Prediction 3: More companies will deal with overwhelmed employees

By Josh Bersin Jan 7, 2015
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Deloitte’s global human capital trends research shows that more than two-thirds of all surveyed organizations believe their employees are “overwhelmed” with too much information, too many projects, too many meetings and phone calls, and an always-on 24/7 work environment. According to 2014 Internet trends research by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, the average person checks his or her cellphone 150 times a day.

Every stimulus we have at work—even the alert we get when a new e-mail arrives—creates an addictive reaction that increases people’s stress, according to Larry Rosen’s bookiDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2013).

In 2015, as more technology floods the workplace (smartwatches, wearable devices and even smarter phones), HR should take a hard look at the entire work environment and do everything possible to make work more humane, rational and simple. Some programs and examples Deloitte sees as tremendously important include the following:

Companies are creating open workspaces that let people move around, change their work location and work from home as needed. Most people have children, families or elder care responsibilities, so they need flexibility and freedom to work when and where they want.

Work/life balance programs are increasingly important. These can include free food, unlimited vacation, hot breakfasts, yoga classes, nap rooms and mindfulness programs. Many will argue that these programs are simply high-cost perks that make sense only in highly competitive markets like Silicon Valley. Deloitte disagrees: More and more clients tell us they save money and improve productivity by making the workplace more humane. Research from the Great Place to Work Institute shows that when people feel more comfortable at work, they work harder, are more productive and gladly work longer hours.

Small teams work best. Many studies demonstrate that small teams outperform big teams. (See J. Richard Hackman’s June 7, 2011, article “Six Common Misperceptions about Teamwork” in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.) When people work closely with a small group day after day, they make decisions faster, collaborate more openly and innovate more. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos calls this the “two-pizza rule”—if there are more than two pizzas in the staff meeting, the team is too big.

HR and work-related processes need to be simplified. Take a seven-step process and reduce it to three; take a competency model with 20 competencies and reduce it to 10 or less; redesign the user interface on your software to have only a few buttons or require only a few swipes of the phone. People don’t want to learn software; they just want to use it.

Simplification does not mean being simplistic: It means taking a sophisticated view of a program or process, detailing all that it entails, and then carefully and ruthlessly stripping out what is not urgently needed. 

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory consulting firm in enterprise learning and talent management.

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