Data-Driven Learning

Data-Driven Learning

Data Analytics Learning & Development
In a recent post, we examined the idea of a “21st-century career”—what it is and steps organizations will need to...
Read More
3 Tips to Increase Productivity

3 Tips to Increase Productivity

Productivity
For many workers, summertime is not vacation time. Rather, it’s another holiday forfeited or another trip spent responding to emails,...
Read More
How Organizations Can Support 21st-Century Careers

How Organizations Can Support 21st-Century Careers

Learning & Development Learning Transformation
During the last century, a career meant getting a foot in the door, and slowly, methodically advancing within an organization....
Read More
Teams Spirit

Teams Spirit

Collaboration Microsoft 365 Office 365 Productivity
For organizations that haven’t begun to seriously consider using chat-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack, it’s time to...
Read More
Think Like a Newcomer

Think Like a Newcomer

Digital Business Onboarding
In last week’s post, we highlighted three things that will likely dominate the corporate learning and development conversation in 2018....
Read More
3 Things That Will Matter to Learning Leaders in 2018

3 Things That Will Matter to Learning Leaders in 2018

Learning & Development
In the beginning of 2018, many publications’ year-ahead articles included ample predictions about the transformation of organizational learning and development...
Read More
5 Ways to Minimize Technology Fears

5 Ways to Minimize Technology Fears

Change Management Digital Transformation
It’s no secret that digital tools like Office 365 are quickly changing the workplace of yesterday. Organizations across industries and...
Read More
How Employees Can Help Bridge the Digital Skills Gap

How Employees Can Help Bridge the Digital Skills Gap

Digital Transformation Learning & Development Productivity
Frequent interruptions, pressure to be always-on and accessible because of mobile devices, rapidly changing technology, the threat of jobs being...
Read More
Employee Empowerment—How It’s Done and Why You Should Care

Employee Empowerment—How It’s Done and Why You Should Care

Digital Business Digital Transformation End-User Adoption End-User Productivity Learning & Development Productivity User Adoption
In a 1999 California Management Review article, Peter Drucker—who is widely regarded as the “father of modern management”—stated that the...
Read More
Overcome the Fear of Technological Change

Overcome the Fear of Technological Change

Change Management Digital Transformation
Imagine arriving at work one day and, to your surprise, the company-issued desktop computer you left on the desk Friday...
Read More
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Data Analytics Learning & Development

Data-Driven Learning

Data-driven learning

In a recent post, we examined the idea of a “21st-century career”—what it is and steps organizations will need to take to enable this new model of work. In the post, we noted the disparity between the critical need for new learning approaches and the lack of decisive action being taken by companies, and provided steps organizations can take to achieve business goals and meet the workforce’s changing expectations.

Today we take a closer look at one of those suggestions—the role of data in determining learning needs.

The use of data to analyze, predict, and improve employee performance has increased significantly in recent years—both in practice and perception. Among respondents to the Deloitte 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 70 percent note that they have begun major projects to analyze and integrate data into their decision making. Additionally, 84 percent of respondents view “people analytics1” as important or very important, making it the second-highest-ranked trend in terms of importance.

Data-driven learning, which is a component of people analytics, is an approach that considers multiple factors to determine a person’s learning requirements. It means looking at evidence, such as actual proficiency assessments (direct), surveys about what employees think they need to learn (indirect), and knowledge about the skills employees in similar job functions and industries need to be productive.

When working with clients on learning approaches, we base recommendations on multiple sources. We look at experience we have had with companies of similar size and in the same industry—for example, the topics that caused the most disruption during migrations, specific applications and features that required more intense training, etc. We factor in company culture and client-specific data—Which applications or features are employees calling about the most? Which topics are getting the most traffic in our Help Me kNow Hub?

