Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Four Jobs That Will No Longer Exist in the Future

The digital revolution is upon us, and for all of us, it is a do or die situation. But who will be doing and who will be dying will be up to you and me – today!

I was at a marketing conference not too long ago, and while these conferences often do little to truly enlighten the audience, this time “the future” hit me right on the chin. The organizers had invited a 20-something YouTube blogger to take part in a panel debate about digital communication to large audiences. Her work was interesting in itself, but she really caught my attention when she answered a question from one of my fellow dinosaurs about what she would be doing in five years’ time. After the question was asked, she looked surprised, smiled, and said, “I really don’t know. Five years ago my current job did not exist - I am sure that the job I will have in five years’ time does not exist yet!”

Interestingly enough, her answer is the key to the future. So many jobs have changed or disappeared since we started introducing modern technology into the workplace. The postal worker will most likely be next, as licking a stamp and finding a mailbox will soon be a thing of the past. E-mail is simply a stronger business case, and with improved security, it will soon be the norm: to run all correspondence from the PC. I thought to myself that this is just the tip of the iceberg, so I sat down and made a list of all the jobs I could think of that will change or disappear. I am sure that you have plenty more to add:

The HR Manager
Links between the employee and the organization are becoming ever more fluid. Generation M is simply not that interested in the single employer gig that our generation took for granted. Generation M is largely freelancing. This will ultimately mean that the HR Manager will be replaced by the Community Manager, whose networking and engagement skills will ensure that each project is staffed with a winning team, that the corporate image is kept fresh, and that successful projects for your company are valued items in the Generation M portfolio.

Product Development
Yes! I can tell that you are shaking your head. But the situation is that consumerization will be the future, and we will see a lot more influence on products from consumers than we have seen before, which can have an effect on headcounts in product development. Also, as Generation M grows up, there is good reason to build dispersed ad hoc teams for product development as this generation will insist on freelance gigs and working from wherever they want. It is all happy news! In this way, everyone gets it all: expertise, enthusiasm, and fresh eyes in the development process.

The Coder
Ha! You didn’t see that coming did you?! I don’t believe that this profession will die out, but web creation systems are getting so good and easy to use that as digital natives enter the work force, more web-based tasks will be transferred from the coding dungeon of the IT team to the height adjustable desks in the sales and marketing department. That’s where needs for quick tactical decisions can be immediately met.

The Social Media Manager
This job has had a good but short run, and it will, like The Coder, have outlived itself quite quickly. The way I see it, as long as the people in charge of businesses and the majority of their employees are non-digital natives, there is a need to manage the social media output. However, once the digital natives come of age, social media etiquette and habits will become so ingrained into employees’ lives that there will be little or no reason to manage them or the things they put out for their peers to see. I expect the few remaining tasks that the Social Media Manager is charged with from day-to-day will not encumber the communications department much.

The great thing about this new reality is that new and better jobs and opportunities will be created in areas we did not even know existed, and I doubt very much that the above professions will find themselves without prospects, much like the young YouTube blogger. As we go, new needs and new experts will fill the reincarnated positions and be much successful, doing just that. In the meantime, I will keep an eye on that blogger and see what future she dreams up for herself…and us!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are Your Employees Really Using UC?

by Pete Fox, President of Jabra North America

Getting your UC to work is one thing; making it the key tool for your employees is quite another. Making the cultural change happen is not a one-man job - you will need help!

UC is great! I use it every day. I think it makes sense in a modern organization to cut costs on telephony, manage disbursed teams, and get all the benefits that the software offers. At Jabra, we could literally not do without it. Here in North America, we’ve built our people strategy around the existence of UC, by hiring the right person for the role, considering geography as a secondary criteria.  We believe that the war on talent requires employers to be flexible about work location.

However, like all other significant change, a successful UC deployment takes courage, leadership, a ton of planning, and a good 360° view of the organization. People don’t necessarily want to change the way they use the telephone, so asking them to do so, even with the promise of improved collaboration and performance that a UC deployment entails, is sometimes not enough.

That is something a good friend of mine, John, quickly realized after setting up and rolling out his company’s new UC platform. Being a fan of useful technology, like myself, John had spent significant time on evaluating UC platforms and choosing the right product for his company. He also took time to inform and engage senior executive leadership.  Getting their buyin ensured that the rest of the staff would understand the business rationale behind the change.

