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Beyond remote work: insights and strategies for enhancing employee productivity and performance

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Remote work and the implications of continuing the process, including its potential impact on employee performance, are widely discussed. However, there is no right answer, and it is not one-size-fits-all. 

The future of work includes flexibility, employee experience, agility, and the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI)—these significant shifts impact where and how employees work. With an increase in remote work options, we have seen positive trends in work-life balance, employee empowerment, inclusivity, and an increase in diverse talent. These factors are also known to increase employee productivity and retention. According to BCG, a considerable population of employees are ready to leave their jobs if they find their flexible work arrangements unsatisfactory. Based on their survey, approximately 90% of women, caregivers, individuals identifying as LGBTQ+, and those with disabilities, deem flexible work options as crucial in determining whether they will continue or resign from their current employment.

Remote work productivity is subject to debate due to various factors that must be considered. Some suggest remote work can increase productivity due to a flexible schedule, no commute, and fewer interruptions. While many employees thrive in a remote work environment, some find it challenging due to the discipline it demands.

Remote work was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A July 2023 report from Stanford University found that working remotely has doubled every 15 years. Then, when the pandemic occurred, although devastating, it provided a new perspective for those previously constrained, forced to relocate, or live in less favorable locations to work for a specific company and advance their career. Worldwide ERC states that around 56 million Americans moved to new residences between December 2021 to February 2023 due to COVID-19-related shutdowns and the surge in remote work and online education. With such a huge increase in their number over the past few years, this begs the question: do employees working remotely demonstrate productivity?

Taking a deeper look into the study by Standord University, researchers shared that remote work employees’ productivity differs depending on perceptions—the nature of the research and the conditions under which it was conducted. The report revealed that workers believed productivity was higher at home (approximately 7% higher), while managers perceived it lower (around 3.5% lower). Another example, according to a poll by the video presentation applications mmhmm, 43% prefer office work and 42% favor working from home for peak productivity. Moreover, 51% of employees stated that working asynchronously or having the flexibility to set their schedules contributed positively to their productivity. Perceptions aside, the Stanford analysis found a 10% to 20% reduction in productivity across various studies.

The bottom line is today’s company culture is crucial. Ensuring work-life balance and putting the employees in the driver’s seat are the best ways to retain and increase productivity because they will feel valued and empowered. In a 2022 Microsoft employee engagement survey, 92% of employees say they believe the company values flexibility and allows them to work in a way that works best for them. An even higher percentage (93%) are confident in their ability to work together as a team, regardless of location. People have different preferences—some individuals opt for a hybrid approach, while others choose either remote or in-person work exclusively. 

Regardless of the work setup, company leaders and human resources (HR) or human capital management (HRM) executives should ensure that they can still make a lasting impact on employee performance. One measure involves establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) that assess innovation, program, project, and product success—the output, not the physical location. Another crucial step is developing a strategy that includes all future work options, such as in-person, hybrid, and remote choices. Employees tend to be more productive if there is a level of empowerment that allows them to decide where to do their best work.

Planning in person events makes a difference. Leaders who bring new hires and internal transfers, new to the team, on-site for several days should see an uptick in productivity post-gathering. In-person team or company-wide gatherings 1-4 times per year provide employees an opportunity to reset and socialize. Moreover, managers should bring teams together for major program and project kick-offs. When onsite in person, people being present makes a difference. Discourage using Teams or Zoom when employees are in the general vicinity. I have seen companies spew the importance of in-person just to fly employees into a specific location and have people take meetings from their desks or in a different on-site building-conference room, defeating the purpose of in-person interaction.

Having organizations foster all work options is critical and foregoes having to decide which is best. There is no right or wrong answer to this challenge; it should be considered a new way of working and requires future-forward ways of thinking, just as we do with emerging technologies. 