Several factors are driving the use and importance of data in organizational learning (and in all aspects of HR strategy). Among them:

Smaller, more frequent updates and releases are changing the way learning happens. Just a few years ago, software changes were sweeping, disruptive events that occurred every three to five years. For example, switching to a newer version of Office meant dozens of new features to learn and widespread downtime. Companies usually provided one-size-fits-all training, regardless of an employee’s job responsibilities, with the principal goal of returning to pre-migration productivity levels as quickly as possible. Advanced and job-specific training came later, if at all.

But smaller doesn’t mean simpler. Today’s rapid-fire updates deliver significant new and changed functionality on a continual basis. Since the first quarter of 2017, Microsoft launched 160 Office updates, 91 of which were released in the first quarter of 2018 alone. In addition, Microsoft currently has 189 updates in development and 75 that are beginning to roll out.2 To ensure employees can keep up, organizations need to provide targeted, effective training and support.

Skills have a shorter shelf-life. Experts predict that almost half of subject knowledge learned during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by the time students graduate.3 In addition, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will include capabilities that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.4 Keeping up is critical. Upskilling and reskilling will become critical in coming years.

Learning needs differ according to industry, company size, job function and other factors. Employees in one industry—healthcare, for example—will not use Office 365 the same way people who work in a field such as oil and gas do.

Using data in all aspects of business can deliver enormous benefits to both the organization and the employee. However, business leaders should keep in mind that data is not a cure-all—you cannot reliably determine a person’s learning needs with just one reference point. To create rich, effective learning and development, organizations need to rely on a combination of data, knowledge and human expertise.


1. “People analytics” is the application of math, statistics and modeling to employee-related data to see and predict patterns. Also referred to as HR analytics and talent analytics, people analytics is used to make better decisions about all aspects of HR strategy with the goal of improving business performance. Source: “Essential Guide: A guide to HR analytics,” by TechTarget, https://searchhrsoftware.techtarget.com/definition/human-resources-analytics-talent-analytics.

2. See Microsoft’s Office 365 Roadmap, which provides comprehensive information about updates

3.The Future of Jobs Report 2016,” World Economic Forum, January 2016

4. Ibid.

Productivity

3 Tips to Increase Productivity

blog 06152018

For many workers, summertime is not vacation time. Rather, it’s another holiday forfeited or another trip spent responding to emails, attending meetings, and enduring the scorn of family members. According to a Glassdoor survey, American workers forfeited nearly 50 percent of their paid vacation in 2017, and almost 10 percent take no vacation days at all. The study points to the fear of falling behind as the number one reason people aren’t using their vacation time.

Before you make your summer plans, try a few new approaches to increase your productivity so you can feel confident that you cleared your task list before taking time off.

Windows 10 Focus Assist

According to surveys conducted by Microsoft, most people spend between three and six hours every day looking at screens. Relentless distractions make it hard to focus.

In April, Microsoft released Windows 10 Focus Assist (known as Quiet Hours in earlier versions of Windows 10), which enables you to turn off notifications on your computer. Here’s how it works:

You can customize Focus Assist by creating automatic rules—set it to turn on at certain times of day, on weekends, or on weekdays; when you’re duplicating your display (giving a presentation, for example); when you are at home; or when you are playing a DirectX game. You can also tailor Focus Assist with a priority list—you can create exceptions for app-specific and people-specific notifications.

Windows 10 Timeline

Few people would disagree that distractions are costly to productivity. Personal experience and research thoroughly, consistently back up the claim. In a study of memory and distraction, researchers at Canada’s Simon Fraser University discovered that people who perform well on memory tasks were able to suppress distractions—those who didn’t perform as well couldn’t suppress distractions quickly enough to prevent interruptions from grabbing their attention.

If you are unable to eliminate distractions, or if you are the type of person who has trouble suppressing them, Microsoft’s Windows 10 Timeline feature aims to make work easier. Timeline can track what documents and Web pages you’ve been working on over the past weeks and months, and organizes them into a collection of documents you can access quickly to pick up where you left off.

