Harnessing a smarter workforce

For the majority of the world’s population, the last decade has been a time of unprecedented change. Making sense of this new world will differentiate successful organisations from the rest in the first half of the 21st century, says Duke Daehling of Kenexa, an IBM company

Mr Daehling, Kenexa’s smarter workforce director Europe, believes this new world will require a fundamental change in thinking and attitudes to work. Four major shifts are currently driving the need to reinvent work – the rise of social business, big data and analytics, mobile technology, and the independent worker, he says. Each of these shifts is accelerating and magnifying the challenges facing employers and employees, but conversely they are also making it possible for people and employers to partner and work in new and better ways.

1. Social business – connecting for innovation and productivity

The first shift, the rise of social business in the workplace, means that people are connecting with each other more quickly than ever before and doing it in new ways. “Smart employers are taking advantage of this, efficiently and effectively flattening their organisations, allowing their workforces to share knowledge, build expertise, and organise and collaborate in new ways, both inside and outside their firewalls,” says Mr Daehling.

Jon Machtynger, chief technology officer, IBM Collaboration Solutions, adds: “This move to social connectivity is not new, but the scale offered by the combination of new tools, devices and technology provides an impact never seen before. Being able to tap into international expertise, a colleague’s previous history within an industry or a client set has allowed a number of organisations to respond to client and internal demand and innovate very differently. One key to doing this successfully is to embed social and collaborative capabilities into our everyday way of working. It helps support a transition of mostly process-centric to people-centric activities, where appropriate.”

2. Big data human analytics – insights for action

The astronomical rise in data available to organisations from external and internal sources has fuelled the second shift. “Decisions once made based on limited information and gut feelings are

now based on insights extracted from the exabytes of information or ‘big data’ that is available. The accompanying analytics are revealing previously unseen relationships and correlations, and employers are using these insights to guide how they design their jobs to attract and retain talent, as well as how they manage their workplace culture and develop their existing workforce,” says Mr Daehling

We’ll make sure technology not only drives efficiency, but also fuels collective innovation

One such example of big data analytics comes from Kenexa which researched the huge number of data points associated with its assessments of different job types. This analysis revealed that, while our stereotypes might lead us to believe that successful salespeople, for example, would be persuasive and outgoing, the data showed the personality traits most predictive of success were sensitivity and helpfulness. Rather than being pushy, the best salespeople had a genuine mission around truly helping and adding value to a customer beyond just a sale.

3. Mobile technology – information wherever and whenever

The third shift, mobile technology, has completely changed the way people access information.

With the advent of the internet, knowledge has become a readily available commodity and people instantly have access to new ideas and new information from all over the globe. According to the World Bank, more than 75 per cent of global population owns a mobile device. “Information is easily available, easily accessible and easily shared, so the pace of decision-making is increasing,” says Mr Daehling.

And the rise in mobile technology links to the fourth and final trend.

4. Independent workers – a new breed

The last decade has seen the emergence of a new workforce phenomenon – the rise of the independent worker. Workers with extremely specialised skills are increasingly taking control of their careers, choosing the type of work they want to do, who they want to do it for, and how and when they want to work. While these workers are extremely mobile and can be used to solve a pressing, short-term problem, organisations will have to make sure they have the right type of culture to engage these workers.

This new breed of worker presents challenges for organisations; they require a different style of management, engagement and motivation. Organisations that can quickly adapt their approaches to work most effectively with independent workers, using technologies that enable connections and collaboration, have a great opportunity to take a competitive advantage.

According to Mr Daehling, successful organisations will be those that harness the power of big data and analytics with human insight, understand what makes people good at what they do, and makes sure the work environment is designed to accommodate and encourage them. And, lastly, uses social and mobile technologies to bring people and employers together to do meaningful and valuable work that drives businesses. “We’ll make sure technology not only drives efficiency, but also fuels collective innovation. The effect will be similar to what the microscope and telescope have done for human vision, enabling people to see and understand what was never visible before.

“When work is done by people coming together, hierarchies will break down and organisations will open up. The border between an organisation’s employees and ad hoc workers will become more porous and every aspect of work will become more transparent, such as what jobs are available and what skill-set is needed. Organisations will be able to predict career paths and the most suitable roles for candidates and employees, and employers will have the ability to find the right people who possess the expert skills required for their work.

“In the new supply chain for the 21st-century workforce, people will become linked virtually and socially through the use of mobile devices in a world of instant connection and collaboration. People will create enormous pools of networks, skills and expertise – ready and able to deploy at a moment’s notice to help organisations achieve their business goals,” says Mr Daehling.

For more on what a smarter workforce is and how to create one, download Redesigning Work Creates a Smarter Workforce http://www.kenexa.com/SmarterWorkforce/SmarterWorkforceWP

Or visit http://www.ibm.com/social-business/us/en/build-a-smarter-workforce.html