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“Tectonic”—that’s how the authors of a recent Pew report describe the changes that are reshaping American workplaces. It’s a fitting adjective, and it conjures a suitable metaphor for digital transformation—the technological explosion as the main earthquake, and the difficult but necessary ideological and cultural changes as the unpredictable, seemingly ceaseless aftershocks.

It’s those aftershocks that are proving to be the greatest digital transformation challenge—figuring out how to successfully transform culture and ideology to create a truly digital workplace, one that attracts and retains talent by encouraging innovation and focusing on engagement.

Organizations should look to human resources as the start of a solution. HR finds and recruits the talent, and is heavily invested in keeping employees engaged, happy and productive. HR is the first point of contact, the last point of contact, and the department that bears the most responsibility for employee satisfaction.

Business leaders need to assess whether their current HR approach embraces the digital future, or if it is stuck in the past. How does it compare with findings from recent surveys from Gallup, Pew and others?

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, of the 100 million full-time employees in the U.S., only one-third are engaged at work. Among the rest, 16 percent are “actively disengaged,” and 51 percent are not engaged—“they’re just there.”

In the report, Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton writes, “These figures indicate an American leadership philosophy that simply doesn’t work anymore.”

The sentiment is similar in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report. HR’s digital transformation must begin with a change of mindset, and should prioritize connectivity, mobile, real-time operations, platforms, and automation, the report’s authors write.

Both reports provide suggestions for changing workplace and HR culture. Gallup’s Clifton suggests switching from a mindset that measures employee satisfaction to one that focuses on coaching. In addition, he recommends transforming a paycheck culture to one that’s driven by purpose.

In its State of American Jobs report, Pew Research Center examines the issue from the employee’s perspective—specifically, how the changing economic landscape is affecting the way people think about the skills and training they need to get ahead.

A detailed look at Pew’s latest survey results

A detailed look at Pew’s latest survey results.
Click to enlarge. Source: Pew Research

Pew’s findings are sobering. Despite positive opinions about standards of living and prospects for the future, a majority of Americans believe that jobs in the U.S. are less secure, more stressful, less rewarding in terms of benefits, and built less on loyalty than in the past. (See image.)

As they map out their companies’ digital futures, HR and business leaders should keep that research in mind and ask themselves if their approach will help reverse the trend, or simply make it worse.

They should also turn to their own employees for guidance. Using pulse survey software like Officevibe, organizations can collect valuable, honest feedback and act upon it quickly. In a recent survey, Gallup reports that 27 percent of workers strongly agree that the feedback they currently receive helps them do their work better. In addition, 17 percent of respondents strongly agree there’s open communication throughout all levels of their company.

Collaboration rooms and whiteboard walls will not suit every organization’s culture, but a willingness to listen to employees and consider their ideas will.

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