Global Workforce

Google’s Research Highlights 3 Key Insights for Business Leaders

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Even in today’s hyper-connected work environment, nearly half of companies do not allow workers to access all of their necessary applications and information via mobile devices. This is a problem, because mobile connectivity is just one of many new expectations of the modern worker.

Work has been changing rapidly in recent years, and the future promises to be just as disruptive. According to Workplace 2020, a respected report from Google and the basis of the trends covered in this article, employers should expect to see changes in working arrangements, talent challenges increasing in priority, and evolving worker technology preferences in the coming years. Each of these trends has unique elements that business leaders must know and understand in order to be successful.

Fluid Work and the Workplace

Flexible working will be the defining characteristic of the future workplace, rising from 4% [in 2015] to 32% of organizations polled by 2018. (Source: Google 2020 Report)

Flexible work is rapidly becoming the new normal. While there are noted challenges with injecting flexibility into some business environments, such as retail or manufacturing, today’s knowledge workers are the perfect fit for the new fluid workplace culture.

From the worker perspective, this is validated by a study performed by FlexJobs last year that pointed out that nine out of ten workers were more productive outside the office than in the office. Google’s study also mentioned that flexible hours were a key benefit offered by companies hoping to operate a workplace that appeals to more senior workers that are nearing retirement.

From the employer perspective, Stanford research tells us that offering remote work can reduce employee turnover. Businesses that haven’t looked at workplace flexibility with a critical eye should give the option its due. At some point this practice will become an expectation of workers just like some other benefits employers offer, and those that do not offer the option for flexibility will not be able to compete for top talent. Whether someone is working from home or working from halfway across the world, there’s incredible value to creating a culture of flexibility in the workplace.

Talent Challenges

The challenge of attracting, managing and retaining a diverse workforce is among the main priorities for organizations, with failure to meet that challenge cited as a threat. Some 32% of respondents fear not being able to respond to the changing needs of their workforce, while 25% are concerned about their ability to attract talent in a competitive market and 21% fear that once they do get the best talent on board, they might not be able to hold on to it. (Source: Google 2020 Report)

Diversity in the workplace isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a business imperative. As McKinsey’s research shows, gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform the market, and ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely. Creating a culture of diversity is easier for companies that are operating internationally, because there is a natural exposure to new ideas and opportunities with global expansion.

Additionally, the concerns employers have about attracting and retaining talent are very real. Google’s data validates what other sources have been saying for ten years: finding and keeping talent is not an HR problem, it’s a business problem.

Changing Technology Expectations

Once talent is on-boarded, expectations are now high among employees that they will have access to the kind of digital technologies in the workplace that they are accustomed to using at home. In addition, it’s important to recognize that in the digital economy there will be a direct correlation between technology policies and job satisfaction, whether this involves social media access at work, Bring Your Own Device programs or enabling remote and flexible working practices. (Source: Google 2020 Report)

Gone are the days when candidates and employees just ignored the way employers interacted with them via technology. Today I’m seeing more and more technology decisions being made by companies based on ease of use and intuitive functionality. In fact, Visa, a global firm with more than 11,000 employees, made a decision to scrap its existing talent system in 2016 and pursue a different platform simply because the existing technology was not representing the firm’s brand in a positive way.

Within the workplace, employees expect to be able to use systems that not only function properly, but that add value to their work day. That’s the reason for the explosion of popularity around tools like Slack and others–they exist within the context of work to drive productivity and enable better performance. But perhaps more important are the areas like payroll and benefits–employees have a basic expectation that these will be taken care of, and employers need the right technology in place to ensure that can happen seamlessly.

A Bright Future

For business leaders, each of these areas can be seen as challenges to overcome or opportunities to seize. Those employers that are ready to get serious about meeting the future head-on will take advantage of the insights from the research produced by Google and other organizations to prepare for change and adapt to new market conditions. While these trends are important for any business to consider, they are most valuable for those in high growth mode as they will enable the organizations to outpace the competition in the race for talent and market share.