By Debby Carreau
A member of the YPO Alberta Chapter since 2011
CEO and Founder, Inspired HR Ltd.
With the New Year well underway, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your organization’s work environment. In the digital age of hyper connectedness, employees can tell the world what is going on at your company with a few keystrokes thanks to the rise in popularity of websites like Glassdoor. This can be a great PR opportunity or destructive to your brand.
As the global economy improves and war for talent heats up again, top employers are garnering the attention of your employees. Some have created some great Disneyland-like campuses; others offer nap pods or free dry cleaning. It can be a challenge to stay competitive, and to keep employees productive and engaged.
Everyday we hear about new workplace trends but do they warrant incorporation into your HR strategy?
Trend #1: Technology Blackouts
Who is doing it? Volkswagen
Should you try it? Probably not
Should we force our teams to disconnect? Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen organizations increasingly rely on technology for conducting business. The benefit of being connected is that employees have lots of flexibility about when they can work, including at home but it blurs the lines between work and personal time.
By forcing employees back to the traditional 9-5 schedules we are limiting the workforce participation of many great employees who need flexibility such as parents of young children who need some flexibility to work evenings or those who take ageing parents to the doctor.
What employees really want is an organizational e-mail etiquette policy that helps them manage the overwhelming volume of irrelevant e-mail. The most important thing for employees is working with their individual managers to set boundaries and standards for their communications. Managers can also help reduce “telepressure” by role-modeling effective communication and showing respect for work recovery time. (Yes…this means avoiding emailing your team at all hours and expecting an immediate response.)
Trend #2: Eliminating Voice Mail
Who is doing it? Coca Cola
Should you try it? Yes
Forget about leaving a voice mail at Coca Cola headquarters. Send a text instead. Office voice mail at the world’s largest soft-drink maker was removed “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity,” according to Chief Information Officer Ed Steinike.
Landline voice mail is increasingly redundant now that smartphones are everywhere and texting is as routine as talking. In 2012, Vonage reported that the number of voice mail messages left on user accounts was down 8 percent year over year. Voice mail often wastes valuable time and the simple truth today is we prefer to absorb information more quickly by scanning a screen. To improve efficiency, organizations can encourage employees, customers and vendors to communicate more efficiently via text message or email.
Trend #3: Reducing Office Space; Going Virtual
Who is doing it? Telus
Should you try it? Yes
Many organizations are giving up serious real estate in favor of virtual work environments and saving millions. Rapidly evolving technology and more flexible working arrangements means that the bricks and mortar of workplaces are not required for employees to do their jobs properly. The advantages of having all employees in one building have been diminished by the ready availability of free- and low-cost videoconferencing such as Skype. Employees can now work from home, or be in a completely different city, and still communicate effectively.
Trend #4: Artificial Intelligence for Hiring
Who is doing it? Google
Should you try it? Yes and No
Can a computer make a better hiring decision than you? As the job market continues to heat up, businesses will have to place an increased emphasis on recruiting and selecting new employees this year, while still retaining top talent.
Among the many advantages of using computers to gather information is that humans have significant conscious and unconscious biases based on things like a candidate’s name, gender or even their address. Artificial intelligence eliminates those biases.
The real risk to adopting a software program is missing the superstar whose resume may not contain the key search words or the creative genius who uses innovative ideas the computer doesn’t recognize. If you adopt a software program as part of your recruiting process, quickly review the discarded applicants especially for customer facing and creative roles.
Trend #5: Unlimited Vacation Time
Who is doing it? The Virgin Group, Netflix, Groupon
Should you try it? Yes
Sounds like a great recruiting hook but can you make it work? When you treat employees like grownups, they act like grownups. When employees know they are trusted to take vacation when they need or want one, they’re more willing and excited to produce good work when they’re in the office.
Think about your work preference. If you were able to get all of your work done by Thursday then take a long weekend, would you? If you’re considering offering up unlimited vacation, it is critical to have tangible deliverables for every role and it must be implemented as a test to ensure it works for the organization.
Whatever initiatives you adopt make sure your employees see value in them. There is no point in offering unlimited vacation and blackout periods if your team would rather have a team lunch every Friday. The foundation of a great workplace will always be team members feeling as though they are respected, making a contribution and are treated fairly. The free massages and onsite concierge will be a competitive advantage only once the basics are in place.