Four Ways To Shift Automation From Tactical To Transformative

Organizations must transcend piecemeal approaches to business reinvention and design processes around people — tightly linked from the front to the back office, advises Girish Pai, who leads Cognizant’s Intelligent Process Automation practice.

“Going digital” has long been touted as a silver bullet for delivering better customer experiences and streamlining processes. Automation has become the go-to approach for solving immediate pain points, mainly in the form of tactically deploying one-off robotic process automation (RPA) initiatives to make our jobs a little easier and/or more efficient.

While achieving short-term gains, this piecemeal approach to process reinvention creates complexity due to disconnected strategies, siloed pilot projects and an incohesive technology strategy, among other factors. More importantly, it complicates businesses’ ability to adapt and inject fluidity into operations — characteristics crucial for delivering the future of work right now.

Old ways of thinking about automation just won’t cut it anymore, and the decentralized business world emerging from the pandemic has increased the pressure to deliver.

However, we’re finding that businesses are overwhelmingly ill-prepared for this journey. According to our research, 60% of companies have implemented or piloted automation technology, but only a tiny minority (8%) have said they’ve achieved automation at scale.

To unlock new value, opportunities and growth, organizations need to focus on the “why” of automation to achieve business results. They need to design processes around people — customers, employees, partners, suppliers — fused together from the front-office to the back-office, across all functions. Here’s how.

Anchor end-to-end process redesign to business outcomes and ensure scalability.

Organizations typically approach automation by looking for opportunities to increase speed or take complex manual tasks off their hands. It seems logical — but if they’re automating processes that just don’t work, they’re merely automating inefficiency. As customer journeys become more complex and competitors accelerate innovation, it becomes even more important to exert strategic oversight into automation initiatives.

End-to-end process change doesn’t work when organizations focus arbitrarily on finding opportunities for automation. They should first determine their overall business goals, identify inefficiencies in existing processes and then create automated systems that can scale. To succeed, they need to weave together people, processes, experiences, data insights, intelligence and technology via an automation fabric that masks complexity from users, simplifies orchestration, brings together disparate emerging technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing and intelligent document processing, and drives adoption and collaboration.

We recently worked with a healthcare provider to reduce its claims denial rate and improve net collections. We used process mining tools to identify bottlenecks and process issues, then ran possible intervention simulations to build a business case for business change.

This allowed us to create a strategic blueprint for implementing process changes, automation, monitoring and people enablement. Using RPA, optical character recognition (OCR) and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) technologies, we were able to reduce the claims denial rate from 17% to 12% and improve net collections from 23% to 30%.

Because automation was deployed strategically instead of tactically, the processes behind the technology are efficient and will remain stable through growth periods.

Take a people-first approach.

As businesses adjust to a digital culture, they need to prioritize the human beings working alongside software and bots (i.e., digital workers). A one-size-fits-all approach to education and upskilling doesn’t work with a multigenerational and distributed workforce. Creating a people-first automation plan requires accommodations for skill level, comfort with technology and the state of innovation.

We worked with a claims processing organization to help it navigate this type of culture change. By analyzing the day-to-day challenges and dependencies of users, we created a customized training program that showcases how technology can reduce effort and improve decision-making. We prioritized initiatives based on ease of implementation and scaled them as technology understanding improved.

By prioritizing the needs of the workforce as new technology is deployed, the business will not only enhance time-to-adoption but also create a better customer experience through skilled employees, more efficient claims handling, greater cost savings from reduced penalties and more resilient operations.

Use modern technology to create modern experiences.

Digital is enabling companies to break traditional industry boundaries, introducing supportive and complementary offerings that create seamless purchasing environments for customers. But in doing so, they’re no longer just delivering products — they’re delivering experiences.

This means that back-office metric optimization can no longer be disassociated from front-office customer interaction and overall process change. The customer experience must be at the core of how processes are managed.

One leading medical device company struggled to educate customers on the features of its new devices. Because users’ health was involved, the company needed access to accurate information as quickly as possible. After reviewing patient, caregiver, payer and supplier personas and journeys, we helped create a blueprint for simplifying the interaction across ecosystem touchpoints.

We introduced chatbots, remote monitoring and AI-based patient safety services. By centering decisions around customer needs and expectations, the company was able to create a seamless user experience that reduces friction.

Guide widespread digitization with high-level strategy.

Automation is becoming more pervasive in enterprises. Low-code automation tools are rapidly entering the market, making it easier than ever to create digitally connected ways of working.

The key is to empower those closest to the process challenges with design and execution guide rails to holistically integrate and optimize disparate technologies as they learn, build and scale experiences and process transformation rapidly.

While the growing accessibility of automation offers a panoply of process optimization opportunities, the ease of use of low-code automation should not override the need for high-level strategic planning. To truly power customer-driven business decisions, organizations need data — and lots of it. If departments within your organization are approaching automation independently, data can quickly become trapped in siloes — making it impossible to efficiently gather the insights required to eliminate friction points.

Never lose sight of the “why” in automation

As process digitization evolves, it will become even more important to understand the “why” — not just the “what” — behind automation initiatives. Efficient process digitization requires a balancing act between effective technology adoption and enterprise-wide oversight.

By taking a fused, end-to-end automation approach, businesses can cut across siloes and enable data to flow freely between departments, creating an opportunity to thrive through better decision-making, reduced costs and greater business innovation.

To learn more visit the Intelligent Process Automation section of our website or contact us.

Girish Pai is a seasoned digital and transformation leader with over two decades of experience and a strong track record of delivering strategic business outcomes for clients globally across industries. Girish heads the Intelligent Process Automation Practice for Cognizant Digital Business Operations, leading the charge to create next-gen digital solutions by leveraging technology to simplify, reimagine and transform processes. Girish holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, India. He can be reached at Girish.Pai@cognizant.com or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/girishpai/

Source: Four Ways To Shift Automation From Tactical To Transformative

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The Pandemic Led Many Women To Rethink Work. Here’s What They Want Most From Employers

No one had it easy during the pandemic, but the data shows that women may have had a harder time than men. At the end of 2020, women held 5.4 million fewer jobs than they had in February 2020, before the pandemic began. Meanwhile, men lost 4.4 million jobs over that same time period.

While working-age women overall have largely recovered since the depths of the pandemic, mothers have repaired their losses more slowly.  As of July 2021, nearly 1 million fewer mothers were actively working than in July 2020, according to Misty Heggeness, principal economist and senior adviser at the Census Bureau.

There are things employers can do to help. In a panel discussion on Tuesday hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum, a national organization dedicated to developing and advancing policies for women, experts discussed what employers can do to keep their female employees, especially those with children, on the payroll. Here are three things women say they want:

1. Accessible child care.

Many of the current struggles women face derive from finding adequate and affordable child care, said Angela Rachidi, senior fellow and Rowe Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that researches government, politics, economics, and social welfare.

She noted that many employer policies don’t completely meet a family’s needs, such as providing access to a convenient childcare provider. It’s also not particular to the pandemic, she noted that workplaces should be focusing on policies that offer more flexible, more affordable options, as opposed to just blanket childcare subsidies.