If You Can’t Suppress Distractions, Drown them Out with Noise

The open office layout trend may be fueling collaboration, but it’s having the opposite effect on focus and productivity. Most people are familiar with “white noise,” but there are many other “colors” of noise—some of which can be used to minimize auditory distractions.

White: True white noise is a mixture of all the frequencies humans can hear—for example, the TV static when nothing is broadcasting. White noise is best if you want to simply drown out annoying sounds.

Pink: What most people think of as “white noise” is actually pink. It serves the same purpose of drowning out all other sounds, but is less grating and harsh. Pink noise is best for sleep, which isn’t best for productivity.

Brown: While not a noise color—its name is derived from the theory of Brownian motion—brown noise is a deeper sound, like ocean waves. Brown noise is useful for helping people focus.

See this guide for more noise colors.

The benefits of improved focus and productivity extend well beyond vacation plans. They can make employees more effective, successful, and fulfilled in their careers.

Learning & Development Learning Transformation

How Organizations Can Support 21st-Century Careers

blog 06082018 1200

During the last century, a career meant getting a foot in the door, and slowly, methodically advancing within an organization. People tended to stay with one company, maybe two—job-hopping was discouraged and did little but tarnish a resume.

But over the last few decades, nearly everything about work changed—including tools, approach (from a focus on individual work to an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration), motivation, how long a person stays with a company, employee and organizational expectations, and the amount of time spent working, both on a weekly and career-long basis.

Today, employees do not anticipate ladder-like career paths with one organization. Instead, they expect to have a “21st-century career,” a term defined by Deloitte as “a series of developmental experiences, each offering a person the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives, and judgment.”

The key to this new type of career is learning transformation—without it, employees cannot innovate and companies cannot grow. Yet, despite an increase in total U.S. training expenditures in 2017, numerous surveys show that corporate learning and development is not keeping pace.

Although many factors are responsible for the disparity between the critical need for new learning approaches and the lack of decisive action being taken by companies, the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report points out two main barriers to change: an insufficient understanding of disruptive changes and resource constraints.

These are significant barriers, but they are not insurmountable. To get started, business leaders should keep four things in mind:

  1. Make reskilling, upskilling and continuous learning top priorities.
  2. Use data as well as other methods to determine learning needs.
  3. Focus on employees’ skills instead of their job descriptions. Use that knowledge to determine new paths for development.
  4. Be proactive: Don’t assume employees will find the resources they need. Provide them with a range of options and be sure they know where to access them.

In addition, Deloitte’s report offers a new imperative—“To examine, understand, develop, and implement a variety of solutions to support ‘21st-century careers’”—plus approaches for implementing change. In more recent reports, the World Economic Forum takes it a step further with reskilling roadmaps.

Regardless of the approach, business leaders must strive to understand how work is changing and recognize that organizations can no longer be “passive consumers of ready-made human capital,” according to the WEF’s Future of Jobs report. To ensure success in the digital present and future, they must prioritize learning and become active enablers of change, growth and innovation.

Collaboration Microsoft 365 Office 365 Productivity

Teams Spirit

TeamsBlogGamePieces1200

For organizations that haven’t begun to seriously consider using chat-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack, it’s time to start paying attention. Collaboration is the top trend for this year, and experts predict it will remain that way.

Since the launch of Teams in March 2017, Microsoft has added dozens of new features to the platform, including guest access and voice calling. In January, Microsoft released its biggest Teams update yet, and the platform figured prominently in keynotes at this week’s Microsoft Build 2018 conference.

Slack, which is widely regarded as the forerunner of the current team communication revival, has also consistently improved its product since it launched in 2013. Early last year, Slack launched its Enterprise Grid to compete with the subsequent release of Microsoft Teams. In the meantime, scores of competitors have emerged—from companies big and small, both proprietary and open source.

