least half of their time at work interacting with machines and computers rather than humans. These findings suggest that when it comes to implementing new technologies, employers will need to find the right balance between tech and human workers.

When it comes to how employees expect to use new technologies, 58 percent would like to use a digital or virtual assistant to support them in managing tasks and meeting deadlines. This appetite for virtual assistants suggests that the widespread use of technologies like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri in workers’ personal lives is opening people’s minds to the possibilities that similar AI-driven assistants can bring to the workplace.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter of workers believe AI will have a positive impact on their job in the next five years, and
69 percent say technology makes them more efficient at their jobs. Forty-three percent say new technological tools in the workplace save time and allow them to focus on other things.

Mark Armstrong, interim Vice President for UK and Ireland at Genesys, said: “Employees across the UK are ready to embrace new technologies in the workplace. The research shows that UK workers understand the benefits of AI and are overwhelmingly positive about its potential impact. It is also evident that employees understand that businesses will need to leverage AI and other emerging technologies to maintain longevity, as only 21 percent believe their companies will remain competitive without it.”

To obtain the full survey report or for more information, contact genesys@whiteoaks.co.uk.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 9, 2019
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4min1877

UK employees are wasting two hours each week trying to track down the right information internally, which is in turn impacting the quality of customer service they deliver.

That is the findings from new research by 8×8, which quizzed 2,000 employees in mid-market and enterprise organisations. The study looks into how work is carried out and uncovers the communications challenges that fast-growing organisations face.

The main reason productivity suffers is because 29 percent of people can’t find the information they need to do their jobs effectively on the systems they use.

Fourteen percent said they are not able to locate the right expert internally, while 17 percent say they are held back by information not being shared in a central place.

Employees also say that a few experts within their organisation hold most of the information about the company (63 percent) but they can’t always contact them.

This is impacting customer service teams in particular, with at least two different people required internally to get the right information to answer a single query. This means it takes them longer to answer customer queries (50 percent) and the quality of service falls (52 percent).

Not being able to access the right information has impacted businesses in a variety of ways. Thirty-four percent of employees said they are working longer hours to complete their tasks, while 34 percent reported a ‘slow’ resolution of problems. Inaccurate information was also used, according to 24 percent.

The data was also analysed by age group and organisation size. When asked what channel they would respond most quickly to, millennial workers said email (39 percent), followed by phone (35 percent) and online chat such as Slack (nine percent), but baby boomers preferred phone (50 percent) followed by email (31 percent).

Those in large organisations say the problem has gotten worse as they’ve grown. Almost half of employees (43 percent) say it has become more difficult to reach the right experts internally as the business has scaled.

Collaboration technology makes it possible for expert knowledge to be open to all staff at any time – 71 percent say that this type of tech would help them do their job more efficiently.

Lisa Clark, VP Product Management, Contact Centre at 8×8, said: “Typically, a small portion of a company’s staff holds the majority of the expertise. This isn’t an issue when these employees are available, but when this isn’t the case, staff and customers face potentially difficult situations.

“We can see that employees across organisations are struggling to complete everyday tasks and answer queries because they aren’t able to get the information they need. This is impacting productivity on a massive scale, as time is being wasted scrambling around for answers on systems that aren’t connected across a business.

“By using one cloud communications platform, teams and individuals can collaborate much more efficiently and all employees can access information faster – no matter what channel they use.”


Jayne HarrisonJayne HarrisonOctober 1, 2019
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8min1912

The number of men taking paternity leave dropped to 31 percent in 2019, according to law firm EMW. 

 Despite the introduction of shared parental leave, figures marginally decreased from the 2018 figure of 32 percent. The question is: why are the numbers falling despite increasing legislation in support of working parents?

Debates have been sparked as to the type and receptiveness of employment rights held by working mothers and fathers in organisations. Therefore, this article aims to provide much-needed guidance on the differing employment rights for working parents.

Maternity rights

Simple as it may seem, women have the right to not be dismissed because of pregnancy, maternity leave, or childbirth.

In fact, they are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave legally, with a two-week mandatory period post-birth. This breaks down further to two 26 week periods, where returning after the first 26 weeks ensures you return to the exact job you left.