“I think that that’s where our focus should be,” said Rachidi. “It should be not only our government policies, but again, our workplace policies to make child care better, and meet the needs of families.”

2. Workplace flexibility.

Flexibility is vital to all working parents–not just mothers–but mothers are often quicker to express a desire to have the flexibility to work a reduced schedule, if need be, said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C. So if the goal is to keep working parents on the payroll–or get them back–allow them time off during the day if needed, or the ability to structure their own hours.

If you’ve offered more flexibility during the pandemic, think about maintaining those policies or asking employees their thoughts on new schedules. “The pandemic has allowed employers to see that they’re able to have these policies. And not only the paid family leave, but the remote work and the flexibility. And I think just will become a silver lining coming out of all of this,” said Greszler.

3. Paid-time off.

Paid-time off is useful for parents, who need the time to care for an infant or an ill loved one. President Biden’s American Families Plan includes $225 billion to create a paid medical and family leave program. The program would eventually guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave, and providing a federal subsidy for workers of up to $4,000 per month. The Department of Labor found that 95 percent of the lowest-wage workers, mostly women and workers of color, lack any access to paid family leave, so the program is needed.

But to keep women in the workforce long term, you should offer both paid leave and increased flexibility, said Greszler, because paid family leave, while necessary may have a lower utility for women on a day-to-day basis than, say, malleable hours.

“I don’t think [a lack of] paid family leave is is holding women back,” said Greszler. “Women increasingly value flexibility far more than family leave.”

Even so, both policies can be done and the balance of the two may also help employees be more productive. In 2019, for example the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decided its generous 52-week paid parental leave policy was not working because too many workers would be out at the same time, creating more disruption that it was worth. Instead, the organization decided to offer half as much paid leave and a $20,000 stipend to new parents to help cover expenses and childcare.

Source: The Pandemic Led Many Women to Rethink Work. Here’s What They Want Most From Employers | Inc.com

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The Unspoken Reasons Employees Don’t Want Remote Work To End

It’s no secret that employee-employer tensions about heading back to the workplace are growing. As more employers push to get employees back in-house, the workers themselves are taking a harder stand. An April 2021 survey by FlexJobs found that 60% of women and 52% of men would quit if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least part of the time. Sixty-nine percent of men and 80% of women said that remote work options are among their top considerations when looking for a new job.

The “official” reasons that they don’t want to head back to the workplace are well-documented. They’re more productive. It’s easier to blend work and life when your commute is a walk down the hallway. But, for some, the reasons are more personal and difficult to share. Who will walk the dog they adopted during the pandemic? They gained weight and need to buy new work clothes. The thought of being trapped in a cubicle all day makes them want to cry.

We spoke with several people who shared their very personal reasons why they don’t want to return to work. (Because of the sensitive nature of some of the comments, Fast Company has allowed some of the individuals to use a pseudonym to protect their identities.)

‘I need to nap during the day’

Since 2013, when a backpacking incident caused a spine injury that required two surgeries, Lynn (not her real name) has been dealing with chronic pain and sleep issues. As a result, she’s often tired during the day and realized she wasn’t at her best, especially after lunch, when fatigue would often set in.

“When I’m in meetings, and people throw questions to me, I can’t really answer instantly [or I] say the wrong things,” she says. She didn’t feel comfortable talking to her boss or colleagues about the issues she was facing and was dealing with anxiety, depression, and hair loss in recent years as a result of her sleep issues. But, during the pandemic, she’s been able to adjust her schedule so she can take a nap during her lunch hour and rest periodically when she needs to do so. (Research tells us that naps are good for our brains.)

Since she’s been working from home, her productivity has soared—and her supervisor has noticed and begun complimenting her on her work. She feels sharper and healthier. Her biggest concern right now, she says, is that she will have to give up the balance she has finally found.

‘I’d give up my raise for remote work’

Melvin Gonzalez, a certified public accountant (CPA) for Inc and Go, an online business formation website, is facing a dilemma. “I love my career, love my job, and have amazing benefits which include a lifelong pension—something very rare in today’s labor force,” he says. “However, as with everything in life, there is a price to pay: my commute,” he says. Gonzalez travels two hours each way, which adds up to more than 20 hours per week just getting to and from work.

Gonzalez said he never really considered how much time he was spending on commuting until he worked from home during the pandemic, He used the extra time—the equivalent of a part-time job—to go to the gym, spend time with his wife and children, and still get his work done.

Now that he’s facing heading back to the office, he’s not ready to give up that time. He and his colleagues have shared their concerns with their employer, but he doesn’t think remote work will continue to be an option. He says he’s even willing to give up a raise to keep his flexibility. “This has certainly become my main concern about going back to the office,” he says. “I believe my mood for work will not be the same.”

‘I’m in recovery’

Until the pandemic hit, Frank (not his real name) worked at a high-end restaurant in Philadelphia. What his co-workers didn’t know at the time was that he was struggling with alcoholism. The environment, where he had ready access to alcohol and co-workers who loved to go out for drinks after work, made it difficult for him to quit.

But, while many saw their substance abuse issues increase during the pandemic’s isolation, Frank was able to get his addiction under control, he says. Now that the restaurant is resuming full service again and inviting him to return to his old job, he has concerns about whether that will put his recovery in jeopardy. “Most people don’t recover because they’re not willing to change their lifestyle,” he says. If he refuses to return to his old job, money will be tight, but he’s pretty sure he can make a go of it. “I also don’t want to admit to all of my co-workers that I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he says.

‘I don’t want to give up my side hustle

“My reluctance is really the opportunity cost of commuting,” says Shondra (not her real name), a public relations professional in New York City. Before she was laid off in April 2020, she would wake at 6 a.m. to have enough time to get ready, walk her dog, commute, and start work by 10 a.m. After she was laid off, she started picking up freelance work, which turned out to be lucrative—and which she could easily do from home.

Shondra has a new employer, but the plan about whether or not employees will be required to be back at the office full-time is “very unclear,” she says. For now, she has plenty of time to complete her responsibilities for her employer and work on her freelance projects. That won’t be the case if she goes back to her long commute. Plus, the thought of being on mass transit with so many other people gives her pause from a safety perspective, she says.

She’s waiting to see what happens but is reluctant to give up the freelance work that got her through her layoff. “It’s given me the opportunity to build a nice nest egg, in case—God forbid—something like that happens again,” she says. “I don’t want to lose this opportunity by having to return to the office full-time.”

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites

Source: The unspoken reasons employees don’t want remote work to end

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Why Workplace Empathy Won’t Keep Employees Happy

“Empathy is one of the values we’ve had from our founding.” That’s what Chelsea MacDonald, SVP of people and operations at Ada, a tech startup that builds customer-service platforms, told me when we first got on the phone for this story in June. When the company was in its early stages, with about 50 people, empathy was “a bit more ad hoc,” because you could bump into colleagues at lunch. But that was pre-pandemic, and before a hiring surge.