The demand for chat-based solutions to replace email as the primary mode of collaboration in the workplace has grown because organizations are beginning to realize that collaboration is critical to innovation and digital success. In a 2017 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital, researchers found that more than 70 percent of digitally maturing businesses are using cross-functional teams to implement digital business priorities. This compares to less than 30 percent for organizations that have just begun their digital transformations.

Collaboration also helps organizations increase engagement and improve retention—which is especially important considering the growing global digital skills shortage. The MIT Sloan/Deloitte report notes that many companies are encouraging employees to participate in platforms and communities where they can share ideas with and learn new skills from experts in other departments and in other organizations.

At a granular level, collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams can:

  • Save time and frustration between apps. Teams brings everything together in one hub—chats, calls, meetings, and private and group messages specific to projects.
  • It enables people to share applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, as well as calendars, files and email—all seamlessly and in real-time.

But to achieve the gains promised by chat-based collaboration solutions, organizations must first solve the adoption puzzle. The greatest challenge will be encouraging employees and entire organizations to change their work process—to undo the decades-long reliance on email as the primary collaboration tool and the silo as the only knowledge repository. That will require a comprehensive communication strategy, a solid system for soliciting feedback and implementing changes, ongoing training and support, and executive buy-in.

The greatest challenge will be encouraging employees and entire organizations to change their work process—to undo the decades-long reliance on email as the primary collaboration tool and THE silo as the only knowledge repository

For organizations that are unsure whether to commit to a company-wide implementation of a solution like Teams, consider these recent productivity stats:

  • The average worker checks email more than 70 times a day1
  • It takes people about 25 minutes to reorient back to a task when they are interrupted2
  • The average number of business-related emails sent and received each day is expected to reach 140 this year3
  • The more time people spend focused on email, the less happy and productive they are4

Email has come a long way since the early days of AOL and ARPANET—countless features like SPAM filters, priority inboxes, and rules, plus machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, have enabled users to lessen frustration and minimize email’s impact on productivity. Yet today’s workplace and work pace demand something different.

New ideas are generated when people with diverse backgrounds work together—whether physically or virtually. Collaboration technology makes innovation possible, and adoption of the technology makes it inevitable. It’s up to business leaders to start providing both.


1. Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory,” by Joe Pinsker, May 27, 2015, The Atlantic | 2. Ibid. | 3.Emails expected to rise to 140 a day in 2018,” by Cara Jenkin, May 24, 2014, news.com.au | 4.Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory,” by Joe Pinsker, May 27, 2015, The Atlantic

Digital Business Onboarding

Think Like a Newcomer

In last week’s post, we highlighted three things that will likely dominate the corporate learning and development conversation in 2018. As we noted, these issues—onboarding, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and L&D vendor selection—share a common factor: they are often overlooked because they aren’t perceived as vital to organizational success.

Today, we take a closer look at onboarding—what it was, what it is today, and what it could be if organizations made it a top priority and began to recognize technology training as essential to successfully orienting a new hire.

Onboarding is the set of programs, activities, and support resources that help integrate a new hire into the organization and decrease time to performance in role. Onboarding activities can last anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. Some organizations favor a “sink or swim” approach, while others prefer more systematic tactics—e.g., providing a formal orientation and ample time for new employees to assimilate and achieve full productivity.

Until recently, these approaches were satisfactory. Organizational procedures were mostly cemented in place, business goals rarely veered in new directions, and the tools and technology employees relied on to do their jobs changed very little over the course of a few years.

Now, in the digital cloud era, technology updates roll out more frequently and employees want their workplace tools to be as intuitive and up-to-date as their personal technology. Today, technology is central to work.

In response, organizations have shifted their priorities and have begun thinking about onboarding in terms of how it impacts employee engagement, retention and, ultimately, business success. Indeed, much of the research about onboarding over the past decade has focused on the relationship between onboarding and employee engagement/retention.

But as far as onboarding has come in recent years, it’s not far enough. Even companies that recognize onboarding as an enormous opportunity to increase engagement and retention have largely failed to take it a step further. Infusing onboarding programs with tech training and reinforcement support can further increase engagement and retention, and boost employee productivity and morale.