After this first 26th week, the rules are slightly more lenient. Your employer may not offer you the exact same role after your maternity leave, but it must be a job with the same terms as those you had before. For example, the conditions and salary which you are offered must be on par with those you had before maternity. Therefore, if your employer does not abide by these rules, you are entitled to seek protection from the law. 

Paternity rights

To receive paternity leave, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Be the biological father of the baby and have (or expect to have) responsibility for the upbringing of the child; or
  • Including same-sex relationships, be the spouse/partner of the mother (but not the father of the child) the main responsibility (apart from any responsibility of the mother) for the upbringing of the child.

There are a few major differences between maternity and paternity rights. Starting with the length, men can receive one or two consecutive weeks off work. They cannot book this period until at least the due date and men are unable to physically start their leave until the day their baby is born. This, then, requires flexibility from their employer in terms of arranging cover for their leave.

Men also need to have worked with their employer for 26 weeks to be eligible for paternity leave, with the 15th week falling before their baby is due. In a similar manner to maternity, men have the right to return to their own job after leaving and can bring a claim if they feel they are being discriminated against upon returning. 

Shared parental leave

Surprisingly, only six percent of working parents choose to take shared parental leave. This leave is designed to give parents greater flexibility in caring for their new-born children. With the ability to share 37 weeks’ pay and 50 weeks of leave, this right can be used at any point through the baby’s first year.

Shared parental leave involves fathers or partners sharing the mother’s maternity period, whereby women effectively lessen their time off so that their partner can have this leave. During this period a flat pay rate of £148.68 (or 90 percent of average earnings) is offered depending on which is lower. This pay lasts for 37 weeks. 

Flexible working

Having an adapted work pattern to suit changing needs can be highly important for some working parents. Flexible working can take any of the following forms:

  • Part-time: less hours than the norm
  • Homeworking: working from your home
  • Compressed hours: completing the agreed hours over fewer days
  • Flexi-working: ability to change/adapt your hours
  • Term-time (applicable to the education sector): working purely in term time

Flexible working can be requested by employees and must be considered by an employer before an answer is given. Existing legislation gives most employees the legal right to inquire into flexible working. If you feel your employer has unfairly dismissed your request for flexible working, this should be discussed this with your HR department. If unsuccessful, then  consider whether to take this matter further.

Discrimination 

If your employer insists upon you working inflexible or long hours, despite your childcare responsibilities, this can be seen as discrimination. Being put at a disadvantage to men through imposed shifts or full-time work can be labelled as indirect sex discrimination and is against your working mothers’ rights. This type of employer’s behaviour is unacceptable, so if you believe you have experienced this type of offence, you can reach out for legal advice on your flexible working case. 

Working fathers can also experience sex discrimination, most commonly through direct cases. If your request for flexible working was declined, where a woman in a similar job was allowed, you can go to a tribunal to claim discrimination against the disadvantage you were placed in. 

In the face of declining paternity leave figures, it is crucial now more than ever for working parents to understand their rights. 

With differing rules for paternity and maternity leave, there are options for mothers to share their maternity leave with their partner to ensure both parents are involved with the post-birth period. There are also several flexible working schemes offered by employers to aid parents in adjusting to childcare. 

However, the road is not always smooth for working parents. After reading these rights, you may feel you have experienced discrimination from your company. If so, you can choose to firstly raise this with your employer or HR team. If the matter cannot be resolved this way, you should swiftly seek legal advice in order to find a solution and receive justice.


Joe GlassfieldJoe GlassfieldSeptember 30, 2019
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8min2259

Corporate strategy is a funny beast.

It’s often built from a few extremely well worn phrases: statements like “We are one team”, or “Sustaining the future”, or “Empowerment”, perfectly executed in the brand colours and font, as tall and wide as the most prominent office wall allows.

Some of your more cynical colleagues suggest it can all sound a little 1984-esque. But most people ignore these statements: research shows our brains actually switch off when we hear clichés. Even when we make people wear these words around their necks every day, they ignore them. The words are the starting point of 200-page-long “agile transformation blueprints”, “pyramids”, “love keys”, and “brand onions”. Most of us ignore those too.

Why? Why does the clear and guiding light that the C-suite wants to become a fog generator for the company’s people and customers? And how do you find your way out of it?