Now, MacDonald says, empathy is built on communication (as many as five times a week, she communicates in some way to the entire company about empathy), through tools (specifically, one that tracks whom people communicate with most and who gets left out), through intimacy (cultivated through special-interest groups) and through transparency (senior leaders share notes after every meeting). At various points in our discussion, MacDonald describes empathy as “more than just, ‘Hey, care about other people’” and “making space for other people to make mistakes.”

She was one of a dozen executives whose communications directors reached out when I tweeted about the office trend of “empathy.” Adriana Bokel Herde, the chief people officer at the software company Pegasystems, told me about the three-hour virtual empathy-training session the company had created for managers—and how nearly 90% had joined voluntarily.

Kieran Snyder, the CEO of Textio, a predictive-writing company, said the biggest surprise about empathy in the workplace is that it and accountability are “flip sides of the same coin.” “We had an engineer give some feedback that was really striking,” she told me. “She said that the most empathetic thing her manager could do for her was be really clear about expectations. Let me be an adult and handle my deliverables so that I know what to do.”

All of these leaders see empathy as a path forward after 17 months of societal and professional tumult. And employees do feel that it’s missing from the workplace: according to the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study, administered by software company Businessolver, only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organizations was “sufficient.”

Companies know they must start thinking seriously about addressing their empathy deficit or risk losing workers to companies that are. Still, I’ve also heard from workers who think it’s all nonsense: the latest in a long string of corporate attempts to distract from toxic or exploitative company culture, yet another scenario in which employers implore workers to be honest and vulnerable about their needs, then implicitly or explicitly punish them for it.

If you’ve read all this and are still confused about what workplace empathy actually is, you’re not alone. Outside the office, developing empathy means trying to understand and share the feelings or experiences of someone else. Empathy is different from sympathy, which is more one-directional: you feel sad for what someone else is going through, but you have little understanding of what it feels like. Because empathy is predicated on experience, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate. At best, it’s expanded sympathy; at worst, it’s trying to force connections between wildly different lived experiences (see especially: white people attempting to empathize with the experience of systemic racism).

Applied in a corporate setting, the very idea of empathy begins to fall apart. Is it bringing their whole selves, to use an HR buzzword, to work? Is it cultivating niceness? Is it making space for sympathy and allowing people to air grievances, or is it leadership modeling vulnerability? Over the course of reporting this story, I talked to more than a dozen people from the C-suites of midsize and large companies that had decided to make empathy central to their corporate messaging or strategy.

Some plans were more fleshed out and self-interrogating. Some thought an empathy training available to three time zones was enough. Others understood empathy as small gestures, like looking at a co-worker’s calendar, seeing they’ve been in meetings all day, and giving them a 10-minute pause to get water before you meet with them.

But where did this current push for workplace empathy begin? According to Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and author of the upcoming book Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval, it sort of started with, well, him. In the fall of 2020, he’d been hearing a similar refrain from businesses: everyone was tired. Tired of the pandemic; of stalled diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts; of their bosses and their employees.

When he looked at the 2020 State of Workplace Empathy Study, then in its fourth year, the reasons for that exhaustion became clear. People were tired because they were working all the time, and trying to sort out caregiving responsibilities, and dealing with oscillating threat levels from COVID-19. But they were also tired, he believed, because there was a generalized empathy deficit.

Read More: Hourly Workers Are Demanding Better Pay and Benefits—and Getting Them

That “empathy deficit” became the cornerstone of Taylor’s State of Society address in November 2020. “Much of the resurgence of DE&I programming in the wake of the George Floyd killing was supposed to encourage open conversation and mutual understanding,” he said. “But it often bypassed empathy. Well-meaning programs devolve into grievance sessions … rather than listening and trying to relate.”

SHRM is an incredibly influential organization, with more than 300,000 members in 165 countries. So while it’s not as if empathy efforts were nonexistent before, Taylor’s speech encouraged them. Even if members weren’t there to listen to his words, his message—and the data from the study—began to filter into HR departments, leaving a trail of optional learning modules and Zoom trainings in its wake.

The backlash started shortly thereafter. Taylor acknowledges as much. “I see these companies jumping on it,” he told me. “But it’s not an initiative. It’s not a buzzword. It’s a cultural principle. If you make this promise, as a company, if you put this word out there, your employees are going to hold you to it.” He adds that empathy should go both ways: “There’s an expectation that employees can mess up; employers should be able to mess up too.”

In the case of employees, many are frustrated by perceived hypocrisy. (All employees who spoke critically about their employers for this story requested anonymity out of concern for their jobs.) One woman told me her company, Viacom, has been doing a lot of messaging about empathy, particularly when it comes to mental health. At the same time, it has switched to a health plan that’s more restrictive when it comes to accessing mental-health professionals and care.

(Viacom attributes the change to a shift in policy on the part of their insurance provider and says it has worked to remedy it.) Other employees report repeated invocations of empathy from upper management in staff meetings, but little training on how to implement it with those they supervise. As one female employee at a performing-arts nonprofit told me, “In a one-on-one meeting with my boss where I was openly struggling and tried to discuss it, I was told that mental health is important, but improving my job performance was more important.”

A customer-service representative for a fintech company said empathy had been centered as a “core value” of the organization: something they were meant to practice with one another but also with customers. To quantify worker empathy, the company sends out customer-satisfaction surveys (CSATs) after each interaction. It found that dips in CSAT scores, which were measured by an automated system, reliably happened when a customer had a long hold time, which had little to do with whether the representative modeled empathy. Yet employees were still promoted based on these scores.

The central tension emerges again and again: “There’s an irony, because there’s the equity that you want to present to employees—while also giving special consideration and solutions for specific situations,” Joyce Kim, the chief marketing officer of Genesys, which provides customer service and call-center tech for businesses, told me. “Those two are often incongruent.”

Put another way, it’s hard, at least from a leadership perspective, to cultivate equal treatment for everyone while also making exceptions for everyone. If you allow an employee to work different hours, have different expectations of accessibility or have more leeway because of an illness, how is that fair to those who don’t need those things? How, in other words, do you accommodate difference while still maximizing profits?

What companies are trying to do, at heart, is train employees to treat one another not like productivity robots, but like people: people with kids, people with responsibilities, people shouldering the weight of systemic discrimination. But that runs counter to the main goal of most companies, which is to create and distribute a product—whether that’s a service, an object or a design—as efficiently as possible. They might dress up that goal in less capitalistic language, but the end point remains the same: profits, the more the better, with as little friction as possible.

Within this framework, the frictionless employee is the ideal employee. But a lack of friction is a privilege. It means looking and acting and behaving like people in power, which, at least in American society, means being white, male and cisgender; with few or no caregiving responsibilities; no physical or mental disabilities; no strong accent or awkward social tics or physical reminders, like “bad teeth,” of growing up poor; and no needs for accommodations—religious, dietary or otherwise. For decades, offices were filled with people who fit this bill, or who were able to hide or groom away the parts of themselves that did not.