The UC technical deployment went smoothly, and HR did a great job on the training. Yet, after a month, John called me for advice, as he had realized that people were still doing business as usual - all of the in-house meetings were still carried out face-to-face and people were still driving in and attending meetings in person. Plus, there was the disturbing report that otherwise cooperative Linda from Accounting had thrown a fit, which could be heard on the entire floor, when IT had tried to remove her desk phone.

“It’s human nature, isn’t it?” he sighed into his brand new headset. I could only nod and try to comfort him and tell him that it would all be all right. But change is hard and does go against human nature, as John put it.  Even when a deployment goes well technically, people have to want to change for it to reach it’s full success and meet the Return on Investment (ROI) as planned in the business case.

So what does a leader do to ensure the use of UC in their organisation?

Start by engaging your end-users in developing an understanding of what the communication and collaboration needs of the organization are.
Great change management requires that the people you are asking to change have had their voice heard.  If the end-users see that their needs are understood, and can be a part of the planning for the change, they have the time to prepare for the change and can see the benefits of something they are a part of, bought in to, and are actively helping to come to fruition.  This requires more than typical end-user surveys.  Set up user councils and workshops.  Find the champions for change in those settings, and engage them and you will have them on your side for the entire deployment.
Make a point out of using UC yourself and ask your leadership team to do the same. You need to lead by example, take an hour a week in the roll out phase where you make yourself available through UC to your direct reports, or anyone in the company if that is what it takes, and ask your management team do the same. Also, insist all internal meetings leverage the UC system.

Create a Change Communications Plan that builds and maintains awareness and excitement about the benefits of the new platform. HR or Internal Communications are key players in the UC roll out, so getting their help when you stand before a cultural change is pivotal. Make a project team that can help with a plan that features guidelines, and maybe some tips and tricks to make the UC tools interesting, helpful, and relevant to all departments.

Remain steadfast and consistent in your support of the new platform.
You can bring a horse to water… most of your employees are probably highly accomplished in the software disciplines they use every day, and they are rarely digitally inept. But they may be scared of the new technology or feel irrational fear about change (we have all been there!) Most of us have grown up with the desk phone, and all of us use a mobile device today. UC is a whole new way of working, which may be out of their comfort zone, and they may need a while to get their heads around it. Asking how people are doing with the new platform can help you wear down the resistance and create more interest in your employees to want to use UC.

Highlight and reward best practice teams.
Highlighting best practice is a no-brainer; take some time to hear from the people who are depending on UC the most, the 100% remote worker may be a good place to start. How do they feel about the new software? Has their life improved? Are they closer to HQ after the new platform has been put in place? Mention great working teams and reward their efforts.

Keep it simple!
Today, in my own organization, we often have our meetings using UC even though all participants are in the same building, because it is easy and a whole lot quicker to do it that way. Nobody has to book a conference room, and meetings tend to be shorter. When we are finished working and the chit chat is over, we are done! I find that we cut approximately ten to 15 minutes from UC meetings. With two meetings a day over a year’s time, that frees up approximately 62.5 working hours a year.  Don’t be the person who insists on ALL meetings being face to face.

In 2012, we did a Global UC survey that showed that the US, Japan, and Australia in particular were at the forefront of the UC implementation, having removed up to a quarter of all desk phones in favor of mobile and softphones, a trend that I am sure is even stronger now.

UC is definitely the future, and as futures go, it is a pretty good one, even though it does not come about without effort. I will be visiting John in about two weeks for a cup of coffee to hear about how the cultural change is coming on – and whether Linda has adjusted to the new reality.

Are you able to help your own “Linda” make the change?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Money Saved on Remote Working Should Be Spent on “Social Glue”

by  Holger Reisinger,

Working from home increases productivity and saves companies fortunes. If you re-invest some of your savings in gluing the members of your remote teams together into well-functioning teams, you will boost customer loyalty, productivity, and profits as well.

Old school managers might hate it - but the employees and the procurement department love it: remote working.

It’s the simplest and best deal in the world. You work from home (or in your car, summer cottage, or wherever makes you happy) instead of commuting all the way to the office, wasting time on traffic jams, noisy colleagues, endless boring meetings, and all the other stuff that seems to be the inevitable part and parcel of modern knowledge worker life.