According to a recent report by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and Kronos, onboarding is a missed opportunity for a majority of employers. Among the survey findings:

  • Three-fourths of survey respondents report that onboarding practices are underutilized
  • Nearly a quarter of organizations have no onboarding strategy or process for internal hires
  • 36% of companies have insufficient technology to automate or organize the onboarding process

The good news is that organizations are beginning to understand how vital onboarding is to success. According to the HCI/Kronos report, 30 percent of companies said they intended to increase their onboarding budget in 2018, and most planned to invest in program consistency and software solutions.

When organizations take onboarding a step further—when they provide not only tools that are intuitive, but also approaches—they will begin to achieve the business gains that digital technology promises.

Learning & Development

3 Things That Will Matter to Learning Leaders in 2018

0411blog1200In the beginning of 2018, many publications’ year-ahead articles included ample predictions about the transformation of organizational learning and development (L&D). It’s a top issue, for sure, and it will likely remain a priority in the coming years.

But now that spring is here, we’d like to narrow our focus on some of the key trends that have kept our attention. Here are three things business leaders should keep an eye on:

1. Onboarding should be more than just “orientation.”

The onboarding experience is critical to engagement—it sets the tone of an organization, and helps to define and strengthen a company’s culture. But many organizations’ approaches fail to properly prepare employees for new positions. New hires are herded through a standard process that provides little more than a surface-level overview. Onboarding processes rarely focus on quickly building the tech skills employees need for their particular position.

2. GDPR, its looming deadline, and what it means for US businesses.

On May 25, 2018, the rules outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was approved by the European Union Parliament in April 2016, will come into effect. Although the GDPR is an EU order, it will nevertheless significantly affect US businesses—if your organization handles data of British subjects or EU citizens from any of the 28 member states, it is required to comply with the GDPR’s complex regulations.

Training will be key to ensuring employees understand the new regulations and comply with them. In addition, training will be critical for artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and other data analytics technology. According to PwC’s third GDPR pulse survey, almost two-thirds of respondents worldwide say they plan to implement IoT and other data analytics technology in the coming year—all of which will require significant work to remain GDPR compliant.

3. L&D vendor selection has become critical.

As L&D needs expand, so too does the demand for learning vendors who can provide quick, personalized, task-focused solutions for every employee, whether they are in-house, remote, full-time or contingent. Vendor selection will become a key issue this year and in the years to come.

A thread connects these three top challenges—they’re issues that often have been overlooked because they aren’t perceived as vital to organizational success. But in this new world of work, the rules are more complex and the path to success changes often.

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of these three trends more in depth. Stay tuned.

Change Management Digital Transformation

5 Ways to Minimize Technology Fears

Wonderland Walker 2It’s no secret that digital tools like Office 365 are quickly changing the workplace of yesterday. Organizations across industries and around the world are spending $20 million to $100 million to digitally transform and modernize the way their employees communicate, collaborate and connect with each other and their customers.

Despite the increased spend, many transformation efforts fall flat. A failure to focus on employees is a key factor. When organizations provide little to no communication or resources, employees rely on their perceptions and emotions, which can result in resistance and even fear.1

As that fear sets in, it becomes difficult to learn to use modern technologies and applications. In a recent Forbes article, columnist and author Brent Gleeson discusses the impact of change, and how people can control their own responses and emotions during times of change and uncertainty—which he describes as “emotional intelligence.” According to Gleeson, emotional intelligence taps the innermost feelings and empowers people to overcome angst, manage fear and welcome change. By taking ownership of how they respond to change, people can create opportunities to become more efficient and effective.