Behavioural science has some answers.

From top-down to bottom-up

Imagine you’re on your C-suite away day. You’ve hired a top consultancy and they’ve got everyone in the room energised and focused. In three hours you’ve come up with a fresh vision (or purpose, or core idea, or whatever it’s called this week). It has a PR-able social dimension, and you can fully explain why you’ve picked these things to your stakeholders, colleagues, and customers.

Unfortunately at this point, you’re probably suffering from The Ikea effect: like the shelves we build for ourselves at home, we put more value on something if we’ve made it ourselves than other people do. But you can make that effect work for you: involve people beyond the top team and more people will feel that sense of ownership.

In the jargon, this is “co-creation”. Maybe it’s about working groups to flesh out how you’ll show and deliver “one team”. Maybe every employee gets an equal vote on what your strategy should be. You might even try to find out about the personal values of your people, and match your corporate values to those. The point is to include as many people as you can.

From words to behaviour

Think about the last time you tried to get a child to stop having a tantrum. You could say “In this family, our aim is to always be well behaved”. But that would probably be met with continued crying and rolling on the floor. In real life, we instinctively focus on their behaviour: “get up”; “follow me”; “put the sweets down”.

Behavioural science helps us understand the difference between giving people a goal, like “be healthy”, and giving them practical steps to hit that goal, like “eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day”. There’s lots of evidence that focussing on day-to-day behaviour is the only way abstract big picture thinking to work.

The same applies to strategy. You need to give people clear and defined steps that lead to the goal. If your culture is to ‘empower’, then don’t just talk about it, change how your business works to empower people: let the people doing the work set the timelines. Let call centre staff decide the outcome of a complaint. Give votes on HR issues to employees as well as the board. (Changing what people actually do also shifts their attitude than any amount of top-down communication.)

Test what’s actually working

A crucial insight from psychology is that as humans, we spend a lot of our time substituting questions. If a question seems too big, we’ll trick ourselves into answering an easier question. Instead of answering “Am I healthy?”, we ask ourselves: “Do I eat salads sometimes?”. Because we’ve answered a question, we feel good. Feeling good offsets the fact we didn’t answer the first, trickier question (and justifies our whole tub of ice cream in one sitting).

Say you wanted to “put customers first” as your strategy. Maybe you’ve hired a whole bunch of Customer Experience people and given them a fancy toolkit. They’re happy, and you’re happy: it feels like you now have progress towards being more customer-centric.

The hard question you need to answer in time is: “Are we actually putting customers first?” But often we substitute easier ones: Is my Customer Experience team changing things? Are they spending a lot of time changing things? Is everyone involved happy? Did I pay a lot to make this happen?

But answering those questions doesn’t mean you’re necessarily answering the harder one.

This is where well defined behaviour come back in. You can measure that people are really doing the practical things that lead to your strategic goals, and make sure that behaviour is having an impact on your business results. That way you can prove your strategy isn’t just languishing in a PowerPoint deck, but really making a difference.

The brutal truth is that just because a strategy’s clear, it doesn’t guarantee that anything ever changes. Thinking about how people actually think and behave means you might need to shift your focus. Yes, paint a big picture. But you also need to think about the 10,000 tiny behavioural brushstrokes that make it up.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 30, 2019
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4min2311

New research reveals that business leaders who thank their staff experience reduced staff turnover, improved staff retention, and more successful talent acquisition.

A study of 1,253 workers, carried out by workplace and incentives provider, One4all Rewards, and published in The Magic Word for Business Growth Report, surveyed workers on the impact their existing and potential employers and bosses have when they say thank you or express gratitude for a job well done.

The research revealed that 61 percent of UK workers said that a company which rewards their staff with an individual cash bonus or gift card at regular intervals is a more desirable place to work.

The same number (61 percent) of workers stated that they would be more likely to apply for a job with a company that gifts staff an annual cash bonus or gift card. Non-cash rewards such as treats, or gifts shared at regular intervals, would make a company a more desirable place to work for 56 percent of respondents.

Gratitude and appreciation expressed by business leaders is not only an effective tool to attract new talent but also for motivating and retaining existing staff.