The arrangement is worth a lot of money. Research shows that most employees spend the time saved on commuting to work more. Productivity is generally higher at home, and companies save a substantial amount of office space, as more employees can share fewer tables, telephone lines, etc.

Money in the bank! But there is a catch…

Re-invest in your staff

Most companies tend to take the money and place it right on their troubled bottom line. However, I have a much better idea: companies should re-invest the money on the workforce instead. The purpose: to build “social glue.”

Working from home is efficient, but it also detaches you from the rest of the employees in the company. That may hurt your sense of belonging and commitment to your company’s vision, targets, and goals -and that’s not good for business.

Research shows that strong teams with a common target and shared values are by far the most efficient grouping, outperforming all the competition in the market. The experts call it an in-group; a band of brothers (and sisters), where you can be yourself in a group of like-minded individuals.

Experts call it the cult-paradox. We feel more individual and free when we are in a group - as long as it is the right group for us. You may be a dentist, a postman, or a mechanic. But you really don’t feel like you are the best version of yourself until you join the other guys and ride your Harley Davidson in the Harley club, meet for soccer practice, or share stamps at the annual stamps fair. You are an individual at peace, feeling comfortable in a perfect team.

Increase your customer loyalty, productivity, and bottom line

This type of togetherness fosters commitment and engagement with the team and the company, and that’s worth a lot of money. According to Gallup, companies with engaged employees have 38 percent higher customer satisfaction, 22 percent higher productivity, and 27 percent higher profits than companies with a majority of disengaged employees.

That’s why you have to reinvest in your staff. Working from home makes them happy and productive. Securing their team feeling with a common purpose makes them profitable and committed to your company, customers, and subsequently, their bottom line.

What does it take then? Not much, actually. First of all, you need a common vision and purpose: why are we here, together? Then, you need to build informal relationships, breaking down the barriers people may have in a group – especially if they rarely meet - and finally, each member must feel indispensable as individuals, yet be rewarded for their efforts in the group.

It may sound easy, but it’s not easy at all – unless you invest in it, of course - and with all the money saved on real estate, you finally have the chance to do what’s right. So get on with it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Taking Harvard Wisdom to the Next Level

by  Holger Reisinger,

Harvard Business Review has calculated the positive effects of moving to new buildings designed for high performance. The numbers are staggering and highly convincing. But I have an even better idea.

I’ve been an avid reader of Harvard Business Review for years. There, you will find inspiring articles about modern business life written by the most prominent business leaders and professors in the world. However, it’s not beautiful pictures or inspiring infographics that are pulling me in. To be honest, HBR is as visually appealing as a nuclear power plant. In HBR, just like the power plant, the power certainly lies within.

That’s why I didn’t react at first, when I saw images of some exceptionally hideous office cubicles on the Harvard Business Review’s website the other day. But once I started reading the captions, the article certainly got my attention.

Faster, cozier, and more productive

The article was about what crammed, uninspiring cubicles and open office spaces do to us as individuals and companies as a whole - and what the pharmaceutical company, Lilly, chose to do about it. When they moved to a new office space, it had been deliberately designed as a high performance environment. The results were no less than remarkable.

Let me list the headlines:
  • Total square footage per employee dropped from 212 to 156 square feet
  • Furniture cost per employee dropped from $9,100 to $4,900
  • Capital cost per employee dropped from $34,000 to $18,000
  • Hours lost per employee, per year, to noise dropped from 32 to 22.8 hours
  • Hours lost per employee, per year, to drop-by visitors dropped from 34.8 to 22.8 hours
  • Hours lost per employee, per year, waiting for feedback or approval from managers dropped from 29.6 to 13.6 hours

So, what’s the secret of the perfect office building? First of all, the cubicles have to go. The cubicles are the sum of all evils. On one hand, they are open enough to let all the noise and disturbing co-workers in. On the other hand, they are so confined that they prevent open discussion and innovation among the people surrounding you. Instead, you need a combination of open space offices designed for innovation and cooperation, and quiet rooms for work that demands silence and hours of concentration.

Building separate quiet and interaction zones also means that people shift positions, and are not tied to one table all day. This is good news for the economy. Recent research shows that employees only spend 35 percent of the day at their desks, leaving a lot of space unused all day. With flexible rooms, you need fewer tables and fewer square feet. At the same time, you use the space for what you really need: quiet rooms and meeting space (which always seems to be in demand in all organisations).

