New ways of working are a win-win

Profit is driven by creativity, innovation and productivity, each of which relies on an engaged workforce motivated by their work environment, writes Edwin Smith


New ways of working are a win-win

Co-founder of Intel Gordon E. Moore is credited with the observation we now know as Moore’s law – that the capability of computers doubles roughly every two years. Almost 50 years after Moore’s pronouncement, at a time when digital technology has an ever-growing influence on companies, that exponentially increasing pace of change has also come to the world of business.

Raconteur’s research into the future of work shows 57 per cent of senior executives admit that the pace of change continues to take them by surprise, and there is more evidence to suggest this rapid evolution is what is driving the transformation of companies and the way that we work.

The same survey showed large businesses, with more than 6,000 employees, now have a heightened awareness of the opportunities and dangers associated with this rapid change.  Some 42 per cent said securing the long-term relevance of the company is at the top of the agenda, while a further 44 per cent indicated that evidence in support of prioritising the issue was growing; that’s a combined total of 86 per cent.

As you might expect, the most significant influencers of the evolution of modern commercial organisations are customers. When asked to name the two factors that would be most important in driving the transformation of their business, 55 per cent picked out improving the customer experience. Innovation, which was mentioned by 45 per cent of respondents, was deemed the second most important factor.

But, of course, any business weighing up changes to the way it operates must view each individual element of the picture as an interconnected part of the whole, and be able to justify and quantify the benefits of the decisions that it makes.

“What drives profit is creativity, innovation and productivity,” says Chris Kozup, senior director of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at mobile infrastructure company Aruba. “And the source of creativity, innovation and productivity is the workforce.”

GENERATION MOBILE

In an effort to understand modern employees and to help get the most out of them, Aruba has developed the concept of “Generation Mobile”. Rather than a specific age group in the mould of Generation Y or Millennials, Mr Kozup describes Generation Mobile as a “demographic who see mobile technology as a way to bond their personal and professional lives, but also to drive greater productivity and be more responsive”.

Each employee’s desk in central London probably costs their employer £6,000 to £8,000

According to Aruba statistics, 72 per cent of people identified as part of Generation Mobile said they felt more productive when working from home, while almost half said they worked better outside traditional nine-to-five office hours. What’s more, over half said they would prefer to have the option to work from home two or three days a week, rather than receive a salary that was 10 per cent bigger than their current pay packet.

“By enabling this class of employee, we believe it will allow them to be extremely productive,” says Mr Kozup, adding that Aruba has done some research which suggests Generation Mobile employees tend to be up to twice as productive as their differently minded counterparts.

On top of this, a large-scale global study by office space provider Regus found 64 per cent and 65 per cent of respondents thought flexible working led to faster and better quality decision-making, respectively. Although various industries differed in their opinion of the efficacy of flexible working, even in retail and manufacturing, the sectors that were least enthusiastic, the proportion who judged flexible working to be more efficient was in excess of 70 per cent.

PEOPLE MAKE COMPANIES

“It’s people who make companies,” says Mr Kozup. “Catering to the working style and the technology needs of this class of employee will be so important as we move into the future.”

According to software provider Unily, there are yet more reasons to adopt a collaborative, flexible, technology-driven approach to work. The company points to a McKinsey study which shows 19 per cent of an “interaction worker’s” working hours are taken up by searching for and gathering information. This, apparently, needn’t be the case.

“Many large organisations don’t use search technology [within their own systems] as well as they should,” says Unily founder Will Saville. Software can sit on top of existing Windows applications and allow people, whether working in the office on a desktop or from elsewhere using a mobile device, to collaborate and work on projects, not only by virtue of having access to a huge amount of content wherever they are, but also by finding specific things and colleagues with certain skills, all in an efficient way.

“In the old days, you’d be double-clicking on folders and looking in folders and trying to find all that stuff,” says Mr Saville. “It’s not just about the search technology, but how it works with the device you’re using – that’s what creates the time-saving. It all enables people to communicate together, make better decisions faster and that will impact the business in a positive way.”

In the Raconteur survey, improved use and integration of technology was viewed as a major influencing factor on a firm’s profitability, second only to “responding more rapidly to market opportunities”.

Introducing systems and practices that enable people to do their work with mobile, wireless technology can have other benefits too. Mr Kozup says KPMG has been able to save around $2 million by cutting down on the amount of copper wiring the company installs in its buildings, now that so many people only use portable devices.

According to Capita property and workplace consultant Dave Cordy, when all costs are taken into account, each employee’s desk in central London probably costs their employer £6,000 to £8,000.

“It’s an organisation’s second biggest cost after salaries,” says Mr Cordy. “But so much of our work these days isn’t done sat at a desk. It’s about collaborating and that might take place in an office, but it can happen in other places too. The challenge for an organisation is to right-size the space according to its needs and tie everything into its property strategy.”

Of course, there are barriers to changing the way a company operates and adopting a new kind of approach. In the Raconteur survey, a lack of funding came out as the most widely encountered obstacle to forming a robust business transformation strategy; some 39 per cent of respondents cited it as a significant factor. But, with the benefits of these new ways of working there for all to see, it might be better not to ask whether a business can afford to commit to transformation, but whether it can afford not to.