The data found that 65 percent of UK workers would be motivated to work harder if they received an individual cash bonus or gift card at regular intervals from their employer. On the opposite end of the motivation scale, 40 percent of workers cited that they would feel less motivated to work hard if their employer did nothing to say ‘thank you’ or show gratitude for a job well done.

Reducing people’s propensity to leave is also key to reducing staff turnover and increasing business growth. Almost half (48 percent) of the UK workers surveyed said that rarely receiving any form of thanks or gratitude from their employer would make them want to leave the company.

Forty percent of UK adults also said they would be unlikely to apply for or accept a job offer from a company which did nothing to say ‘thank you’ to their staff.

Michael Dawson, CEO of One4all, said: “Recruitment issues are something that affect all UK businesses regardless of size, industry, or stage of business they may be. A simple thank you from business leaders can create a butterfly effect retaining existing staff, attracting new talent and motivating employees to be more productive. High staff turnovers can be costly when considering the recruitment fees and training costs and reducing these costs can ultimately result in business growth and success.

“It’s important that business leaders understand the accumulating effect two simple, yet effective words can have on their overall business success. Not only do employers need to make sure they express thanks to their staff for a job well done but the timing and delivery of that gratitude is also key.”

 

 


Ed ThornburyEd ThornburySeptember 30, 2019
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7min1617

The workplace has evolved beyond recognition for many people in recent years, with one of the most significant changes being that more and more people are now offered the option of working remotely.

This incentive is a result of a combination of changing attitudes, enhanced technology, and software solutions, all of which have been transforming the way that businesses of all shapes and sizes are run and how customers interact with them, as well as allowing employees to work outside of the office.

The TUC estimated that the number of UK people working from home has increased by a fifth in the 10 years to 2016, and with everything becoming increasingly digitised and technology enhancing at such a rapid rate, we can safely assume that this trend will only continue to grow. In fact, it is expected that 50 percent of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020.

For many businesses, the biggest apprehension around making the movement towards remote working is making sure staff remain streamlined and connected with colleagues and managers at all times, but one concern which is not being properly addressed is data security considerations.

While this incentive has been well received by employees, and it certainly makes a difference to that healthy work-life balance we are all searching for, it is vital to make your team members aware of the extra security risks that they face when working from home, on the train, or at a local coffee shop.

In this article, we are sharing actionable advice on certain risks that should be considered, and steps that employers should be taking, to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.

Consider transfer risks

The way in which data can be moved around transferred is taken for granted by most people nowadays, as electronic communications are available on the go 24/7. When working remotely, it is likely that you will still be working with the same sensitive company information and customer data as you would be if you were on site – but without the digital privacy you are used to.

Transferring data can take many forms, whether it be over email via your domestic internet connection, through your mobile phone network, or on a physical medium such as a USB stick. Each of these methods have inherent risks that should be addressed:

  • Domestic internet, even with WPA2-PSK security, is vulnerable to various forms of hacking and malicious access
  • Mobile phone networks can be even more open to attack as information can be accessed without leaving a trail
  • Physical media can be lost or stolen (and could end up in the wrong hands)

Employers and remote workers should be working together to tackle this issue and potential cyber security threats; from enforcing security and implementing and remote working policy, to educating the importance of commitment to security best practises. Simple actions such as using a USB data blocker, encrypting sensitive data within emails and avoiding public Wi-Fi will make a huge difference.

Utilise the cloud to minimise risks

If your business take advantage of cloud hosting, then you are already one step ahead in avoiding potential security breaches. The ease of use that ‘anytime/anywhere’ password protected cloud access offers means that whatever device or platform your employees prefer, they can still connect with your work systems remotely.

The concept that digital information can be accessed instantly around the world actually becomes part of a security solution, rather than posing risks, meaning the cloud takes the flexibility of working from home to a totally new level.

In addition to being able to access files and documents and log into relevant systems safely, remote workers should also be encouraged to back up data frequently so that a lost device doesn’t mean lost data, and cloud storage solutions are a great solution for this. By migrating to the cloud, you can also ensure that applications are patched and updated regularly to maximise protection.