The women and people of color who were admitted into these spaces did so with an unspoken caveat that they would make themselves amenable to the status quo. They didn’t bring their “whole selves” to work. Not even close. They brought only the parts that would blend in with the rest of the workforce. If you were sexually harassed, you didn’t make a fuss about it. If someone used a racial slur, same deal. If there were Christmas celebrations that made the one Jewish employee feel weird, that person was expected not to make waves. Bad behavior wasn’t friction, per se. But a worker whose identity already created a form of friction complaining about it? That sure was.

Historians of labor have pointed out that this posture was particularly prevalent in office settings, where salaried workers were often saturated in narratives of a great, unified purpose. If employees took care of the company, and flattened themselves into as close to the image of the ideal worker as possible, the company would take care of them, in compensation and eventual pension. Which is one of many reasons that white collar office workers have been resistant to unionization efforts, which felt, as sociologist C. Wright Mills has noted, like a crass, almost hysterical form of office friction.

Machinists and longshoremen were laborers and had no recourse other than the big stick of the union to advocate for themselves. Office workers could solve conflict man to man, boss to employee, like, well, the white gentlemen that they were—or at the very least pretended to be.

This mindset began to erode over the course of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s—first, when massive waves of layoffs and benefit cuts destabilized the myth of the benevolent parent company. But the white maleness of the culture also began to (very gradually) shift in the wake of legal protections against discrimination related to gender, age, disability and, only recently, sexual orientation.

White male workers remained dominant in most industries, particularly in leadership roles. But they began to lose their unquestioned monopoly on the norms of the workplace. Some changes were embraced; others, especially around sexual harassment and racial discrimination, were changed via legal force.

Read More: The Pandemic Reset the Balance Between Workers and Employers. How Bosses Respond Will Shape the Future of Work

The overarching goal of HR departments in the past, going back to the field’s origins in “scientific management” of factory assembly lines, was keeping employees healthy enough to work efficiently. After 1964, their task expanded to include compliance with legal protections, in addition to the continued work of keeping employees healthy and “happy” enough to do their work well. “Unhappiness,” after all, is expensive—according to a Gallup estimate from 2013, dissatisfaction costs U.S. companies $450 million to $550 million a year in lost productivity. Unhappiness, in other words, is friction.

But as the workplace continues to diversify, how do you maintain the worker “happiness” of a bunch of different sorts of people, from different backgrounds, with different cultural contexts? There are some obvious fixes: continuing to erode the power of monoculture (in which one, limited way of being/working becomes the way of being/working to which all other employees must aspire); recruiting and retaining managers who actually know how to manage; creating a culture that encourages taking time off. But usually, the proposed solution takes the form of the HR initiative.

Take the 2010s push for “wellness,” which manifested in the form of mental-health seminars, gym memberships and free Fitbits. You can view these initiatives as part of a desire to reduce health-insurance premiums. But you can also see them as a means of confronting the reality of a workforce that, in the wake of the Great Recession, was anxious about their finances and careers, particularly as more and more workers were replaced by subcontractors, who enjoyed even fewer protections and privileges.

Or consider the push for DE&I programs in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2015. These initiatives aim to acknowledge a perceived source of friction—the fact that a company is very white, its leadership remains “snowcapped,” or the workplace is quietly or aggressively hostile to Black and brown employees—while also providing a proposed solution. The corporate DE&I initiative communicates that we see this problem, we’re working to solve it, so you can talk less about it.

Wellness and DE&I initiatives are frequently unsatisfying and demoralizing, particularly for those workers they are ostensibly designed to benefit. They often lean heavily on the labor of those with the least power within an organization. And they approach systemic problems with solutions designed to disrupt people’s lives as little as possible. (A three-hour webinar will not create a culture of inclusion.) But the superficiality is part of the point.

Contain the friction, but do so by creating as little additional friction as possible, because a series of eruptions is easier to contain than a truly paradigm-shifting one that threatens the status quo and, by extension, the company’s public profile and profitability. According to a 2021 SHRM report, in the five years since DE&I initiatives swept the corporate world, 42% of Black employees, 26% of Asian employees and 21% of Hispanic employees reported experiencing unfair treatment based on their race or ethnicity.

The ramifications of racial inequity (lost productivity, turnover and absenteeism) over the past five years may have cost the U.S. up to $172 billion. But instead of acknowledging what it is about the company culture that makes it difficult to retain diverse hires, or what might have to change to recoup those losses, companies blame individual workers who were a “bad fit.” DE&I initiatives don’t fail because there’s a “diversity pipeline problem.” It’s because those in power aren’t willing to relinquish any of it.

A similar contradiction applies to the rise of “corporate empathy.” At its heart, it’s a set of policies, initiatives and messaging developed to respond to the “friction” of a workforce unsettled by the pandemic, a continuing racial reckoning and sustained political anxiety, capped off by an uprising, on a workday, days after most of the workforce had returned from winter breaks. Many empathy initiatives are well-intentioned. But coming from an employer, they still, ultimately, say: We see you are breaking in two, we are too, but how can we collectively still work as if we’re not?

Therein lies the empathy trap. So long as organizations view employees with different needs as sources of friction, and solutions to those needs as examples of unfairness, they will continue to promote and retain employees with the capacity to make their personalities, needs and identities as frictionless as possible. They will encourage “bringing the whole self to work,” but only on a good day. They will fetishize “sharing personal stories,” but only when the ramifications don’t interfere with the product or create interpersonal conflict. This is what happens when you conceive of empathy as allowances: Those who would benefit from it become less desirable workers. Their friction is centered, and their value decreases.

Our society is built around the goals of capitalism—and capitalism, and the ethos of individualism that thrives alongside it, is inherently in conflict with empathy. The qualities that make our bodies, selves and minds most amenable to those goals are prized above all else, and it is HR’s primary task to further cultivate those qualities, whether through “enrichment” or “wellness,” even when the most significant obstacle to either is the workplace itself.

Why do the declarations of empathy feel so hollow? Because growth and profit do not reward it. Companies, HR professionals, managers, even the best trained can do only so much. A large portion of the dissatisfaction that employees feel is the result of actively toxic company policy, thoughtless management and executives clinging to the status quo. But a lot of it, too, is anger at systems that extend beyond the office:

The fraying social safety nets, the decaying social bonds, the frameworks set up to devalue women’s work, the stubborn endurance of racism, the lack of protections or fair pay for the workers whose labor we ostensibly value most. We don’t know how to make people care about other people. No wonder workplace initiatives can feel so laughably incomplete. How do you cultivate a healthy workplace culture when it’s rooted in poisoned soil? “It’s not just a workplace empathy deficit,” Taylor told me. “It’s an American cultural deficit.”

By Anne Helen Petersen

Petersen is co-author of the upcoming book Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home

Source: Why Workplace Empathy Won’t Keep Employees Happy | Time

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Contents:

Find out how emotionally intelligent you are by taking our emotional intelligence quiz.

And Mind Tools Premium club members and Corporate users can listen to our exclusive interview with Daniel Goleman

Cynthia D. Fisher; Neal M. Ashkanasy. “The Emerging Role of Emotions in Work Life: An Introduction

Hoffmann, Elizabeth A. (2016). “Emotions and Emotional Labor at Worker-Owned Businesses: Deep Acting, Surface Acting, and Genuine Emotions”. The Sociological Quarterly. 57: 152–173. doi:10.1111/tsq.12113. S2CID 145338476.

