Productivity needs new thinking after pandemic - David Caskie

The Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation published earlier this month focuses on productivity as a key route to success.
David Caskie, Community and Corporate Citizenship Sponsor, Accenture in ScotlandDavid Caskie, Community and Corporate Citizenship Sponsor, Accenture in Scotland
David Caskie, Community and Corporate Citizenship Sponsor, Accenture in Scotland

It supports new ways of working post-pandemic and looks to appoint productivity ambassadors to promote understanding of how businesses can drive productivity improvements through the support they give their workforce and up-skilling.

But while the pandemic has clearly reinforced the truth that a talented, digitally savvy workforce is the currency of a productive and sustainable organisation, it has also created new dynamics between employer and employee and navigating these is critical to success.

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Over the past two years, there has been something of a power shift from company to people. The role of the office is being questioned. Employees have adjusted to having more freedom to arrange their life and work. Alive to society’s big issues, people are also more inclined to choose who they work with based on values related to inclusion and diversity and environmental sustainability, in addition to where and how they work. It changes how every business needs to approach recruitment and employee retention to achieve the productivity gains everyone wants.

Women especially value flexibile workingWomen especially value flexibile working
Women especially value flexibile working

Fjord Trends, the work of our colleagues at Accenture Interactive, identified the increase of individualism and independence, the ‘me over we’, which requires organisations to understand these shifts in people’s ambitions. Employers now face an important leadership challenge: to balance the flexibility they offer to individuals with the needs of the team, and work towards the greater good of the organisation so that creativity, diversity and trust-building can thrive.

The area where this presents the first major challenge is the move towards hybrid working. Our Future of Work study found that 83% of employees prefer a hybrid work model (working remotely between 25% and 75% of the time). But more importantly, we learned that the future of work is not so much about place—“onsite vs. remote”—as it is about helping people to reach their full potential.

Freedom to manage their own time was particularly important to women. The level of organisational resources such as access to technology and a space to work, however, was critical to all. The right resources – whatever these may be to suit the individual employee from tech to mental health support to flexible hours – allow people to not just achieve work/life balance but have a healthy integration of work and life.

So, the question becomes how you support workers, giving them the resources they need to reach their full potential, no matter where they are working, while still achieving the business goals?

This is a time for experimentation: rearrange the workplace, think about organisation culture, talk to employees, make changes. Adjust the benefits package, bolster the collective effort by working hard to ensure that employees understand their responsibility to – and the benefits of – the collective.

The solution is likely to be different for different industries, and for each individual company. All will need to arrive at their unique blend.

But as well as a tilt towards individualism, recent events have led to a marked cultural shift as companies redefine their sense of purpose. The customer increasingly expects brands to play a full role in addressing society’s big challenges from climate change to equality and inclusion. Equally, employees want this from the companies they work for, and it has become a major motivating factor behind their career and company choices.

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Young people are particularly eager to be part of the world’s healing. Our research shows that the feeling that one makes a positive difference to the world and that work that you do has a greater sense of purpose contributes hugely to realising work satisfaction and productivity.

Every great leader knows that recruiting and retaining the right people is the foundation of a successful organisation. Post pandemic, this requires the right working environment as well as a set of values and a mission that goes way beyond profit. How we navigate these new dynamics of the workplace and unlock latent productivity is now the challenge of every business and undoubtedly requires new thinking.

David Caskie, Community and Corporate Citizenship Sponsor, Accenture in Scotland



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