About the guest author:

Dr. Malika Viltz-Emerson is a Senior Global Human Resource Leader at Microsoft. She has over 20 years of experience in human capital management. Her mission is to identify and address the real-world challenges and opportunities for employees and the company, and design and implement optimal solutions that leverage the latest tools, technologies, and processes.

Elevating employee performance: lessons from a remarkable transformation

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Image source: nd3000 from Getty Images | Canva

In today’s dynamic business landscape, enhancing employee performance is crucial for sustained success. To build high-performing teams, it’s important to establish the right framework and processes for performance measurement, including the selection and deployment of tools like key performance indicators (KPIs). But how can organizations successfully unlock employee potential through performance measurement? 

Here is how renowned company Adobe transformed its employee performance strategies to obtain outstanding outcomes.

Case study: Adobe

Adobe’s transformation journey is a testament to the potential of strategic performance measurement and KPIs. Adobe has faced issues with its yearly performance evaluation process. These were:

  • Employees were frustrated with annual performance reviews as they found the process cumbersome and bureaucratic.
  • The process created barriers to teamwork since the experience of being rated and stack-ranked for compensation left many employees feeling undervalued. 
  • Adobe estimated that a total of 80,000 hours of its managers’ time was required each year to conduct all of the reviews, the equivalent of nearly 40 full-time employees working year-round. 

Adobe realized that it should not wait until the end of year to share feedback. So, the company made a surprising change that improved employee engagement and transformed the company culture.

Employee-centric approach: Adobe’s departure from traditional performance reviews towards a more frequent and less formal “check-in” process demonstrates its commitment to an employee-centric approach. These regular discussions—done at least once a quarter—provide a platform for managers and employees to engage in meaningful conversations about expectations, growth, and development. This shift reflects Adobe’s recognition that empowering employees with continuous feedback and opportunities for improvement is more effective in driving performance excellence than the conventional annual review model.

Setting clear, measurable goals: The new strategy adopted by Adobe focused on providing its staff with specific, measurable goals. Employees could clearly understand what was expected of them and how their performance would be assessed because these goals were cascaded down from the organizational and departmental goals and aligned with each other. Companies that have aligned goals tend to outperform organizations that lack a direct connection between top company priorities and employees’ individual aims.

Real-time performance insights: Adobe enabled its managers to give employees real-time insight into their performance by integrating technology. Adobe launched a digitally-enabled check-in, providing all employees and managers with a web-based destination to document their goals, development, and growth. Individual goals are documented in a centralized place, reviewed regularly, and can be updated in real-time by managers and employees alike. All of this made it possible for timely feedback and course correction, ensuring employees stayed on track with their objectives and KPIs year-round.

The results of the transformation were spectacular and resonated with employees—employee attrition dropped by 30% while involuntary departures rose by 50%. This change allowed managers to give more timely and useful feedback while empowering employees to take responsibility for their own advancement. The employees thus felt engaged, valued, and aligned with the company’s goals.

Lessons learned

What are the key takeaways from Adobe’s case? Performance measurement best practices should always include the following:

  • Alignment with organizational goals: A strong performance measurement approach starts by matching team objectives and individual objectives with the organization’s overarching mission. Employee performance becomes a key factor in the organization’s success when they are aware of how their work supports corporate objectives.
  • Keeping qualitative and quantitative metrics in balance: Effective performance measurement goes beyond simply counting numbers, as it needs a comprehensive understanding of an employee’s contributions and their influence on the expansion of the business. This is made possible by incorporating qualitative elements like engagement, collaboration, and innovation.
  • Continuous feedback and growth: Many businesses are using continuous feedback loops instead of the traditional annual reviews. Periodic performance reviews and regular check-ins encourage ongoing conversations between managers and employees, facilitate growth discussions, and identify areas that need improvement.