McQuerrey, Lisa. “Eight Steps to End Drama in The Workplace”. Retrieved 20 April 2014.

“Interview with Harry Prosen M.D. Psychiatric Consultant Bonobo Species Survival Plan”. Retrieved 11 August 2011.

Rosenberg, Marshall B. (2005). “5: Connecting with others empathically”. Speak peace in a world of conflict: what you say next will change your world. Puddledancer Press. pp. 240. ISBN 978-1892005175.

Empathy Definitions by Edwin Rutsch from the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy.

Mirrored emotion by Jean Decety from the University of Chicago.

Empathy and the brain by Gwen Dewar published in Parenting Science.

Empathic listening skills How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (University of California).

Study: People literally feel pain of others – mirror-touch synesthesia Live Science, 17 June 2007.

Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

Open plan office

In some ways the coming weeks and months are likely to be more difficult for organizations and employees than the past year or so has been. With governments increasingly intent on opening up economies effectively closed down by the pandemic, uncertainty is rife.

Employers and staff alike are caught between wanting to go back to something like normal and not wishing to take too many risks, especially since the Delta variant of the coronavirus is pushing spikes in new cases even in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. where significant proportions of the population have been at least partially vaccinated.

One factor that could be behind the unease about rushing back to normal working habits is a feeling that, just as governments made mistakes in the handling of the crisis, so too did organizations. According to a survey just out from the finance comparison platform NerdWallet, a third of the U.K.’s business leaders are dissatisfied with the way that staff have been managed through the pandemic.

A similar proportion said that financial stability and business productivity was put ahead of staff safety. Unsurprisingly perhaps, more than half of the nearly 1,000 decision-makers questioned said they planned to carry out a review of how they had handled things. However, nearly half have already invested in new equipment designed to improve health and safety and to facilitate social distancing, while more than half have introduced greater flexibility to working hours.

Employers’ definitions of flexibility appear to be, well, flexible. An insight into the current situation is provided by the consultancy Mercer in its latest survey of working policies and practices among nearly 600 employers in the U.S.. The key findings were:

  • Hybrid working — a blend of in-person and remote working — was favoured by vast majority.
  • Predominantly office-based working was the preference of a fifth of employers.
  • Fully remote or virtual-first working was the choice of just 6% of employers
  • A distributed model making increased use of satellite campuses was likely to be adopted by just 4%.

Mercer’s research and analysis suggests that, across all industries, the proportion of the workforce working on-site full-time is likely to be about 40%. The hybrid category will probably be split, with about 29% of the workforce working remotely one or two days a week and approximately 17% doing so three or four days a week. About 14% of workers are expected to work remotely full-time.

The challenge for employers will be deciding how they can retain the employee experience and hang on to talent. Lauren Mason, principal in Mercer’s career business, and Ravin Jesuthasan, global leader of Mercer’s transformation business, suggest five principles to consider:

  1. Empower teams but set guidelines:  Nearly all employers plan to bring in changes to working policies as a result of the pandemic. Nearly half are already actively developing a strategy, while nearly a quarter of employers are in the process of implementing or have already implemented plans. Employers can and should empower teams to continue to work flexibly but they should also establish guidelines to maximize business outcomes and ensure a consistent employee experience.
  2. Keep a pulse on the market and your competition: Flexibility will likely have a high impact on an organization’s ability to retain talent. If employees are unhappy about employers’ flexible working plans, they will be likely to consider other workplaces that might better meet their needs.
  3. Don’t rush to get employees to the office: Employers should focus on returning employees in a way where co-working benefits can be maximized immediately. They should concentrate on making workers feel energized, empowered and engaged to be back together with their colleagues. This may entail phased transitions, where employees may only initially come in one or two days a week, planned team meetings or on-site social events and celebrations to make those early office days more purposeful.
  4. Stay agile: Workers do not want or need a standardized solution. Employers can demonstrate a continued trust and sense of partnership that was so valued during the pandemic by providing options that are appropriate for the work being performed. The key is to give employees some control and flexibility.
  5. Don’t limit flexibility to remote work: Flexible working is about more than remote working. Inclusive flexibility ensures that all jobs can be flexible when needed. Given the massive challenges employers are facing in attracting and retaining workers, options such as flexible schedules or compressed workweeks can be a huge differentiator. Progressive companies are not just challenging “when” and “where” work is done but also how the it is done, who does it and what the work is.
Check out my website.

I am a U.K.-based journalist with a longstanding interest in management. In a career dating back to the days before newsroom computers I have covered everything from popular music to local politics. I was for many years an editor and writer at the “Independent” and “Independent on Sunday” and have written three books, the most recent of which is “What you need to know about business.”

Source: Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

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More on Work & Jobs

High Turnover? Here Are 3 Things CEOs Do That Sabotage Their Workplace Culture

She has one too many deadlines to deal with

Every CEO wants long-standing employees, but their ineffective leadership causes organizational stress that cripples the workplace culture. Quite often, we read articles or hear of CEOs abusing their power and tarnishing their company’s reputation.

This is due to them neglecting feedback from their team and making decisions based solely on their own judgement. Not only does this erode trust, but it sets a standard that employee and leadership voices are not welcome.

When employees are taken care of, they go above and beyond to drive the company forward. Conversely, when they don’t feel valued, appreciated or kept in the loop, employees quickly become disengaged. The cost of a disengaged employee impacts more than the bottom line.

It decreases productivity, creates negative client experiences and destroys the company culture, to name a few. According to a Gallup survey, the State of the American Workplace 2021, 80% of workers are not fully engaged or are actively disengaged at work.

While CEOs claim to embody a people-first and feedback-driven culture, they believe, due to their position, that they know better than everyone else. Todd Ramlin, manager of Cable Compare, said, “if a person is fortunate to have the opportunity to be a CEO, they need to ask themselves if they can live by the company values, expectations, rules and processes that are in place.” They can’t pick and choose which rules and processes to abide by, yet punish others when they do the same. Doing so cultivates a toxic workplace and demonstrates poor leadership.

Here are three things CEOs do that sabotage their workplace culture.

Embraces Data, Dodges Emotions

The workplace is made up of a diverse group of experiences and perspectives. CEOs who lack the emotional intelligence to understand another person’s viewpoint or situation will find themselves losing their most valuable people. Sabine Saadeh, financial trading and asset management expert, said, “companies that are only data driven and don’t care about the well-being of their employees will not sustain in today’s global economy.”

Businessolver’s 2021 State Of Workplace Empathy report, revealed that “68% of CEOs fear that they’ll be less respected if they show empathy in the workplace.” CEOs who fail to lead with empathy will find themselves with a revolving door of leadership team members and employees. I once had a CEO tell me that he didn’t want emotions present in his business because it created a distraction from the data. His motto was, “if it’s not data, it’s worthless”.

