In 2017, technology analyst house Gartner found that CEOs in 54% of organisations cited an increase in productivity as vital. To deliver on such expectations, CEOs, CIOs and the organisation as a whole needs to build a new culture in their workplaces.
That culture should adopt and adapt to next-gen technologies—including artificial intelligence (AI), digital platforms, shared ledgers, and robots—to extract the productivity advantages they offer.
Gartner’s probe discovered that combining these enterprise technologies with a society that adopts such tech developments as smart cities and precision agriculture and medicine would also improve productivity. Yet, it also meant that tweaking around the edges of current organisational models simply wasn’t going to be sufficient.
The pandemic led to a sudden change in working culture worldwide, forcing organisations to rethink how their people, processes, and technology interfaced despite industry-wide expectations that the pandemic would damage productivity.
Research by the World Bank suggested that pandemics in the 21st century have led to a productivity decline of 9%. Yet, in knowledge-based organisations, CIOs and CTOs reported no significant decrease in productivity—in fact, many workers in such organisations were actually more productive whilst working from home. Beyond the pandemic, of course, managers and business technology leaders still need to prepare for a potential fall in output. Even after the recent waves of COVID-19 variants subside and we move towards our next chapter of recovery, many are still struggling with the impact of Long COVID and will continue to do so for months to come.
Decline and fall out
As technology modernises the way organisations work, so too must the ways productivity is measured and managed.
So, why the fall in productivity? A growing cadre of research demonstrates that productivity is falling as organisations do not effectively connect their talent, technology, and processes.
This is especially true for middle management, leading to a lack of effective productivity planning despite an excess of middle management staffing in organisations. If productivity is to improve, this will need to be rectified. The old managerial models no longer apply in today’s world of remote work, and operations need to shift to reflect our new realities.
So, it would seem that some areas are more challenging to shift than others. Most environments, particularly complex, data-rich ones, will almost always require a partnership between humans and machines, with machines doing the heavy data processing work and people interpreting and reinforcing decisions. From asset managers using quantitative investment strategies to medical researchers using genetic mapping to social scientists drawing on population data, a vast array of modern professionals find themselves dependent on machine learning and big data processing to complement and inform the work they do on a daily basis.
Yet if there is a positive link between workplace productivity and correctly implemented technology, then the possibilities for growth are endless. Does that mean that productivity is being held back by outdated IT? Maybe even a lack of innovation, poor business planning, and low uptake of flexible working can be to blame too?
The secret to productivity
Organisations need to start shaping the way people and technology work together. Leveraging unique strengths and unlocking the potential of both the talent hired and the tech the company uses could be the answer many businesses have been looking for. The pandemic proved that companies could continue operating remotely, but most organisations dove headlong into work-from-home without considering best practices. The time is ripe to consider what new approaches could provide the best outcomes.
So long as organisations rethink the way they work, equal leverage tech-side can unleash the potential of an organisation’s people. Indeed, the answer to becoming more productive is for organisations to use technology to ensure their teams can achieve outcomes instead of functions—so long as business leaders can recognize that the talent they require is motivated differently from previous generations.
Employees joining the workforce now will want to work towards a purpose that resonates with them. With the pandemic forcing us all to take a cold hard look at our priorities, workers are quitting in droves, demanding jobs that fulfill a deeper, meaningful purpose. Gone are the days of simply doing a job for the sake of working. The “purpose” and “why” companies do what they do has also shifted, which may well be thanks to the pandemic, or at least the way that lockdowns have changed the way we live. Either way, it is vital that recruiting and retaining the right talent is a fundamental part of strategic planning for any business.
A brave new world
If there is one thing that the past few years have demonstrated, it is that the workforce can be trusted to move beyond the traditional 9-5. Forced to work at home by the COVID-19 virus, CIOs and CTOs across the knowledge sector are still reporting productivity on track and, in some cases, vastly improved.
This is a trend that will continue for any business to stay productive and ahead of the game.