By taking ownership of how they respond to change, people can create opportunities to become more efficient and effective

Here are five self-directed ways you can minimize your technology fears:

  1. Understand that you’re not alone. You’re not the only one experiencing the change. Share your questions with your co-workers. A peer may know the answer or may even have the same questions. They may be able to show you how to use the tools or point you to helpful tips or best practices. This creates an open and organic way of sharing information and creates a natural way to learn. Participate in Lunch-and-Learns, workshops, or other group activities to learn how others use applications to get their work done.
  2. Don’t be afraid to learn. Make it a habit to practice and familiarize yourself with the tools. Leverage online resources, videos, and help guides that walk you through the applications step-by-step. Take advantage of learning opportunities your company provides. They are designed to help you not only learn how to use the tools but also learn how to apply them to your daily work habits or create new ones.
  3. Work smarter, not harder. Identify your work challenges. Use the applications to accomplish mundane tasks or to remove bottlenecks that prevent you from getting your work done. Eliminate multiple document versions by updating documents in real-time. Use chat instead of email to get answers quicker. Access documents from your mobile device, without having to connect to your company’s VPN. By incorporating the tools to solve basic problems, you become more proficient and work becomes easier.
  4. Apply what you’re already doing in your personal life to your workday. According to the Pew Research Center, more thanthree-quarterss of the American population (77 percent) goes online daily, and at least 83 percent of those do it from a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. Applications you use at work are increasingly available on your mobile device. You can check your calendar between meetings, update tasks, or have a face-to-face meeting without the need to power on a computer or a laptop. As tools become available, start to use your mobile device more to create a similar experience between your personal and work use.
  5. Think about the possibilities of work/life balance. More than ever before, technology is making it easier to work via a mobile device. Digital tools enable people to communicate, work together, and increase the ability to share knowledge faster regardless of location, according to MIT Sloan Management Review. Microsoft estimates that in just a few years more than 50 percent of the global workforce will be mobile. If your organization provides the tools and opportunities to work remotely, and your HR practices support it, take advantage of the ability to read an email from home before or after family commitments.

Digital transformation is happening at rapid rates. It’s changing the way organizations operate and their people deliver. With those changes comes our natural reaction to fear the unknown or having to do something different. There are ways to help ease your fears. Step out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of learning opportunities, imagine the possibilities of working differently and more efficiently, and it may not be as daunting as you think.

1. Sources: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-people-power-of-transformations; http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/technology/embracing-technology-overcome-%E2%80%98fear-change%E2%80%99-2018

PHOTO: “Wonderland Walker 2” by kevint3141 (CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Digital Transformation Learning & Development Productivity

How Employees Can Help Bridge the Digital Skills Gap

Digital Skills Gap

Frequent interruptions, pressure to be always-on and accessible because of mobile devices, rapidly changing technology, the threat of jobs being lost to automation, a shorter shelf-life for skills—for many employees, work today is more about scrambling to keep pace than it is about strategically working toward individual and organizational goals.

Keeping up could soon become even more difficult—a recent CapGemini/LinkedIn survey reveals that while more than half of organizations acknowledge a widening digital skills gap, and even more agree that the skills shortage is hampering digital transformation efforts, many still have no formal plan in place to bridge the gap.

As we’ve noted in previous posts, corporate learning and development (L&D) has been slow to keep up with digital transformation and technology advances. And although reinventing careers and learning was the second most important topic for business leaders in 2017, L&D’s transformation is still in its early stages.

For the CapGemini/LinkedIn survey, researchers sought out employee opinions about the widening digital skills gap and how their organizations are addressing it. Nearly a third of employees believe their skill set is redundant or will be within one to two years. More than half say their company’s training programs are not helpful—many describe them as “useless and boring”—or that employees are not provided the time to attend training.

Where does that leave employees? In a difficult position, for the most part, and even more anxious and overworked.

The CapGemini/LinkedIn survey shows that employees are increasingly taking it upon themselves to ensure they stay competitive—60 percent of those surveyed are investing their own money and time outside of work hours to build their digital skills.

That kind of initiative, while admirable, cannot serve as the only solution.

Individually, employees might not be able to bring about specific changes within their organizations, but together they can transform their anxiety into influence.