As such, he disregarded feedback of employee dissatisfaction and burnout. Yet, he couldn’t understand why the average tenure of his employees very rarely surpassed one year. Willie Greer, founder of The Product Analyst, asserted, “data is trash if you’re replacing workers because you care more about data than your people.”

Micromanages Their Leadership Team

One of the ways a CEO sabotages a company’s culture is by micromanaging their leadership team. Consequently, this leads to leadership having to micromanage their own team to satisfy the CEOs unrealistic expectations. When leadership feels disempowered to make decisions, they either pursue another opportunity or check out due to not being motivated to achieve company goals.

As such, the executives who were hired to bring change aren’t able to live up to their full potential. Moreover, they’re unable to make the impact they desired due to the CEOs lack of trust in them. Employees undoubtedly feel the stress of their leadership team as it reverberates across the company.

Arun Grewal, founder and Editor-in-chief at Coffee Breaking Pr0, said, most CEOs are specialists in one area or another, which can make them very particular. However, if they want to drive their company forward they need to trust in the experts they hired rather than trying to make all of the company’s decisions.

At one point during my career, I reported to a CEO who never allowed me to fully take over my department. Although he praised me for my HR expertise during the interview, once hired, I quickly realized he still wanted full control over my department. Despite not having HR experience, he disregarded everything I brought to the table to help his company.

I soon began questioning my own abilities. No matter how hard I tried to shield my team from the stress I endured, the CEO would reach out to them directly to micromanage their every move. This left our entire department feeling drained, demoralized and demotivated. Sara Bernier, founder of Born for Pets, said, “CEOs who meddle in the smallest of tasks chip away at the fundamentals of their own company because everything has to run through them”. She added, “this eliminates the employee’s ownership of their own work because all tasks are micromanaged by the CEO.

Neglects Valuable Employee Feedback

Instead of seeking feedback from their leadership team or employees, CEOs avoid it altogether. Eropa Stein, founder and CEO of Hyre, said, “making mistakes and getting negative feedback from your team is a normal part of leading a company, no matter how long you’ve been in business.”

She went on, “as a leader, it’s important to put your ego aside and listen to feedback that will help your business grow. If everyone agrees with you all the time, you’re creating a cult mentality that’ll be detrimental to your business’ success in the long run.” This results in a toxic and unproductive workplace culture.

What’s worse than avoiding constructive feedback is receiving it and disregarding it entirely. Neglecting valuable feedback constructs a company culture where no individual feels safe voicing their concerns. Rather than silence those who give negative feedback, CEOs should embrace them. These are the individuals who are bringing issues forward to turn them into strengths in an effort to create a stronger company.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia. I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com.

Source: High Turnover? Here Are 3 Things CEOs Do That Sabotage Their Workplace Culture

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Critics:

Organizational culture refers to culture in any type of organization including that of schools, universities, not-for-profit groups, government agencies, or business entities. In business, terms such as corporate culture and company culture are often used to refer to a similar concept.

The term corporate culture became widely known in the business world in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Corporate culture was already used by managers, sociologists, and organizational theorists by the beginning of the 80s. The related idea of organizational climate emerged in the 1960s and 70s, and the terms are now somewhat overlapping,as climate is one aspect of culture that focuses primarily on the behaviors encouraged by the organization

If organizational culture is seen as something that characterizes an organization, it can be manipulated and altered depending on leadership and members. Culture as root metaphor sees the organization as its culture, created through communication and symbols, or competing metaphors. Culture is basic, with personal experience producing a variety of perspectives.

Most of the criticism comes from the writers in critical management studies who for example express skepticism about the functionalist and unitarist views about culture that are put forward by mainstream management writers. They stress the ways in which these cultural assumptions can stifle dissent towards management and reproduce propaganda and ideology. They suggest that organizations do not encompass a single culture, and cultural engineering may not reflect the interests of all stakeholders within an organization.

References

  • Schein, E. H. (1990). Organizational culture. American Psychologist, 45, 109–119. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.45.2.109
  • Compare: Hatch, Mary Jo; Cunliffe, Ann L. (2013) [1997]. “A history of organizational culture in organization theory”. Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780199640379. OCLC 809554483. Retrieved 7 June 2020. With the publication of his book The Changing Culture of a Factory in 1952, British sociologist Elliott Jaques became the first organization theorist to describe an organizational culture.
  • Jaques, Elliott (1951). The changing culture of a factory. Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. [London]: Tavistock Publications. p. 251. ISBN 978-0415264426. OCLC 300631.
  • Compare: Kummerow, Elizabeth (12 September 2013). Organisational culture : concept, context, and measurement. Kirby, Neil.; Ying, Lee Xin. New Jersey. p. 13. ISBN 9789812837837. OCLC 868980134. Jacques [sic], a Canadian psychoanalyst and organisational psychologist, made a major contribution […] with his detailed study of Glacier Metals, a medium-sized British manufacturing company.
  • Ravasi, D.; Schultz, M. (2006). “Responding to organizational identity threats: Exploring the role of organizational culture”. Academy of Management Journal. 49 (3): 433–458. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.472.2754. doi:10.5465/amj.2006.21794663.
  • Schein, Edgar H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 26–33. ISBN 0787968455. OCLC 54407721.
  • Schrodt, P (2002). “The relationship between organizational identification and organizational culture: Employee perceptions of culture and identification in a retail sales organization”. Communication Studies. 53 (2): 189–202. doi:10.1080/10510970209388584. S2CID 143645350.
  • Schein, Edgar (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 9.
  • Deal T. E. and Kennedy, A. A. (1982, 2000) Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1982; reissue Perseus Books, 2000
  • Kotter, J. P.; Heskett, James L. (1992). Corporate Culture and Performance. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 978-0-02-918467-7.
  • Selart, Marcus; Schei, Vidar (2011): “Organizational Culture”. In: Mark A. Runco and Steven R. Pritzker (eds.): Encyclopedia of Creativity, 2nd edition, vol. 2. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 193–196.
  • Compare: Flamholtz, Eric G.; Randle, Yvonne (2011). Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset. Stanford Business Books. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 9780804777544. Retrieved 2018-10-25. […] in a very real sense, corporate culture can be thought of as a company’s ‘personality’.
  • Compare: Flamholtz, Eric; Randle, Yvonne (2014). “13: Implications of organizational Life Cycles for Corporate Culture and Climate”. In Schneider, Benjamin; Barbera, Karen M. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture. Oxford Library of psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 247. ISBN 9780199860715. Retrieved 2018-10-25. The essence of corporate culture, then, is the values, beliefs, and norms or behavioral practices that emerge in an organization. In this sense, organizational culture is the personality of the organization.
  • Compare: Flamholtz, Eric; Randle, Yvonne (2014). “13: Implications of organizational Life Cycles for Corporate Culture and Climate”. In Schneider, Benjamin; Barbera, Karen M. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture. Oxford Library of psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 247. ISBN 9780199860715. Retrieved 2018-10-25. The essence of corporate culture, then, is the values, beliefs, and norms or behavioral practices that emerge in an organization.
  • Jaques, Elliott (1998). Requisite organization : a total system for effective managerial organization and managerial leadership for the 21st century (Rev. 2nd ed.). Arlington, VA: Cason Hall. ISBN 978-1886436039. OCLC 36162684.
  • Jaques, Elliott (2017). “Leadership and Organizational Values”. Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century (2 ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9781351551311. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  • “Culture is everything,” said Lou Gerstner, the CEO who pulled IBM from near ruin in the 1990s.”, Culture Clash: When Corporate Culture Fights Strategy, It Can Cost You Archived 2011-11-10 at the Wayback Machine, knowmgmt, Arizona State University, March 30, 2011
  • Unlike many expressions that emerge in business jargon, the term spread to newspapers and magazines. Few usage experts object to the term. Over 80 percent of usage experts accept the sentence The new management style is a reversal of GE’s traditional corporate culture, in which virtually everything the company does is measured in some form and filed away somewhere.”, The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • One of the first to point to the importance of culture for organizational analysis and the intersection of culture theory and organization theory is Linda Smircich in her article Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis in 1983. See Smircich, Linda (1983). “Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis”. Administrative Science Quarterly. 28 (3): 339–358. doi:10.2307/2392246. hdl:10983/26094. JSTOR 2392246.
  • “The term “Corporate Culture” is fast losing the academic ring it once had among U.S. manager. Sociologists and anthropologists popularized the word “culture” in its technical sense, which describes overall behavior patterns in groups. But corporate managers, untrained in sociology jargon, found it difficult to use the term unselfconsciously.” in Phillip Farish, Career Talk: Corporate Culture, Hispanic Engineer, issue 1, year 1, 1982
  • Halpin, A. W., & Croft, D. B. (1963). The organizational climate of schools. Chicago: Midwest Administration Center of the University of Chicago.
  • Fred C. Lunenburg, Allan C. Ornstein, Educational Administration: Concepts and Practices, Cengage Learning, 2011, pp. 67
  • “What Is Organizational Climate?”. paulspector.com. Retrieved 2021-05-01.

Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.

The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.

“I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.”

The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February.

“During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes.

One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person.

But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs. Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said.

“If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said.

At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines. But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good.

Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.”

For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.”

The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Garland, who lives in Hampton, Virginia, tapped out a tweet:

Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.”

Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

By: and

Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Refusal of work is behavior in which a person refuses regular employment. As actual behavior, with or without a political or philosophical program, it has been practiced by various subcultures and individuals. Radical political positions have openly advocated refusal of work. From within Marxism it has been advocated by Paul Lafargue and the Italian workerist/autonomists (e.g. Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti), the French ultra-left (e.g. Échanges et Mouvement); and within anarchism (especially Bob Black and the post-left anarchy tendency).

In employment law, constructive dismissal, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment. Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination. For example, when an employer places extraordinary and unreasonable work demands on an employee to obtain their resignation, this can constitute a constructive dismissal.

The exact legal consequences differ between different countries, but generally a constructive dismissal leads to the employee’s obligations ending and the employee acquiring the right to make claims against the employer. The employee may resign over a single serious incident or over a pattern of incidents. Generally, a party seeking relief must have resigned soon after one of the constructive acts.

Notes

Why Your Workforce Needs Data Literacy

Organizations that rely on data analysis to make decisions have a significant competitive advantage in overcoming challenges and planning for the future. And yet data access and the skills required to understand the data are, in many organizations, restricted to business intelligence teams and IT specialists.

As enterprises tap into the full potential of their data, leaders must work toward empowering employees to use data in their jobs and to increase performance—individually and as part of a team. This puts data at the heart of decision making across departments and roles and doesn’t restrict innovation to just one function. This strategic choice can foster a data culture—transcending individuals and teams while fundamentally changing an organization’s operations, mindset and identity around data.

Organizations can also instill a data culture by promoting data literacy—because in order for employees to participate in a data culture, they first need to speak the language of data. More than technical proficiency with software, data literacy encompasses the critical thinking skills required to interpret data and communicate its significance to others.

Many employees either don’t feel comfortable using data or aren’t completely prepared to use it. To best close this skills gap and encourage everyone to contribute to a data culture, organizations need executives who use and champion data, training and community programs that accommodate many learning needs and styles, benchmarks for measuring progress and support systems that encourage continuous personal development and growth.

Here’s how organizations can improve their data literacy:

1. LEAD

Employees take direction from leaders who signal their commitment to data literacy, from sharing data insights at meetings to participating in training alongside staff. “It becomes very inspiring when you can show your organization the data and insights that you found and what you did with that information,” said Jennifer Day, vice president of customer strategy and programs at Tableau.

“It takes that leadership at the top to make a commitment to data-driven decision making in order to really instill that across the entire organization.” To develop critical thinking around data, executives might ask questions about how data supported decisions, or they may demonstrate how they used data in their strategic actions. And publicizing success stories and use cases through internal communications draws focus to how different departments use data.

Self-Service Learning

This approach is “for the people who just need to solve a problem—get in and get out,” said Ravi Mistry, one of about three dozen Tableau Zen Masters, professionals selected by Tableau who are masters of the Tableau end-to-end analytics platform and now teach others how to use it.

Reference guides for digital processes and tutorials for specific tasks enable people to bridge minor gaps in knowledge, minimizing frustration and the need to interrupt someone else’s work to ask for help. In addition, forums moderated by data specialists can become indispensable roundups of solutions. Keeping it all on a single learning platform, or perhaps your company’s intranet, makes it easy for employees to look up what they need.

3.Measure

Success Indicators

Performance metrics are critical indicators of how well a data literacy initiative is working. Identify which metrics need to improve as data use increases and assess progress at regular intervals to know where to tweak your training program. Having the right learning targets will improve data literacy in areas that boost business performance.

And quantifying the business value generated by data literacy programs can encourage buy-in from executives. Ultimately, collecting metrics, use cases and testimonials can help the organization show a strong correlation between higher data literacy and better business outcomes.

4.Support

Knowledge Curators

Enlisting data specialists like analysts to showcase the benefits of using data helps make data more accessible to novices. Mistry, the Tableau Zen Master, referred to analysts who function in this capacity as “knowledge curators” guiding their peers on how to successfully use data in their roles. “The objective is to make sure everyone has a base level of analysis that they can do,” he said.

This is a shift from traditional business intelligence models in which analysts and IT professionals collect and analyze data for the entire company. Internal data experts can also offer office hours to help employees complete specific projects, troubleshoot problems and brainstorm different ways to look at data.

What’s most effective depends on the company and its workforce: The right data literacy program will implement training, software tools and digital processes that motivate employees to continuously learn and refine their skills, while encouraging data-driven thinking as a core practice.

For more information on how you can improve data literacy throughout your organization, read these resources from Tableau:

The Data Culture Playbook: Start Becoming A Data-Driven Organization

Forrester Consulting Study: Bridging The Great Data Literacy Gap

Data Literacy For All: A Free Self-Guided Course Covering Foundational Concepts

By: Natasha Stokes

Source: Why Your Workforce Needs Data Literacy

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Critics:

As data collection and data sharing become routine and data analysis and big data become common ideas in the news, business, government and society, it becomes more and more important for students, citizens, and readers to have some data literacy. The concept is associated with data science, which is concerned with data analysis, usually through automated means, and the interpretation and application of the results.

