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Via LiveMint : The workplace of the future

Will the future workplace be ruled by technology or changing demographics? Will we have to be more cognizant about the changes in work culture?

What will the workplace of the future look like? Will it be ruled by technology or changing demographics? Will we have to be more cognizant about the changes in work culture? Will robots, chatbots, and artificial intelligence and virtual reality assistants work alongside the full-time, part-time, contingency, and gig workers?

What should we be prepared for, and what should we be concerned about?

Amid these questions, a certainty looms. Jobs are really not going anywhere. They are just evolving to the next levels. The question is: How high and different are those levels?

It is all about skills, not scale

Clearly, it is not about headcount any more. It is all about skills, not scale. This is the fundamental game changer of the future workplace. Revenue will be linked not to headcount, but to the right skills. The future will be “scale” for such skills. From my experience, I am convinced that clients will be willing to pay for better skills.

Get ready for skills ‘Uberization’

Millennials will rewrite both the demographics and patterns of working. Independent workers will significantly increase in number. In India, the estimated number of freelancers is more than 15 million—about 40% of the world’s freelance jobs.

Skills will be available on demand and connected to organizations by digital platforms. And if reports are to be believed, even CEO skills are set to be “Uberized”.

The World Economic Forum’s prediction in its report Future of Jobs says that 65% of children who enter primary school today will take up jobs that don’t exist yet. Furthermore, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be those that are not considered important today.

Technology will have a profound impact

Undoubtedly, rapidly advancing technologies are opening new windows of opportunity across business lines—robotic process automation, Big Data analytics, internet of things, augmented reality, machine learning, natural language processing, cloud and cybersecurity services. The upshot of this is that the bar on what seems “good enough” will keep constantly rising. In terms of what we call the workplace (where and when we choose to work, who will deliver the work, and how we deliver results), there will be profound changes. Digitalization will spread rapidly, as will automation.

We will continue to lose routine and repetitive jobs to machines—the ones that require no human intelligence and skills. We should be happy to let them go for the sake of increased productivity and efficiency. This is reality and we need to align strategies, business models and resources.

Most important, we should be upskilling our people.

Skill development, a critical imperative

Nasscom asserts that 60-70% of the existing workforce will need to be reskilled to meet future needs. It is heartening to note that as an industry, we are working together to create a comprehensive digital skilling platform to reskill 1.5-2 million people in the next four-five years.

Better collaboration between human resources, procurement, information technology and legal will help organizations to manage a successful blended workforce. Developing leadership skills of employees is equally critical. Organizations need leaders and managers who are ready for the demands of the future.

Work culture, the powerful glue for future workforce

Rewiring the cultural mindset in both organizations and professionals will be an imperative for tomorrow’s workplace. Holacracy (decentralized management) could well be the new operating system to redefine and redistribute control of work practices.

Employees need to be given the leeway to act more like entrepreneurs in self-directing their work. Work-life balance and “work-from-anywhere” are two realities to reckon with. Security teams need to create secure tech environs with advanced security analytics and machine learning—and without privacy conflicts.

In all, exciting times loom ahead. There is uncertainty, and there are challenges, too. But there are more than enough promise and possibilities for the industry to look ahead with confidence to the workplace and workforce of the future.

Via LiveMint : Learn to communicate at all levels or perish

Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are

For too long, communication has been looked at as a “soft skill” that relies on flourish and flair. It’s time we punctured that connotation. Communicating well is hard.

Sure, logical thinking and multiple perspectives lead to tangible action for ideas to move and solutions to be implemented. But any chance of success for a solution begins with getting colleagues, managers and clients to buy into and align with your solution. This is tough and only possible if you engage people in a constructive and inspiring way.

This is why communication plays a crucial, indispensable role because the best thinking is no good if it can’t be absorbed by others.

Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are. Effective communication—especially in the workplace—is about being able to convey your thoughts lucidly so that the people being addressed immediately get what is being said. In fact, some of the best communicators we know don’t speak good English.

