Technology frequently gets the blame for much of the disruption taking place in the workplace. But it can’t shoulder responsibility for the news this week that the UK productivity slump is linked to employee experience at work despite the finding that only a fifth of UK employees are satisfied with workplace technology.
Only half (50 per cent) of UK employees consider their organisations to be effective at creating a positive work environment and only two-fifths (42 per cent) consider their employer to be effective at creating meaningful work.
The findings are from the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2019 survey, which tracks the top trends shaping the agenda for HR and business leaders both in the UK and globally. With the vast majority of workers (84 per cent) stating that employee engagement and productivity are linked, Deloitte suggests UK business leaders need to think differently to prevent productivity slumps.
“We’re seeing strong trends emerging in employee engagement, or the lack of it,” says Will Gosling, partner and human capital lead at Deloitte UK. “People, or human capital, is a business’ biggest asset, and creating a positive work environment is fundamental to the success of any business.
Employers are already facing huge disruption challenges from technology advances to demographic changes, and an unproductive and unengaged workforce simply should not be one of them.”
A key phrase in Gosling’s response is the importance of creating a positive work environment. And, indeed, it should be considered a basic right. While acknowledging these are difficult and challenging times for many leaders, no employee can be expected to work at their best in a negative work environment.
It isn’t just demotivating and demoralising but downright unpleasant to spend your working hours in such a toxic atmosphere.
The survey also reveals extremely alarming findings of UK leadership. Less than a fifth (18 per cent) report that their company leadership programmes are effective at developing leaders to meet evolving business and economic challenges. Meanwhile, one quarter (24 per cent) believe that how a business is run and organisational structures get in the way of leaders managing teams effectively.
The responsibility for workers harbouring such negative feelings about their role and the organisation rest squarely with the leadership. Leaders must ensure managers are taking the time to find out what is troubling employees as well as what makes them happy and motivates them.
They must make employee engagement a top priority and put in place measures to ensure employees feel aligned with the company and its overarching mission.
All of this, of course, is basic good leadership practice. Indeed, creating meaning and a positive experience for employees at work is not rocket science but, be mindful, that technology might also assist. If implemented properly, for instance, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and other forms of automation have the power to remove the mundane and routine from individuals’ roles.
Technology can give back both time and headspace and we know that when individuals feel more control in what they do, stress levels diminish and they will perform far better.
With the pace of change only likely to increase and with known and unknown challenges ahead, UK leaders must ensure their employees are given every opportunity to perform at their best. They must combine some good old-fashioned rolling up of sleeves to get stuck in and find out why the working environment has gone sour for some employees as well as explore how technology can improve things for the better.
A pleasant place to work should be a given, not a luxury, and then increased productivity will naturally follow.
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