  1. Employees should determine what they need today and in the near future to be more productive and innovative. They should find out which L&D resources their organizations provide and utilize them to achieve their goals.
  2. When their organizations solicit feedback, employees should always take time to provide it—what works, what doesn’t, and which approaches they’d like to see implemented.

Employees should keep in mind that closing the digital skills gap is a shared responsibility—organizations, employees, educators, legislators, and others must work together. However, employees should never discount how much power they have as “customers.” Their voices are stronger than ever—individually and collectively. When they use their voices to transform anxiety into opportunity, they may be surprised at how influential they are.

Digital Business Digital Transformation End-User Adoption End-User Productivity Learning & Development Productivity User Adoption

Employee Empowerment—How It’s Done and Why You Should Care

AutonomyEmpowerment1200

In a 1999 California Management Review article, Peter Drucker—who is widely regarded as the “father of modern management”—stated that the most important contribution management will need to make in the 21st century will be increasing the productivity of knowledge workers. For that, he argued, organizations must view and treat knowledge workers as “assets” rather than “costs.”1

One of the ideas Drucker was talking about in that piece, and in his many previous published works, was empowerment as a management strategy. Treating knowledge workers as assets means giving them what they need to be productive and innovative—that is, providing them with autonomy, or empowering them.

While this concept is clearly not new—Drucker and others have written about the subject since the 1950s and even earlier—its implementation nevertheless remains a challenge for many organizations today.

There are many hurdles that prevent organizations from creating a workplace culture that empowers employees, but perhaps the most formidable is a lack of understanding—of employees themselves, their current work environment, motivations, habits, and preferences, and of the benefits empowered employees can bring to an organization.

Consider the current work environment for the average employee. They are overwhelmed, overworked and over-demanded2:

  • Employees are interrupted as often as every five minutes by applications and collaboration tools—the very things that are meant to increase their productivity
  • They spend 41 percent of their time on activities that do not offer personal satisfaction and do not help them accomplish their work
  • Only 38 percent of workers say they have opportunities for learning and development at their workplace—among those who do, they have only 1 percent of a typical workweek to do so
  • The half-life of many of their professional skills is five years or less

There are many hurdles that prevent organizations from creating a workplace culture that empowers employees, but perhaps the most formidable is a lack of understanding

Now consider their motivations, habits and preferences3:

  • The average employee ranks “the ability to do what they do best” as more important than a “significant increase in income,” according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report
  • More than 70 percent of employees use search engines to learn what they need for their jobs, and many rely on their smartphones for quick answers to pressing problems
  • They want to be able to find information with the ease and immediacy they have in their personal lives
  • They want learning and development that’s personalized, digital and always available

With digital transformation efforts, organizations are beginning to see the link between empowerment and productivity, but they have much work to do before they can drive significant change and productivity gains.

In his California Management Review article, Drucker described six major factors that determine knowledge worker productivity. The most important, in terms of the challenges organizations are facing today, are:

  • Productivity must be the responsibility of the individual knowledge workers themselves. They have to manage themselves. They must have autonomy.
  • Continuing innovation must be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers.
  • Knowledge work requires continuous learning—and continuous teaching—on the part of the knowledge worker.
  • To be productive, knowledge workers must be seen and treated as assets rather than costs.

For organizations to meet these challenges, they must create a culture that encourages autonomy, acknowledges failure as part of the process, and regards continuous learning as essential. That means providing not only new tools, but also helping employees get the most out of their technology with a range of resources, including self-help guides and videos, instructor-led training, and more.

When employees become assets, empowerment, innovation and productivity are inevitable.