The recipe for great communication is similar to what we said in the context of problem solving. To solve a problem, you need to logically structure issues. It’s the same with words and thoughts.

We are poor communicators because we don’t reason, debate and question enough. To communicate and reason better, you need to read. Then, you need to reason and think through better. Inculcating reading, writing, and, through this, reasoning as a habit is the only way to get at this.

Take a unit of work, whether it is problem solving or execution. You begin by reading, hearing or watching something or someone. This helps you comprehend the situation. You apply your analysis and judgement to this understanding, and reason through to a certain decision or outcome. To get this communicated or implemented, you now need to write, speak or present, and the reading-writing-reasoning (the 3 Rs) communication loop begins again.

Along with structuring the content, understanding your audience is the biggest aspect of communication that people miss out on. Connecting with different groups, and different kinds of people, is very important. This goes beyond just communicating. It’s the difference between how you would talk to your grandmother, and how you would talk to a college friend.

Taking the time out to understand the key motivation, or set the objective, for a conversation helps establish a connect, as does recognizing which modes of communication people prefer, what response times they expect and how formal/informal they are in their communication styles.

Finally, as with reading, learn to listen. People think taking up airtime is the core of communication. They must speak and be heard. But the best communicators are great listeners. Listening is actually a form of reading. Spend time not just hearing, but actively listening.

An important impact of communication is its ability to inspire and motivate. It’s only through communication that you show your leadership, or experience somebody’s leadership. The way people perceive you is built conversation by conversation, LinkedIn post by LinkedIn post and email by email. Or, speech by speech, when it comes to political leaders and opinion makers.

At our workplaces, we experience people’s leadership in the way they conduct a meeting, persuade people in a debate, carry out an awkward conversation, resolve a conflict or address their teams. Often, it’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. The words they stress, the tone, or even how often they communicate become data points we gather subconsciously. It influences how we look at them. Others are watching you the same way.

Take charge of your communications imprint. Begin by auditing yourself. Get help from a friend, peer or family member whose communication abilities you admire. Use it to lay down a road map for improvement.

It could be the most important investment you make for your career.

Via Chief Executive : How CEOs Can Drive Culture Change And Workplace Diversity

A diverse workplace — one that recognizes and respects all unique individuals across the business — is widely accepted as crucial to a successful organization. In its “Why Diversity Matters” report, workplace research firm McKinsey documents the higher financial performance by diverse companies across industries.

Yet, despite recent efforts, diversity remains a much-discussed topic — and not because companies are great at it. Take Google’s data-driven diversity program. It cost $265 million to implement but still failed to significantly change the composition of its workforce.

The critical missing link for many organizations is often strong CEO involvement. By putting their stamp on diversity initiatives as part of a proactive, robust strategy, CEOs can help their business leaders drive change from the top down. Here are four ways to make that happen.

Re-examine the workplace environment

To really tap into the benefits of diversity and inclusion, CEOs can encourage their organizations to look beyond traditional diversity categories. A workplace that fails to adapt to the needs of different age groups, personalities, individual qualities and work styles will likely find efficiency and performance suffer.

For example, many workplace environments are built around eye contact, noisy group work and generally overstimulating settings, from the interview process to long-term decision making. But these traditional workplace environments and routines may not encourage top performance from all types of workers.

If your company features an open plan environment, make sure you offer access to private work spaces, too. Consider how lighting and noisy distractions could impact individuals with autism or hyper-sensitive personalities. Encourage a company culture that values subtle collaborative practices — and be sure you model this behavior across your C-suite, too.

Learn from strengths and weaknesses

By opening the doors to nonlinear thinking, business leaders can maximize employees’ individual strengths and solve difficult problems. If nurtured in the right way, these skills are extremely valuable to a business.

For example, global giant EY implemented a pilot in 2016 to hire individuals with Asperger’s syndrome to help analyze the effectiveness of account operations and determine specific client needs. With a talent for detail-orientated and process-driven work, these employees demonstrated they could deliver results in an innovative and efficient way.

