Work Sucks

It’s a universal truth. And one that companies need to confront because it’s killing their business

Let’s be frank: work today sucks. It sucks for companies that are struggling to compete for talent against a backdrop of a global shortage of 95 million medium-to-high-skilled workers. It sucks for managers charged to drive digital transformation and growth with a workforce that often lacks the skills to get them there. But most of all, it sucks for employees who are frustrated with their work environment.

Numbers don’t lie. According to Gallup, 87 percent of employees around the world are disengaged or actively disengaged at work. Why? Because work is far more complicated than it needs to be.

Too many apps. Every year, billions are spent on applications that are essential to running a business. The average company has more than 500 applications in place. The typical employee uses roughly 42 in the course of their jobs, often needing to navigate multiple applications — each with different interfaces and security protocols — just to get a single process done.

Too much complexity. As consumers, we rely on things like Instagram, Uber, Netflix and airline apps to manage our lives. These apps know our preferences and schedules. They curate our days, offering up recommendations for entertainment, transportation, or shopping insights and opportunities to meet our needs and guide our days. And, with a single click, we can accomplish tasks to make our lives more efficient and fulfilling.

At work, these streamlined and personalized experiences are replaced with company-issued technology and mandated workflows and systems that are cumbersome to use, slow us down, and often keep us from doing meaningful work. The work apps we use are the equivalent of the office copy machine — they have tons of features and can do lots of stuff. Most us just want to press a single button to make a standard copy and move on. But we can’t.

On average, we need to navigate four or more applications just to execute a single business process. Some of the apps we are required to use — such as HR, travel, or purchasing systems — are not pertinent to our core jobs. And accessing them requires remembering multiple passwords and navigating a host of different interfaces.

Too many distractions. At work, we are interrupted every two minutes, on average. We get a system alert. An email. A text. Someone pings us on Slack. A colleague drops by. We are continually context switching, and it takes about 26 minutes to get refocused on the task at hand.

At the end of the day, today’s employees simply don’t have access to the tools they need to focus and do their best work. And as Gallup notes in The State of the American Manager, right behind having a good manager, this is critical to employee engagement and impact. Despite all the technology that has been put in to place to automate and streamline things, the average worker still spends nearly 20 percent of their time searching for the information they need to do their jobs and waste more than 32 days a year toggling between different applications to complete administrative tasks. Essentially, they’re being asked to dial up the future and given a rotary phone to do it.

It’s a huge problem. And it’s killing business. Gallup estimates that distraction and disengagement in the workforce is costing global businesses $7 trillion in lost productivity, turnover, and worker frustration.

But it can be solved. How?

Clean up Your Act

The answer is simple: eliminate the clutter. It used to be that competitive salaries, benefits and career development initiatives were enough to find and keep talent. Today, these things are table stakes. To deliver a superior employee experience, companies need to up their game and give people what they really want: a simple and flexible way to get work done.

The technology is readily available to do it. The simplicity and utility that technology has brought to our personal lives — think Alexa, Siri, newsfeeds, a recommendation — is creeping into the workplace. An emerging breed of intelligent workspace solutions, for instance, leverage things like machine learning to surface and prioritize relevant tasks and insights and automatically deliver them to employees on their phones, tablets or PCs so that they don’t have to sift through their inbox, search calendars or go six clicks deep into an enterprise application to get things done. And just like the newsfeed and alerts that drive our lives at home, they can be used to organize and guide work and empower employees to do their best.

Enable Changing Workstyles

Employees today also want the freedom to work when, where and how they want.

According to a recent study, 70 percent of knowledge workers living in urban locales say they would move to outlying areas and work remote if they could do their jobs at the same level.

By some estimates, gig workers will account for more than half the workforce by 2027.

To attract and retain talent in the tightest labor market the world has ever seen, companies need to rethink what “workplace” means and create digital environments that support these new models for work. In doing so, they can get the right people in the right places to unlock innovation, engage customers and move their business forward.

Align the Stars

They say it takes a village to raise a child. And when it comes to creating a world-class employee experience, nothing could be truer. Typically thought of as an “HR thing,” employee experience is anything but.

Employee experience is all about creating the right environment that inspires people to do great work. And this isn’t just a function of human resources. Total rewards certainly play an important role. But you also need to remove frustration and drive productivity in a way that enables people to perform at their best. And this is where IT comes in.

According to The Experience of Work: The Role of Technology in Productivity and Engagement, companies that use technology to support new models for work and provide employees with tools that make it more efficient and meaningful, can deliver a superior employee experience, and in the process, not only attract the people they need, but keep them engaged and productive and improve their business results.

Reap the Rewards

Across geographies and industry sectors, companies are recognizing — and proving — that a better employee experience can lead directly to better business results. According to Gallup:

  • Companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share
  • When taken together, the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21 percent greater profitability.

So if you think employee experience is just another feel-good corporate initiative, think again. Face the fact that today’s employee experience is broken because work sucks. And do something to fix it. Your business depends on it.


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