Whilst ensuring your remote workforce is protected and safe from security breaches is vital, your security policy shouldn’t add to employee’s workload; they should be simple and efficient. It is one of the most important investments you should make as the safety and security of your data and systems has to be a priority, and although it will take a bit of work, you will reap the benefits including reduced office costs, higher morale and increased staff retention as well as access to a wider talent pool.


Josie KlafkowskaJosie KlafkowskaSeptember 25, 2019
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7min1649

The talent conversation is a hot one in digital.

With the ever-increasing number of tech start-ups, expanding global tech vendors, transformational businesses, and digital agencies, there is a finite number of people with the right skillset at any one time. So what can companies do to ensure they attract and retain the right people?

1. Build your brand from the inside out

Millennials and Gen Z are more focused than any generation before on the lifestyle that an employer can offer them. Flexible working, company culture, training and an organisation’s ethical and environmental stance are all subject to scrutiny. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

That’s definitely true when it comes to hiring and keeping great talent!

Reinforcing company culture at the on-boarding stage and consistently within teams clearly defines how people treat each other and sets the scene for interaction and good communication. It may seem superfluous to the immediate problem of solving the talent gap but aligning the recruitment process with the day-to-day culture will make for better-engaged employees. These, in turn, are more likely to build stronger bonds from the outset and so, less likely to leave you at a crucial period of delivery.

2. Invest in knowledge

Faced with a lack of highly skilled knowledge around particular technologies, you’ll have to think differently about how you build teams. You won’t necessarily have all the players that you need in your workforce at any one time. At Cognifide, we realised long ago that we wouldn’t find the skills we needed easily in the market, so we doubled down on training and developing graduates or experienced engineers who were up for learning something new.

In fact, we take on around 50 graduates a year in our innovative Career Start Up programme at our engineering centre in Poznan, Poland. It pays off! Last year, 83 percent of them stayed on as permanent or part-time employees. And in London, our Digital Academy welcomes a regular stream of hugely talented graduates onto our staff.

3. Build hybrid teams

The best-case scenario we’ve found for our clients’ digital project teams is to build a hybrid team of full-time employees, specialist contractors, and partner agencies, supplemented by interns and recent graduates who can develop within the team and become those high-demand workers of the future. Finding the right specialist partners is absolutely key when upskilling your own team on new technologies. 

4. Seek out great soft skills

Of course, a collection of highly skilled individuals does not guarantee a well-functioning team. Employing members of staff based solely on their technical skill set doesn’t guarantee that chemistry will create a cohesive team. At Cognifide, while we have some very technically competent people, it’s not our number one priority when hiring engineers.

A greater focus on soft skills and motivation is what helps us create teams with empathy, who care deeply about our company and customer success.

5. Attitude matters

Technical skills matter but a good recruiter knows that finding candidates with the right attitude and a desire to learn can be even more important. After all, some technical skills are transferable from system to system. It’s the hungry candidates, happy to put the hours in to teach themselves, who will stand out.

6. Share knowledge

A growing trend across digital is informal communities built for knowledge sharing and skills transfer. They are often small groups created for mentoring within the workplace or in the wider community. At Cognifide, we partner with local schools and universities, offering lectures and courses that support up and coming talent. And we host a bunch of different events including a Java User Group, a Testing and Quality Group, an AWS User Group and a HashiCorp User Group, amongst others.

7. Nurture happy

Keeping highly skilled employees means keeping them happy.

Happy colleagues are those that are challenged and respected. They’ll be supported, yet given enough independence to allow them to make a difference and their working environment will be diverse and welcoming to everyone. This is about far more than throwing in bean bags, a sleep pod and a Nespresso machine.

This is about wiring your DNA for a modern workforce that thrives on mutual respect, works to clearly defined goals, is flexible and open to change and embraces all that technology offers to improve their working lives.


Max EaglenMax EaglenSeptember 23, 2019
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9min2038

It wasn’t that long ago that getting a “job for life” was the aspiration of those leaving school and college.  

From gaining an apprenticeship to being part of the furniture, having a salary, a pension scheme, and the golden handshake – you were living the working dream. 

We all know that the working world has changed and with technology acting as the enabler, those in employment are moving jobs more now than ever, with a LV report revealing that the average UK worker changes roles once every five years, equating to around 9.4 jobs a lifetime. 