1. “Knowledge Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge,” by Peter F. Drucker, California Management Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 79-94

2. Sources: “The Knowledge-ABLE Workforce: Cultivating an Empowered Culture Through Learning and Self Help,” by Vitalyst, Feb. 2018http://blog.grovo.com/7-learned-deloittes-meet-modern-learner/

3. Sources: 2017 State of the American Workplace,” Gallup“The Knowledge-ABLE Workforce: Cultivating an Empowered Culture Through Learning and Self Help,” by Vitalyst, Feb. 2018

Change Management Digital Transformation

Overcome the Fear of Technological Change

Imagine arriving at work one day and, to your surprise, the company-issued desktop computer you left on the desk Friday is no longer there. Instead, you find a postcard-size note that reads, “Your computer has been replaced by the smart device found in the package on your desk.”

Overcome Fear of Technological Change

Someone faced with an experience like this would possibly feel various emotions. They’d begin to ask themselves “what do I do?” or “how will I get my work done?” The answers to those questions would expectedly be unknown—and fear would set in.

Despite the postcard-size note, the communication fell short. It didn’t say enough about expectations or benefits. The old saying holds true—“First impressions make a lasting impression.” Unfortunately for an organization that takes this approach, that impression could hinder any chance of success at meeting desired objectives—before the employee even powers on the device.

While the scenario described is drastic, the rapid rates at which organizations are undergoing digital transformations can be just as unsettling for employees. Gone are the days of large tower computers and monitors, and in as many as 42 percent of organizations, digital technology has become the norm. It is predicted that the utilization of smart objects—i.e., the Internet of Things—will grow exponentially from 2 billion objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020. That trajectory is expected across industries as the means to connect, collaborate and access information.1

Oddly enough, the hardware, applications and infrastructure changes, while potentially cumbersome for IT, are only a small part of the digital transformation. The bigger part is the people impacted by those changes. Often, changes occur with little to no advance communication or help to prepare employees to adopt the technology. Digital adoption fails when too much focus is placed on identifying the right devices and applications, and not enough on the people who will use them. Research suggests that roughly 15 percent of project success is seen when little to no communication is distributed to the workforce.

According to a February McKinsey Global Survey on digital adoption, employees are 3.5 times more likely to experience a successful technology change when desired outcomes are shared in advance. A doctor wouldn’t perform a surgical procedure without telling the patient why they need to have surgery, what to expect during surgery, and how to care for themselves afterwards.

Here are five key ways to help your employees overcome their fears, and ultimately promote successful change and adoption:

  1. Walk a mile in their shoes. Remember the scenario where the computer was taken without warning? Would you want to experience that? Probably not, and your employees don’t either. Show empathy and make sure your employees know the change is happening to everyone—including you.
  2. Provide clear objectives why the change is happening and the benefits. Most people fear what they don’t understand. They would be more inclined to feel positive about making the change when they know the business goals.
  3. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Ensure that your workforce knows how the tools support them to get their jobs done effectively and efficiently, any time and just about anywhere.
  4. Clearly outline what to expect. Don’t just take the computer away. Provide timely awareness before the change with what to expect and any steps required to make the change.
  5. Connect them with self-help resources. Equip your workforce with learning resources to empower them to use the technology once it’s available. In other words, help them to “face their fears.” The reality is, these changes will continue to happen, but with helpful guides, webinars, or other guided learning, the changes may not be as daunting as initially perceived.

“When information is in short supply, people fall back on experience and gut feeling. Though there’s no such thing as cast-iron certainty in a digital transformation, developing a comprehensive fact base can do much to dispel people’s understandable fears.” – McKinsey Digital

Organizations across industries must keep up with the rising digital transformation trends—it can’t be avoided to remain competitive in the marketplace. As transformation occurs, it’s natural for your workforce to be apprehensive. To effectively prepare your employees and help dispel their fears, it is critical to explain the goals, benefits, expectations, and highlight the learning resources to support them throughout those changes.

Through these efforts, organizations can achieve maximum return on investment, increased adoption, overall improved corporate productivity, and success to foster a positive impact on the organization.


1. “A Guide to the Internet of Things,” Infographic, Intel, https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/images/iot/guide-to-iot-infographic.png