In fields such as construction and manufacturing, jobs may need to be structured very differently. One large chain retailer voiced its chosen outcome: to attract more shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores by delivering a great experience there, not just online. It already had a presence in many urban and suburban neighborhoods. To accomplish its goal, it tried to reinvent its in-store ambiance. Though customers often saw it as a convenience store, it would become as casually welcoming as a coffee bar.
The executive team translated this aspiration into specific actions and outcomes. They would install easy-to-use and attractive self-checkout kiosks. The store design, while remaining efficient and resistant to shoplifting, would be lighter, airier, and more open. Managers assessed and coached employees differently, helping them learn to talk to customers in a friendlier and more authentic way.
To participate wholeheartedly in a transformation of this sort, employees need more than a strategic direction and incentives. They need to be excited about the future and inspired to opt in. You have to speak to their emotions — in particular, to their deep wish to see a connection between their own activities and the larger purpose of the enterprise. Jon R. Also, most leaders are rational — we count on them to be!
But it is possible for any leader, no matter how cerebral in temperament, to foster positive emotions on an organization-wide level. What excites and motivates your employees? Why, besides a paycheck, do they keep coming to work?
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Chances are, many believe in what the company stands for, identify with its mission, and are proud to be part of it. At a pet food manufacturer, employees see their role as enhancing the quality of life for beloved companions. At a financial advisory firm, employees know they help people retire safely and securely.
Even when people are willing to change, you risk sapping their energy as their work demands shift. Involve HR and other internal professionals, but you must be the most visible, excited champion, articulating the case for change, defending what it requires, and participating wholeheartedly. Showing empathy goes a long way. Demonstrate commitment by building your own skills.
At Danaher , one of the most consistently successful industrial companies, with a long track record of well-integrated acquisitions, the top 25 leaders including the CEO spend two weeks or more every year leading in-depth training sessions, which always include visible efforts to improve their own prowess. As word got around the enterprise, employees were inspired to fully engage as well. Before you impose your workforce transformation plan on people, consider what it will feel like to be caught up in it.
It will give people the cognitive support they need to conduct their jobs with confidence and excellence. EX design involves many factors. These include the user interface of desktop and phone apps; the physical workspace including the flexibility and movability of walls, and the availability of spaces for working collaboratively and concentrating alone ; workload and flexibility with a reasonable work-life balance ; and the design and range of learning and development opportunities. The most compelling learning experiences are intensively social, involving small groups that meet to develop capabilities together, whose members may stay in touch informally for years.
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People regularly tell survey takers they would favor an employer who gave them a more intrinsically rewarding job, with greater control over how they work. Design your EX accordingly, especially for learning new skills. Provide self-paced, mobile-friendly modules that can be accessed from anywhere. Most importantly, listen to what employees say as you design these systems.
Our own efforts to raise skills at PwC include many innovative EX-related ideas. All employees have access to a digital fitness app, offering self-administered courses that they can take at their own pace. There is also a crowdsourcing platform where people can share bots and apps they have created, and receive points when others use them. As our staff graduate from these academies, they apply their newly acquired skills in their day-to-day work, so the skills are more likely to stick.
Some people emerge ready to build a bot or create an AI model; others are now savvy enough to apply what their peers have created. The employee creations tend to be productivity enhancers, so that the act of using them and further improving them becomes part of the employee experience. People with some immediately important skills may already be working in your organization; you need to find and reassign them. Other skills may be new and unfamiliar; you need to recruit for them or upskill your existing staff.
If you target that group and successfully move them into new roles, you create a track record and garner further support. Within five years, moving at the same pace, you can reach close to half of the employees in a company. One pharmacy chain recently needed to invest in its workforce but had limited funding. Its new strategy called for employees who could deliver better customer experience — a change from the older priorities, which emphasized operational excellence.
Although the entire workforce needed to adapt, two roles were most essential: pharmacists and store managers. Pharmacists needed to be trained in new systems and operational procedures that would free up time for patients, and they needed to be coached on better patient engagement. Store managers, who were responsible for hiring, training, and motivating employees, needed to learn how to model and teach exceptional customer service. Within two years, the retailer observed significant increases in its customer experience scores. What people do changes what they know.
Therefore, any workforce transformation effort must explicitly design and instill new behaviors. The skills and knowledge will follow. For example, to acquire skills in predictive maintenance — a form of artificial intelligence that can anticipate and prevent possible breakdowns — factory workers need to learn by doing.
Communications Officer: Digital and Social Media | CAN International
Embed new behaviors in everyday business activity. Top leaders identified four critical behaviors they wanted to see throughout the company. Then they translated these into day-to-day actions, and included the behaviors in performance reviews. Try digital twin—style simulations of business realities, virtual reality programs that reproduce a complex environment, or augmented reality systems in which sensors and other devices are embedded in the environment and interact with people directly.
Implementing these virtual systems carries less risk and cost than changing real-world systems.
Just as airlines use flight simulators to train novice pilots, companies can allow a novice manager or employee to see how different strategies might play out over time, without jeopardy. Not only can employees better understand their possible decisions with this approach, but they also learn the behaviors needed to implement them.
Build repetition into the learning experience. Adults need periodic opportunities to practice and refine their techniques so that the learning sticks. In psychology, this principle is known as neuroplasticity.
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When people continually behave in a particular way, the brain neurons adjust accordingly, so that this behavior becomes easier and easier, until it is second nature. Personalize your learning. Adjust the pace of training, the interplay of practice and reflection, and the measurement of outcomes to account for different roles, experience levels, and personal preferences. Mid-career finance professionals will need a different program than will retail store associates or corporate marketing staff.
When it comes to behavior change, top-down mandates often fail. These individuals are the closest to your customers and to the day-to-day execution of the business; they know what needs fixing and how to change it. People on your staff will come up with insights and opportunities that you might never have thought of.
But they need an invitation to do so, and a high level of support. Encourage grassroots efforts to help foster their investment in the change. Encourage them to experiment with their own ideas for innovations and new ways of working. The venues could include online forums, idea laboratories where people work together on software development, or activities that employees themselves suggest. The users provide feedback and ratings, and the higher-quality offerings then rise to the top. Examples include bots and apps for conducting rapid high-value analysis; for streamlining common tasks such as reserving rooms or entering timesheet data; for converting data from spreadsheets to more sophisticated dynamic dashboards; and for rearranging work to bring critical issues to the surface.
We see an inspiring level of enthusiasm and emotional commitment, and have generated more than 1, active digital solutions in just under one year. Workforce transformation does not just happen in a few pockets, but at scale throughout your enterprise.
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The initiative should be planned, prepared for, and resourced accordingly. Though the time and expense may seem daunting, the payoff will be worth it, especially if you manage expectations appropriately. Any initiative of this sort is full of uncertainty. But you can set a direction, put a group in charge, and plot how your efforts will scale gradually through the entire company — and perhaps your value chain as well. There will be quick wins along the way, and you will start seeing returns on investment rapidly. Be prepared from the start to invest in long-term success, and to let each stage of activity build on the success of the previous stage.
The pharmacy chain mentioned under principle number four planned for a comprehensive journey to transform its workforce to a more customer-centric one.