The Workplaces of Tomorrow Are Winning Today
By Frank Wander
Corporate America is slowly being reinvented. Winning companies understand they must unlock the full talent potential of their workforce in order to efficiently turn ideas—this era’s most important raw material—into products. They innovate to win; they are nimble, because people are encouraged to think and given the freedom to do so; these companies know professionals are assets, not expenses, and therefore seek out the best and embrace and nurture them; lastly, they are not burdened by an accumulation of legacy systems and legacy thinking, the last being the largest hindrance. Getting the human factors right will be what differentiates the workplaces of tomorrow, a pattern that is increasingly visible in today’s best companies.
In contrast, traditional corporations struggle to innovate as they are weighed down by legacy infrastructures, outmoded people practices, and dependent on financial innovation to boost their balance sheets and earnings per share. Although their quarterly results may please Wall Street, they mask a worrisome reality: The world of work has changed. With 70 percent of American workers disengaged, per Gallup, pressure is building for a giant shift toward improving and nurturing the human side of business. As this shift occurs, traditional hierarchical management structures will slowly loosen their grip, relinquishing more power and control to the knowledge workers, the “machines” that power the innovation economy forward. The companies that fail to embrace this change will die untransformed, eaten alive by high fixed costs, a continual brain drain and unproductive management practices.
In the best workplaces, high-performing cultures and human understanding are the engines of workforce productivity. Unfortunately, the leadership skills to leverage these talent management practices are too often in short supply. Corporate leaders know a great deal about their processes, technology, marketing, sales, finance and product development, yet they know almost nothing about their organization’s primary source of competitive advantage: their employees.
Traditional corporations remain steeped in the mindset of the industrial era where employees are expenses—and are treated by management as little more than interchangeable parts. Such organizations are blind to the re-humanization of work that is transforming the competitive landscape, so they seek outside advice on how to improve workforce productivity and unleash innovation. The correct answer: “Look inward. Your people are your factory. Learn to free the large, untapped pools of talent potential you are already paying for, and innovation will begin to flow.”
Today’s winning companies understand this simple truth. They have relied on informed people practices from their founding, and view the workforce as mostly assets, not expenses. These companies are repeatedly cited amongst the best places to work; they have track records of success built on innovation and employ a workforce that possesses the ability to flex and change with the market. Also, they invest time to find and hire individuals who are a cultural fit, then nurture, grow and retain them.
Understanding the human factors that unlock workforce productivity and innovation has become an undeniable source of competitive advantage. As Irish author and philosopher Charles Handy has said, “Karl Marx would be amused. He longed for the day when the workers would own the means of production. Now they do.” Read more…
A new survey reveals a wide gap between provosts and business leaders when it comes to judging college students’ readiness for the workplace. What can academic librarians take away from the controversy?
As the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed in the past decade, students and parents expectations for a graduate’s state of career readiness have grown. And as the job market continues to offer limited opportunity for college graduates, students look to build any and every personal advantage. These factors find their way into the curriculum in many ways, from writing intensive courses that address business correspondence to the development of specialized certificates that students can tack on to their diplomas to show they have workplace skills. While there is pressure on colleges and universities to do a better job of readying students for the workplace and job placement, there is a fine line between a college education and vocational preparation. If the results of a new survey of business leaders is an indicator, then higher education if failing quite spectacularly at preparing students for the workplace. Read more…
There’s loads of activity happening in the world of educational technology. New startups. Dozens of websites for managing learning activities. Apps by the dozens. Academic librarians seem out of the loop.
A few months ago I subscribed to the weekly email newsletter from an organization called EdSurge. It’s subtitled “a weekly newsletter for innovators in education.” Depending on you how you feel about the phrase “innovators in education,” you may be thinking that’s exactly who you are—or maybe you’ve had your fill of innovation talk. While EdSurge does dedicate about half of each issue to the K-12 startup scene, there’s also reporting on the latest educational technology resources and utilities. Some of these are startup websites that may or may not be here for long. What it reveals is a veritable flood of new educational technologies. It leads me to question if academic librarian educators are managing to keep up with all these new resources. Are we taking time to investigate and explore these new tools or are we falling back on our old familiar standbys? Based on some time I spent listening to an instructional technology discussion at ALA Midwinter, I think it might be the latter rather than the former.
Some Old Wine
Admittedly, some of these new instructional technologies are simply variants, or even outright replications, of existing educational technologies. Coggle, for example, is hardly the first web-based mind-mapping tool, but it claims to add new collaborative sharing capabilities. Some replication is expected, because it’s well known in the startup world that the trick is not always being first to the market but being the product in the marketplace that catches on with users (think MySpace and Facebook). However, that strategy is no surefire path to success. Right now a slew of imitators are trying to move into Snapchat’s space, but so far the original is still number one with the user community. Still, while discovering some truly original utilities takes a bit of work, checking out newcomers to an old space may lead to a great new find with better options or performance (think screencasting utilities).