Employee productivity has been the mainstay of top line growth and bottom-line profitability since 1993, according to Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment: Identifying and Enabling the New High Performance a recent report published by the Conference Executive Board (CEB). Employee productivity over this period, at 3.23% CAGR, led the profitabiity of companies, while growth attributed to revenue per cost of goods sold (COGS) and invested capital has been flat to negative.
For employees, that productivity has come from their adjusting to high increases in workload, managing more complexity in the work that they do, and adapting to a geographically dispersed (and therefore virtual) work context.
Despite this sustained workforce productivity over the last 20 years more is being expected. CEB surveyed 1500 executives and found that, on average, business leaders want an even larger leap of 20% in workforce productivity to meet their growth objectives.
Both managers and workers will have to adjust to new skills, capacity building and enablers for this kind of productivity.
However, managers and HR performance assessment processes focus on valuing and rewarding high performers to the degree that they exhibit business acumen, task and process mastery and technical skills By relying primarily on these traditional models, CEB says, organizations will miss 65% of potential high performers.
Through its research, CEB has identified ten differentiating competencies for high performance in the evolving work environment (what Jane McConnell calls the unified workplace web). Those competencies include prioritization, teamwork, organizational awareness, problem solving, self-awareness, proactivity, influence, decision-making, learning agility and technical expertise.
Driving the need for these competencies are significant trends - increases in knowledge work, more interdependent work and frequent organizational change.
Workers surveyed over the past three years have experienced frequent changes in organizational objectives and structure, and a high increase in the amount of work requiring collaboration -- often working and interacting in expanded networks of 10-20 or more people daily according to the CEB report. Workers are needing to make more decisions at lower points in the organization. In this kind of environment, enabling and encouraging broad employee networks are vital.
These new skills and competencies underscore those called out in a study done by the Institute of the Future a couple of years ago. The study Future Work Skills 2020 looked at six major trends driving new skills, including extreme longevity, advance of smart machines and systems, a more computationally driven and globally connected world, new media ecology, and superstructed organizations.
In a world moving in this direction, important skills include sense-making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, transdiciplinarty, design mindset, cognitive load management and virtual collaboration.
In a globally connected model of working and with extensions in human longevity, cross cultural competency also means cross-generational competency as well. In a knowledge economy, young workers need to be engaged effectively, workers need to plan on learning as a persistent component of professional development and the experience, skills and insight of older workers can't be cavalierly sloughed off.
What do these various new takes on skills and competencies mean? For workers, already articulating a sense of stress at increases in expectations and fluid work environments, it's important to develop skills at managing and filtering information, developing influence in personal networks, and expanding social ties across 'superstructed' organizations.
For leaders in organizations it means enabling and supporting collaborative work, valuing and rewarding performance of those who can work collaboratively, and who express agility in networking and learning as a strong component of their work behaviors.
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