While it’s fine to set individual and highly specialized tasks, it’s still important to keep a collaborative element to roles. Encourage employees to share their ideas and feedback on other workplace projects to ensure everyone feels part of a team and no one becomes too isolated.

Promote flexibility and cater to individuals

Pioneering computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper once said the most dangerous phrase in data processing is “We’ve always done it this way.

The same could be said for any business. Hiding behind bureaucracy to deter employees from making requests for greater flexibility can be a major obstacle to achieving greater inclusion and diversity. And employees say that flexibility is highly important: A study by PGi found 70 percent of employees were more productive, 80 percent had higher morale and 82 percent had lower stress when allowed to telecommute.

Lead the charge to promote flexible policies with work-from-home options and encourage employees to use that time when they need it. This proactively demonstrates your company’s goal of supporting the varied needs of individuals.

Apply that same flexibility to rewarding staff when they excel. Happy hours or golf outings may work well for some employees but will leave others flat. Working parents might not be able to arrange child care after work or on the weekends, for instance. Would your star performer prefer a few bonus days off? Early release days? A team breakfast or lunch?

Test alternative recruiting strategies

The cost of losing an employee can range from thousands of dollars to more than twice the employee’s annual salary. These costs include hiring, training, the loss of engagement from others due to high turnover and higher business error rates. That’s why it’s vital to invest in finding the right employees for your company.

However, the personalities of some individuals may run counter to common notions of what makes a good employee. Concentrating only on conventional benchmarks — such as solid communication skills, teamwork and the ability to network — may systematically screen out individuals with unique gifts.

Talk with your HR leaders to discuss ways you can adapt hiring policies to encourage diversity. In some cases, it might be more effective to conduct interviews virtually, since some candidates may interview better in familiar surroundings.

Or as Microsoft found, sometimes it’s better not to hold traditional interviews at all. Adapting the structure of its interview process was a key action the company took in its bid to attract colleagues with autism. Instead of a traditional interviewing process, candidates were invited on campus for two weeks to work on projects, while being casually monitored by managers looking for new team members.

Companies that emphasize a flexible, inclusive workplace culture will find it easier to attract and keep top talent — employees who feel supported to realize their full potential. That ultimately leads to business innovation, growth and profit — top of the wish list for CEOs the world over.

Via DNA : Time to break silos and join hands at workplace

Only 13% of employees across organisations can work in teams without being interrupted (and complete projects on time), says an employee-focused research study.

Is this true? In an era when team sizes are shrinking and remote/flexi working is gaining in prominence, where does the aura attached towards working in teams now stand? Does it help to work individually, rather than in teams to minimise distractions and accelerate project deliveries?

“Not really,” say HR experts. According to Praveen Rawal, managing director, Steelcase India and Southeast Asia, the evolution from ‘I’ to ‘We’ at work is going to be more significant for achieving organisational goals in 2018.

Hamsaz Vasunia, Head HR, DCB Bank, says ‘teamwork’ is about how different teams come together to service the end customer. “Today, customers want the best solution in the shortest possible time. To make this happen, different individuals have to work seamlessly without letting the baton fall. In this digital world, where a new product has to be launched in the market before the competition, every employee has to work in sync to meet the deadline. For any project to be successful, people with different skill-sets are required to complement each other. They can support each other, energise one another and maximise the overall output.”

According to Thammaiah BN, managing director, Kelly Services India, working in a team creates healthy competition amongst employees and members are able to divide workloads and pressure amongst themselves. “Thus, every individual can be allocated with responsibilities based on their specialisation.”

But beyond the multiple advantages that teamwork brings in for the organisation and its employees, there do exist distractions that cause impediments in the pathway towards team achievements. Conflicts, ego and insecurities often exist within teams that hinder fruitful collaboration. Moreover, research at the University of California points out that once a distraction occurs, it can take as much as 23 minutes for the mind to return to the task at hand.

Vivek Prabhakar, co-founder of Chumbak, says that employees get distracted only when the team gets distracted, “and each person starts working in a different direction. If the team is focused, chances of distraction are minimal. High productivity is all about a combination of single-minded focus on individual tasks, as well as a lot of collaboration to ensure that all team members are on the same track.”

