• August 27, 2015

Enabling Productivity: Does Your Workspace Drive Value?

By Jim “Coop” Cooper, Distinguished Technologist and Chief Technologist, Mobility & Workplace Global Practice, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

What does productivity look like in an era of enterprise transformation? What propels it? How can enterprise leaders maximize performance while retaining flexibility, technological prowess, and talent?

Technology, crowdsourcing, and the sharing economy (think Uber, Airbnb, and similar companies built around collaborative consumption) are rapidly disrupting enterprise structures and work culture. Market forces that connect supply and demand in real time are poised to invade even more sectors, such as commercial real estate.

According to “Fast Forward 2030,”  a global report on the future of work and the workplace, business experts and leaders ranked the following top five sources of enterprise competitive advantage in the future:

  1. Attraction and retention of top talent
  2. Innovation
  3. Adaptability
  4. Adoption of technology
  5. Organizational vision, culture, and philosophy

Though there are notable exceptions, the traditional work environment over the last few decades has been largely incompatible with these drivers. Consequently, creative collaboration and focused knowledge work have suffered. For the enterprise’s future success, the workplace and its supporting technology will have to be transformed to, and aligned with, the business objectives of the organization. No longer will IT departments “build it” in hopes that “they will come.” Environments will have to be optimized around the working styles and capabilities of a multi-generational workforce to boost productivity and engage and retain talent.

Taking Stock of Diverse Work Modes

Competitive advantage in the future hinges on maximizing the talents of individual employees, while inspiring them to work as a team. The key to driving this dynamic is to place the workforce in a zone of stimulation that aligns with their work styles.

Yet as Wall Street lawyer and author Susan Cain asserts, not all creativity and productivity arise from gregarious, collaborative workspaces. That’s why it’s crucial to foster a mix of work environments supportive of focused work and confidential discussions, as well as collaboration. In an always-connected world, the fragile state of concentration and the psychological state of flow are often the first casualties. Yet these are central ingredients to creativity and innovation.

Enterprises also need to keep pace with the technology of connectedness. Younger workers are often frustrated by the limited tools available to them and want to transcend the now-accepted channels of email and conference calls. At the same time, organizations that cultivate effective social media skills and enforce the discipline to know when to swap technology for face-to-face interactions will drive competitive advantage.

Designing work space and work mode strategies that align with varied working styles is a must-do for attracting, retaining, and motivating top talent. This is especially true in sectors where the enterprise is undergoing massive transformation.

Disrupting Performance Benchmarks

These shifts are also driving changes in performance management. Widespread rankings and ratings systems, which often hinge on annual evaluation cycles, can be corrosive to worker engagement, alienate high performers, and exact time penalties on managers.

The current business climate seldom follows rigid evaluation criteria and the linear track of the evaluation cycle. Strategies evolve. Goals shift. Priorities are recalibrated. Today, it is often impossible to accurately measure performance strictly by numerical output. Instead, performance is measured by adaptability, skill levels, attitude, and alignment with customers. Hence, managers are replacing output metrics and rankings with ongoing feedback, agile goal setting, and coaching strategies designed to drive continuous professional development.

For the modern workforce, work is a variety of tasks that have become a consumer experience. Enterprise leaders need to appreciate how cross-functional communication, workspace diversity, and flexible work modes can attract talent, mobilize culture, and drive transformation in the New Style of Business.