3 Keys to Future Readiness

December 06, 2019

97% of organizations are in the midst of transformation. 83% of leaders expect the role of AI and automation to increase significantly in the next two years. With constant and rapid change upon us, a key determinant of organizational success will be the ability to always be ready for what is coming next. We are forced to be in a continuous state of future readiness, and as HR professionals and leaders, our goal is to ensure employees and teams are able to respond positively to incoming change. 

In the field of employee research, we have reached the point where we need to look beyond just the psychological needs of people in the workplace to help them feel a sense of engagement. We need to be more mindful of the whole person, and ensure an employee experience that increases overall well-being. The employee experience is the intersection of the employee’s expectations, their environment, and the events that shape their journey within an organization.

The employee experience should be an enabler of your organization’s strategy rather than a barrier. It’s an enabler when people are able to perform to their full potential and adapt to changes around them. To ensure this, organizations need to continually meet the needs of their employees from the standpoint of the following:

  • Contractual Needs (pay & benefits)
  • Experiential Needs (ability to manage their careers and overall well-being)
  • Emotional Needs (ensuring a sense of purpose)

When employees are disconnected with any of the above elements, they may feel lost, unmotivated, uncertain, or confused. This tends to elicit a more rigid response to their environment. They may become less open to new ideas, less inclined to collaborate with others, more likely to have negative reactions, and less likely to go out of their way to delight their customers and/or teams. 

Our data tells us that many organizations are still experiencing these challenges. 30% of employees report a lack of understanding about where their organization is headed and 37% are held up by bureaucracy when trying to get work done. The result has been stagnant or declining productivity. From 2007 – 2016, productivity has experienced a 60% decline when compared to data from 2001 to 2007 (1.1% global productivity for 2007-2016 vs. 2.7% from 2001 to 2007, according to data from The Conference Board). 

It’s time to shift the way we understand and manage the expectations of our employees and the things our employees and come into contact with.  Below are three keys to ensuring future readiness: 

  1. Listen & Learn – Future readiness requires constant learning in order to help the employee experience evolve. Employee surveys should no longer be used solely to get an annual or bi-annual metric around engagement levels. They should be used as a learning exercise, designed to provide insights into the employee experience to help drive positive change. Multiple feedback mechanisms and channels should be used to gather data such as pulse surveys, virtual focus groups, and external data sources. And data should be gathered at multiple points along the employees’ journey. The goal should be to build a holistic employee research approach that helps you gain a more complete understanding of the various segments of your employee population in terms of what they need, what they are experiencing, and how to best address those gaps. 
  2. Stay Agile – Organizations need to be able to respond to changes in their environment, both internally and externally in order to be future ready. This requires continually adapting your vision and strategy, and then ensuring that you have flexible systems and processes in place to enable rapid change. Systems, processes, and procedures that work for today may not be quite right for tomorrow. Continually examine how works get done and be out in front of potential barriers to efficiency and change. 
  3. Experiment – While survey data and other forms of workforce analytics are needed to understand the employee experience, experimentation is what can uncover specific interventions, programs or changes that can really drive positive change. Use your employee feedback to help you design potential experiments within your population. Try implementing something different to a segment of the population (such as a new training program, communication effort, incentive, new process, etc…) and then measure the impact. If it works, replicate. If it doesn’t, change it or try something different.

Organizations that can do these things well will be in a position to better manage the overall experience of their employees, and will be more future ready as a result.

Adam Pressman
by Adam Pressman

Business Leader US and Canada, Mercer Employee Research