Although togetherness at work is vital for value creation, in excess, it’s a killer, says Rawal. He believes that there needs to be a process wherein workers come together as a group to develop a shared point of view, and then break apart to take the next steps. “This can be achieved through a provision of spaces. Collaboration has caused a privacy crisis, especially in Indian offices where real estate is a constraint,” says Rawal. Experts note that in many companies, there is a high emphasis on open spaces and not enough on private spaces. “In India, which has a collectivist culture, organisations need to optimize real estate more to provide visual, acoustical and territorial privacy options,” says Rawal.

Virtual Working and Teamwork

With teams being agile and employees working virtually, promoting team cohesiveness assumes even greater importance. According to Thammaiah, with video collaboration tools, opportunities for interaction with remote workers can be created. “Social events and team-building exercises will make employees feel part of a team and not isolated.”

To promote cohesiveness, experts say organisations should appreciate teamwork that has achieved common goals. Secondly, conflict resolution between employees by the organisation at the earliest is necessary to ensure productivity remains protected.

Deodutta Kurane, group president, human capital management, Yes Bank, says that building teams that deliver is a leadership responsibility. “A leader must focus on training team ( to collaborate), engaging (by conducting milestone reviews and realigning tasks basis group performance), attracting the right mix of skills and personalities, and motivating teams and developing a shared mindset amongst members. This ensures that teams remain committed to delivering quality in a timely manner.”

Furthermore, employees also have a role in being good team players. Vasunia says first and foremost, individuals should keep their ego in check. “They should respect each other’s views, be inclusive, participate in team events and personally interact more while emailing less.”

Via LiveMint : Enjoyable workplace spurs innovation, productivity: Mahindra Auto

Rajeshwar Tripathi, head of HR at Mahindra Auto, which is one of the top 10 workplaces according to Great Place to Work Institute, speaks about the firm’s people policy

Mahindra and Mahindra Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors, the flagship of the Mahindra Group, ranked 23rd in India’s Best Companies To Work For 2017 list compiled by the Great Place To Work Institute. In 2013 and 2015, it ranked third in the manufacturing and production industry list. Policies to ensure safety and improve productivity on the shop floor have helped build the company’s image as an employer of repute. Rajeshwar Tripathi, head of human resources at the firm, shares how the Mahindra Group’s Rise philosophy is incorporated in its people policies. Edited excerpts:

Why is it important for you to be a good workplace?

It helps us attract the right people from various industries, possessing different skill sets and having diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, to engage with our own people; this is very important because that’s when they give us their best. People must enjoy their workplace; it spurs innovation and productivity because people are a key differentiator. For example, if there were two companies with the same product and structure, people will make a difference at the individual and collective levels.

What is your recruitment process?

Various psychometric tools are used to indicate an individual’s alignment with Mahindra’s Rise philosophy, which is to drive change. Recently, more focus has been laid on an applicant’s learning agility because we live in an ever-changing world. How capable they are of changing themselves and driving change matters to us.

How would you ensure retention and motivation on the shop floor?

Retention should arise from an individual’s intrinsic desire to stay at the organization, which should arise directly from the work they do. Much effort has gone into the ambience, working conditions and policies of our plants. Work hours have been made flexible while some Saturdays are off as well. Wellness has been given a special focus with preventive health exams being conducted, in addition to nutritionists and clinical psychologists being present at our occupational health centres.

Our policies are becoming increasingly segmented and personalized since the needs of all groups, say age-wise, are not the same.

What have been some challenges in retaining talent?

Reskilling our people to suit evolving business models and strategies, especially in the past three years, has been a challenge. To avoid human obsolescence among the company, intensive workshops are conducted, thus making us an agile organization.

What is the role of the top management in forming people policies?

Policies emanate from the top management because they are a manifestation of organizational philosophy and culture. The top three drivers of our people policies are the values our organization wants to pursue, the purpose for our existence—the customer, and finally, our business strategy.