Data literacy is distinguished from statistical literacy since it involves understanding what data mean, including the ability to read graphs and charts as well as draw conclusions from data. Statistical literacy, on the other hand, refers to the “ability to read and interpret summary statistics in everyday media” such as graphs, tables, statements, surveys, and studies.

As guides for finding and using information, librarians lead workshops on data literacy for students and researchers, and also work on developing their own data literacy skills. A set of core competencies and contents that can be used as an adaptable common framework of reference in library instructional programs across institutions and disciplines has been proposed.

Resources created by librarians include MIT‘s Data Management and Publishing tutorial, the EDINA Research Data Management Training (MANTRA), the University of Edinburgh’s Data Library and the University of Minnesota libraries’ Data Management Course for Structural Engineers.

See also

A Critical Piece Of The Machine Economy: The People

Over the shoulder view of young Asian businesswoman using AI assistant on smartphone

70% of GDP growth in the global economy between now and 2030 will be driven by the machines, according to PwC. This is a near $7 trillion dollar contribution to U.S. GDP based around the combined production from artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and embedded devices. This is the rise of a new machine economy.

For those not familiar with the machine economy, it’s where the smart, connected, autonomous, and economically independent machines or devices carry out the necessary activities of production, distribution, and operations with little or no human intervention. The development of this economy is how Industry 4.0 becomes a reality.

Visionary leaders will implement new technologies and combine them with capital investments in ways that help them grow, expand, diversify, and actually improve lives. These machine economy leaders will operate in a new intelligent systems world in thousands of companies that will drive new economic models globally.

Sounds good so far, but all of that autonomous machinery isn’t going to build and operate itself.

Not enough people to do the work

While most people would agree that manufacturing is an important part of our economy, they aren’t recommending their children pursue that line of work. It’s expected that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs created between now and 2028 will go unfilled. Key drivers for this change include the fact that 10,000 baby boomers retire every day without people to replace them.

The workforce is quickly losing the second-largest age group, and millennials (the largest group) have so far not been attracted to manufacturing jobs at large. Instead they tend to be drawn toward technology, engineering, finance. The underlying issue may be one of perception, as the future of manufacturing will in fact include a much higher degree of technology, engineering, and finance in order to function.

Different skills are needed

Manufacturing jobs are changing. The number of purely manual, repetitive tasks are shrinking as technology advances to handle those jobs with robots and automation. Fifty percent of manufacturers have already adopted some form of automation, and now they need people with critical thinking, programming, and digital skills. Tomorrow’s jobs have titles such as Digital Twin Engineer, Robot Teaming Coordinator, Drone Data Coordinator, Smart Scheduler, Factory Manager, Safety Supervisor, and so on.

The shifts in productivity are happening so quickly, humans can’t keep up with them

An unskilled position can be filled relatively quickly as the prerequisite qualifications are limited. It typically takes months to fill a skilled position, and in most cases much longer for an individual to develop the requisite skills before they even think to apply. One alternative is to lower requirements in terms of education, skill, and experience in order to get someone new in the position, but then companies have to absorb the entire expense of training them.

Meanwhile there is increased pressure to utilize existing people’s and teams’ times and skills as much as possible, which can lead to burnout. This is a tenuous cycle that needs to be fortified by making sure our workforce has the skills training they need, when and where they need it.

In order to thrive in the machine economy, we need to invest significantly in people as well as in infrastructure. Focusing purely on infrastructure might lead to short-term and maybe mid-term profits, but ultimately it is not sustainable, and everyone loses. One can’t simply say, “We couldn’t fill the positions,” while there are people who need work.

Level-up our workforce

The human capacity to learn is basically limitless when individuals are motivated and have access to something to learn. There are several ways to tap into that capacity. First, we need to capture the knowledge and experience of the employees we have, so that those relevant skills can be passed on to the next wave of workers. We also need to ensure relevant training is available for people at every level of the company so that new people get up to speed and tenured employees don’t get left behind.

While some technologies need to be learned on the job, there is a level of foundational skill to understand in the machine economy, in addition to the technical and vocational skills required within a given field. An investment in, and possibly partnerships with, local schools could be a wise move for many companies. Lastly, while college is a great path for many people, it’s not the only form of higher education. Investments in vocational training and apprenticeship programs will be critical for our society to thrive in the machine economy.

Just as workers need to rethink and develop new skills, employers need to rethink and develop new ways of nurturing and attracting talent. To fully realize the promise of the machine economy, it is incumbent upon us to ensure people have access to the training and the tools they need in order to not only be successful but thrive. After all, what’s the point of all this technology if it doesn’t make life better for everyone?

PRESIDENT AND CEO

With more than 25 years of experience driving digital innovation and growth at technology companies, Kevin Dallas is responsible for all aspects of the Wind River business globally. He joined Wind River from Microsoft, where he most recently served as the corporate vice president for cloud and AI business development. At Microsoft, he led a team creating partnerships that enable the digital transformation of customers and partners across a range of industries including: connected/autonomous vehicles, industrial IoT, discrete manufacturing, retail, financial services, media and entertainment, and healthcare.

Prior to joining Microsoft in 1996, he held roles at NVIDIA Corporation and National Semiconductor (now Texas Instruments Inc.) in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East in roles that included microprocessor design, systems engineering, product management, and end-to-end business leadership. He currently serves as a director on the board of Align Technology, Inc. He holds a B.S.c. degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

Source: A Critical Piece Of The Machine Economy: The People

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Critics:

Digital economy refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies, although we increasingly perceive this as conducting business through markets based on the internet and the World Wide Web. The digital economy is also referred to as the Internet Economy, New Economy, or Web Economy.

Increasingly, the digital economy is intertwined with the traditional economy, making a clear delineation harder. It results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. It is based on the interconnectedness of people, organizations, and machines that results from the Internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT).

Digital economy is underpinned by the spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across all business sectors to enhance its productivity.Digital transformation of the economy is undermining conventional notions about how businesses are structured, how consumers obtain services, informations and goods and how states need to adapt to these new regulatory challenges.

Intensification of the global competition for human resources

Digital platforms rely on ‘deep learning‘ to scale up their algorithm’s capacity. The human-powered content labeling industry is constantly growing as companies seek to harness data for AI training. These practices have raised concerns concerning the low-income revenue and health-related issues of these independent workers. For instance, digital companies such as Facebook or YouTube use ‘content monitor’-contractors who work as outside monitors hired by a professional services company subcontractor- to monitor social media to remove any inappropriate content.

Thus, the job consists of watching and listening to disturbing posts that can be violent or sexual. In January 2020, through its subcontractor services society, Facebook and YouTube have asked the ‘content moderators’ to sign a PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) disclosure after alleged cases of mental disorders witnessed on workers.

See also

References

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