The ability to work “anywhere, anytime”, combined with many finding their roles made redundant by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and others wanting to opt out of the “9-to-5” means the likelihood is more temporary and less permanent roles emerging in the future workplace. A trend backed by the Office for National Statistics that estimates there is currently nearly 5 million self-employed in the UK (equating to around 15 percent of the workforce) up from 3.3 million (12 percent) in 2001

So, what does this mean in terms of workplace? Is this the demise of the office? At Platform, where we help clients such as Vodafone, British Gas, and Centrica Business Solutions visualise their working world of the future – we think not. We think it means changing our ideas and beliefs of what the office means and building a space that can be wholly cooperative, that allows fluidity of working while giving flexibility yet function. In fact, this is what we have created working with Vodafone on its Digital Innovation Hub, a technology incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs based in Manchester’s Media City.  

The launch of the Digital Working Hub

Billed as the workplace of the future, the Vodafone Digital Innovation Hub will provide entrepreneurs with access to network experts, the latest technologies, including 5G, IoT, and high-speed fibre and a space to work together and exchange ideas. 

Yet the creation of the Digital Innovation Hub and Media City are far more than just places for those wanting to work independently. They highlight a new beginning in the world of work where cities become more agile to accommodate those working within it. We helped Vodafone imagine just what this city might look like with V-City, a 3D visualisation created by Platform for Vodafone that usesIoT and 5G to show a snapshot of the future. Complete with smart, connected infrastructure, drone deliveries, driverless cars and 4k streaming video, it helps organisations to plan for the future and assess some of the challenges and opportunities ahead.   

The launch of digital working hubs signifies the need for people to have face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, but not be confined to the traditional office environment. It creates a space for those moving through their working lives but not being constricted by it. The lifestyle, travel and hospitality platform Salina takes this one step further by blurring the lines between work and play by offering spaces you can travel to, yet live, work and co-exist for as long or as little as you want.    

Collaborative hubs are not in themselves new. However, what if they were the office norm allowing workers to move from one city to the other? To travel while working and to use the power of the community, just maybe not their organisation’s community?  It brings a new meaning to “working away from home” and a new way of thinking of the office space. 

What does the future workspace look like?

So, what might this new office space look like?  It goes without saying that tech will enable it allowing not only connectivity with colleagues working remotely, but those working in different continents across different time zones.

Taking learnings from those around you, language will no longer be a barrier as your virtual assistant translates in real-time allowing you to have conversations and meetings with those who have never spoken your native tongue.

Artificial Intelligence will take mundane, repetitive or highly complex, big data tasks and find meaningful patterns within them that help enhance decision making or deliver better insights into our business and our customers. Imagine VR and AR being seamlessly woven into the workplace to allow scenario planning, training via virtual visualisation and an enhanced sense of environment with VR/REAL bringing true immersive content that understands the user’s location.  This kind of full immersive technology gives rise to a much more mobile and distributed workforce and a more freelance economy of specialists contracted to deliver specific tranches of work.

Teams will be virtual, organic and machine based but not all, not yet.

The social agenda creeps higher up the priority list

As our technology races ahead and machine learning permeates throughout the workforce we will still have the need for places that better serve our creative, communal desire for human contact and face to face interaction. The ‘social’ agenda will inevitably creep higher up the list as priority for keeping a productive, successful happy workforce and if we are to avoid the possible dystopian scenarios such as the emergence of the Useless Class (people that cannot find employment means they are unable to maintain or improve their standard of living) predicted by the likes of Yuval Harari, we need to be mindful of the need to create spaces for not just as workplace solutions but social solutions helping to boost interaction, creation, innovation and dialogue and really consider the isolation risk threatened by remote working.

As last decade saw the end of the “job for life”, this decade the end to the “9-to-5”, maybe the next decade will see the end of the office as we know it but open up a world of offices that we move fluidly through, collaborating and engaging with different communities. Giving workers the chance to move and change working environments as they feel fit, it could boost creativity, help share best practice and see us becoming a global workforce like never before.  


Alice NewAlice NewSeptember 11, 2019
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10min1745

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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7min1697

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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2min1772

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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6min1883

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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11min2218

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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3min1620

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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19min2167
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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8min2482

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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3min1480

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.”

 




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