The new open spaces also boost cooperation and knowledge sharing. It’s easier to spot the bosses to get quick approvals when you need them. That makes decision processes faster and smoother.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these new working environments make employees happier and more productive. Not a bad result, given the obvious cost reductions you will get from the new designs.

From spaceship to

Lilly’s new headquarters marks a trend with the most prominent companies right now. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you switch the old cubicles to new, environmentally friendly buildings designed to increase performance. Just think of Google’s playful headquarters, Samsung’s new Gold LEED-certified building, or Apple’s infamous new spaceship-like HQ in California.

I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “Yeah, right, but my company cannot afford a glorious new building. They didn’t even approve our application for new chairs last year!” -and that’s where I have an idea that can take Harvard’s (and Lilly’s) wisdom to a new level.

Why not discard the fancy headquarters altogether? I’ll bet you that the most comfortable and productive headquarters of all is at home, that is, if the home is supported by brilliant communications and knowledge and information online sharing systems. Actually, research indicates that employees and teams are even more effective, innovative, and productive, if it is done right.

So here’s one from me to all the readers of Harvard Business Review (or my blog at least…): let’s build the perfect virtual headquarters. It beats Apple’s spaceship and Lilly’s superhouses every time. After all, there’s no place like home…

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It’s Time to Face the Big, Open Space

by  Holger Reisinger,

We’ve seen the research and heard all the warnings: big, open offices kill creativity, stress out the employees, and crush productivity. But this is only half the story. You can actually make open space offices work. All it takes is a very important choice and a closer look at your company’s culture. 

They were the kings of the financial crisis: the procurement officers that cut costs and gave imperiled companies the extra cash on the bottom line that they were dying for. They saved our butts when saving money was easier than selling products - and we thank them!

However, in order to cut costs on real estate, they also took big, open space offices to a completely new level. In a CoreNet Global survey, 55 percent of the corporate real estate professionals surveyed reported that square footage per worker has decreased between five and 25 percent over the last five years. Forty percent of the respondents predicted that their companies will reach less than 100 square feet per worker in 2017 (an all-time low).  And, the average for all companies for square footage per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet, compared to 225 square feet in 2010.

Less space is money saved. But cramming people together in less space takes a toll on work life quality. An overwhelming amount of research shows that big, open space offices generate stress, spoils co-worker relations, and reduces employee motivation. Recent research from Sweden also proves that the bigger the office rooms, the more sick days increase.

So, here’s the combo from hell: in the coming years, employees will be forced into even less space – which, in turn, has been proved to reduce our productivity, wellbeing, and innovation.

Get the best of both worlds

Fortunately, the two can actually go hand in hand. The open office may have a bad name for a number of good reasons, but it is actually possible to make it work as intended. All that is required is for you to make a very important decision – and then start changing your company’s culture to fit that choice.

Ideally, work places need the best of both worlds: open space to facilitate conversations and innovation, as well as quiet rooms for concentration and individual work that require heavy-duty thinking. If you can’t have both, you need to answer a really tough question: what’s most important at your workplace?

When is your company’s most value creating work actually done? Are you most dependent on collaboration and constant interaction? Or, are you more dependent on individual work with a high concentration level?

Once you have decided, the next choices will more or less make themselves. First, the design: individual thinking is best done in a library-like environment; knowledge sharing works better if you dedicate your few square feet to a café-like environment.

When the physical layout is in place, it’s time to work on your company’s culture. All employees must respect the individual’s choice of workstyle. And you need to provide options if you need to collaborate in a quiet work-for-yourself environment and vice versa. That’s where stuff like small, separate rooms for meetings, opportunities for working at home, headsets to reduce noise issues, etc., comes in.

Engage with your employees – and make the decision together

Making the decision is hard. Of course, we all want the best of both worlds, but an office design that fits everyone fits … no one. That’s one of many reasons why you shouldn’t make this decision alone. You must make it along with the employees, and you must also lay out the ground rules and values of working together in the office space. In the library, you will whisper and respect people’s time alone. In a creative lab, you don’t hide behind a screen with your anti-social solitude.

If you all agree on the basics of your company culture, an ongoing fruitful discussion commences. How can we be even better at taking care of our work environment? How do we secure that we stay innovative if we primarily work in silence – and how do we get some personal work and thinking done if we are all in a constant dialog? In this way, we continuously improve. And that’s the key to any great achievement. Rome – and the perfect open office – weren’t built in a day.

