Business speed is accelerating faster than many of us realize. Successfully navigating this increased velocity means investing in collaborative teams, in automation technology to eliminate busy work and in aligning workers with cross-functional, strategic goals.
We know the world is changing. Yet, very few of us truly understand that the pace of change itself is accelerating. Changes that took two years now happen in two months. How will this increasing velocity impact organizational success in the future?
It means that your organization must have the ability to react quickly to changes in business conditions or customer needs and make the best possible decision in the shortest possible time. It also means that your employees must be empowered to act upon those decisions and take the right action quickly. This so-called business agility is hard and itself requires organizational change – an increased emphasis on collaboration, trusting your co-workers and constant innovation.
Workfront’s annual State of Work Report (2019 U.S. Edition) shows that workers at most organizations are not close to ready for an accelerating business climate where rapid innovation is the foundation of long-term market leadership. The study found that workers waste far too much time on unproductive activities like email and administrative paperwork. On average, workers report spending just 40 percent of their time on their primary job function.
As a result, we don't have enough time for innovation. Nearly 60 percent of workers are so swamped with day-to-day work that they cannot think beyond their to-do list. Yet, business leaders routinely expect innovation.
There are clear challenges, but the good news is that the workforce is aware of the gaps and ready to change. Here are five things you can do today to prepare for the workplace of tomorrow.
1. Implement programs to foster trust and collaboration.
Cross-functional teamwork isn't easy, but it's the future. It's the only chance your organization has of keeping up with the accelerating pace of change. Foster a culture of teamwork. Just as Tom Brady cannot win the Super Bowl by himself, your organization cannot prosper long-term with a superstar mentality.
A great strategy is to monitor business outcomes rather than functional units. Most strategic initiatives are cross-functional: If workers are measured horizontally based on the success of initiatives, they're much more likely to collaborate and work together.
2. Embrace automation.
Automation is already here, and it already saves us time every day at airport kiosks, toll booths and ATMs. Yet, in the workplace, people are fearful about automation. It's natural – no one wants their job to be eliminated by a robot.
Educate workers on the benefits of automation and how it reduces tedious, manual work and gives them more time to focus on innovation and strategic tasks – work that matters. Upskill current employees so that they're comfortable with newer ways of doing things (e.g., instant approval processes using mobile devices). Explain the urgency and importance of accelerating the speed of business and how it's essential to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Explore technology solutions to improve productivity. The aforementioned process automation is a great place to start. Modern, visual, inexpensive tools are now available, and existing employees can use them to automate manual tasks without technical expertise.
3. Reduce unproductive time.
Email is a significant culprit. Collaborative messaging apps help cut down on time spent parsing through lengthy email threads and unnecessary cc lists.
Administrative paperwork is another time sink. It also generates more email that must be dealt with. Reduce or eliminate it by automating everyday operations. For example, with electronic permission slips, K-12 teachers have more time to spend on their students. Digital new-hire onboarding means HR employees can focus on talent acquisition and retention instead of sorting through documents.
Read more: How to Focus Your Team on Productive Tasks
4. Carve out time for innovation.
Without rapid innovation, your business will not survive. With the stakes this high, you have to make innovation a top priority. The good news is that employees would love to innovate, but they don't have time to do so. Ensure that you reinvest at least some of the time savings from automation into innovation.
5. Prepare for change.
Business conditions are changing rapidly; the same is true of the workplace. Prepare yourself and your workers for seismic changes in the work environment.
- Seriously consider remote work programs. They promote employee well-being and are great tools to attract world-class talent.
- Get ahead of visibility – workers want to see how their work aligns with strategic initiatives and how it affects the bottom line.
- Prioritize corporate citizenship. Nowadays, social capital is on par with human and economic capital. It's critical to attracting talent and fostering loyalty among customers.
- Don't be afraid to experiment. Start small with a few people on every initiative, particularly when it involves digital technology. Iterate quickly until you understand the trade-offs before commiting.
Change is inevitable, but it can be hard and painful for everyone impacted. As a business leader, you owe it to yourself, your employees and your organization to prepare for the future of work.
That future of work requires investing in collaborative, empowered teams that trust each other and are aligned with cross-functional, strategic goals. It means investing in automation technology to eliminate busy work and focus those teams on work that matters. Most of all, it encourages change and the business opportunity that it presents instead of sticking your head in the sand and continuing to do things the old way.