The right choice, a supporting culture and continuous improvement, is the recipe for high productivity and happy employees. It may take some time to get there, but when you do, it means a lot of money for your company. And we know that money makes everyone happy – especially our friends in procurement! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Most Annoying Thing in the World

by  Holger Reisinger,

Concentrating at work is not for the faint-hearted – especially not if you work in an open office space environment.  Perhaps, unsurprisingly, it’s our colleagues that are driving us nuts. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you get the peace and quiet you need to perform. And don’t worry, it doesn’t include building offices for each and every employee.

I was introduced to quite a drama the other day. Best gossip ever from an old friend from my university days. The core of his story was a ménage-à-trois love affair gone entirely wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space here to go into all the details, but a few headlines will give you the basic idea: guy falls in love with his old buddy’s girlfriend. They talked about it as mature adults and came to an agreement; he should keep his distance and not ask her out. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep his promise and from there, the whole thing exploded into arguments, slammed doors, old friendships broken, etc. Oh, and by the way, in the end, none of them got the girl.

How do I know this? Well, my old friend works in an open office space, and here, one of the ill-fated Romeos spent the past few weeks trying to solve the matter via his telephone – giving everyone else in the office front row seats to the whole drama. This got us talking about how there is no privacy in an open office for either work or more personal matters, which is the very reason why most employees hate open office spaces and noisy co-workers who, by far, are the largest nuisance when you try to get some work done. Our brains simply can’t cope with noise when we really have to concentrate. Just think about yourself in a car, trying to find your way to some unknown destination. What is the first thing you do? You turn down the car radio and ask the kids in the back seat to keep quiet for a while.

Noise kills productivity and - if you are unfortunate - yourself too

A couple of years ago my company helped analytics specialists YouGov design a survey about distractions and noise in the workplace, as noise is a productivity killer in open office spaces. Here, 36 percent of the respondents revealed that they are disturbed by people talking loudly across the office space, 29 percent have difficulties concentrating because of noise in the office, and 27 percent are disturbed by co-workers’ questions or remarks. Finally – and to me most surprisingly – 12 percent are often disturbed by co-workers eating crunchy vegetables. I guess they prefer the stick rather than the carrot!

The distractions and the noise are bad for your productivity and hence, also your company´s bottom line. According to a TED Talk by Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency, and author of Sound Business, we only have the capacity for about 1.6 human conversations. This means that if you’re forced to listen in to some of you colleagues´ conversations, you’re only left with 0.6 for your inner voice that helps you write. In his speech, Julian also claims that office workers are up to 66 percent less productive in an open office plan than when left on their own.

The impact on our bodies is even scarier. Studies show that when the noise level goes up, your heart rate goes up. A study from schools in Germany showed an average noise level of 65dB. At that level, teachers have a heart rate close to the one doctors see before a heart attack.

Kill the noise before it kills you

What should we do about it? Well, fortunately, there are numerous solutions - and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune.

The expensive solution is, of course, modifications to the buildings. You can either install sound suppressing elements in the offices or – better yet – build quiet rooms for people to use when they have to concentrate. Quiet rooms are better than individual offices for everyone, because it leaves space for people to be together when they work together, and to withdraw to another area, when they must concentrate.

You could also gather everyone and decide on some common ground rules for talking and making noise in the office. Another solution is letting people work from home when they really have to concentrate. Here, they can find peace and quiet. But this, of course, requires that they have no other tasks that demand their presence in the office that day.

The luxury solution

Finally, there are headsets. Modern headsets have many helpful features. First of all, wireless headsets make it possible for people to leave their desks to go somewhere else when taking phone calls.  Other types of headsets enclose the entire ear, leaving out all sounds. That’s great if you like listening to music when you work. Finally, state-of-the art headsets have noise-cancelling technology that removes the noise so it never reaches your ear.

I actually gave my old pal a pair of these noise-cancelling headsets as a birthday present about a year ago. Given the above story, I bet you are now thinking, as I did, “Why didn’t you use them when you were disturbed by your colleague´s many phone conversations with his broken-hearted friends?”

When asked, he smiled and said: “The truth is, I voluntarily chose to listen in. I simply had to. These conversations have been the major subject of all rendezvous around the water coolers for the past few weeks, and I wanted to be part of the discussions. To be honest, it was great entertainment, too…”