In conclusion, the modern business landscape demands a strategic approach to unlocking employee potential. Performance measurement and KPIs are not just tools but pathways to aligning individual aspirations with organizational goals, combining qualitative and quantitative insights for a thorough understanding of employee contributions, and motivating continual improvement through timely feedback. By adopting best practices and an employee-centric approach, businesses may begin on a journey that empowers their staff, inspires innovation, and drives them to sustainable success in the dynamic global marketplace.

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This article is written by Muhammad Ali Moustafa is a Business Management Consultant at The KPI Institute. He is a Certified KPI Professional (C-KPI) and Certified Performance Management Systems Audit Professional (C-PA). He has diverse professional experience in which he had the opportunity to work on advisory projects with different organizations, ranging from startups to multinationals.

Practitioner Interview: Hassan Al-Asaad on the Pursuit of Employee Happiness in Running a Successful Organization

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Hassan Khalid Al-Asaad, Strategist and Business Developer at Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), believes that one of the future major challenges in managing performance is achieving employees’ happiness.

Employee happiness is one of the most important factors in running a successful, profitable company. Happy and engaged employees tend to miss less work, perform better, and support company innovation.

In this interview, he explains the critical role of pursuing the employees’ happiness, how it affects the performance of employees, and why organizations should exert more effort in research and development in attaining the happiness of employees.

Up the Career Ladder or Across It?

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Horizontal progression or lattices started to spread among employees, particularly millennials, years ago. Many individuals are working to progress their career paths horizontally instead of vertically. This raises two important questions: Is it better to move up the ladder or across it? Is it better for the companies to hire those who progress vertically or horizontally? 

Vertical career progression refers to usual career growth within the same field. Being promoted from a marketing executive to a senior marketing specialist, and then to a marketing manager is an example of that progression. As for horizontal career progression, it refers to growing skills in more than one field. For instance, an individual may start working as a marketing executive, and then decide to shift to the sales department to gain more experience in selling products and dealing with customers.

Vertical career progression has always been the common career path in the workplace across the industries. However, change has been going on at a fast pace. All types of organizations (profit, non-profit, public and private) are all experiencing quick changes in various areas. Especially after the pandemic, things have developed massively, and new skills and competencies are arising everyday in the workplace, particularly in companies working on creating innovative and agile environments. 

Benefits of Horizontal and Vertical Career Progression

Both types of career progression are essential and beneficial in the workplace as they will enable managers and leaders to have a wide range of skills within one department. With organizations reducing their boundaries every day due to the changes occurringmanagers, leaders, and recruiters need to look at career progression from a different point of view other than the traditional one. 

Employees going up the ladder will benefit their departments with their long experience and in-depth knowledge in terms of delivering their projects or tasks on time and with high quality. Even when they deal with their clients, they will be able to reflect easily using their long experience in the field. Moreover, they will be able to transfer their experience and knowledge to the younger ones via coaching, feedback sessions, and on-the-job learning.

Due to the wide range of skills, employees moving across the ladder are also vital and  bring a positive impact to their departments. Despite their short experience within one field, they are equipped with a set of skills that will be beneficial to various situations. For instance, an employee who spends some time in the marketing and the sales department will have some experience not only in promoting the company’s products but also in communicating with the customers.

The marketing department can benefit from such employees in enhancing their customer outreach and passing on knowledge to others through tips or advice in communicating with customers. This can be valuable in companies trying to embed agility within their cultures. Most common types of agile environments include scrum and lean. These types of environments require flexibility, continuous problem solving and discovering solutions. As a result, both types of employees will provide lots of ideas and solutions. They will look at problems from different angles. 

How Companies Support Employees’ Career Progression

According to Deloitte, due to today’s flatter organizational structures, businesses have less options for developing their employees and moving their career up the ladder. So, lattice organizations are expanding career tracks to incorporate lateral, diagonal, and planned descents as a strategy to help employees progress. They report that employees become more adaptable through career movements across organizational silos, improving their strategic flexibility.

Incorporating different options of career development will require companies to change the way their job structures, work cultures, and career development plans. However, companies will reap its sweet fruit through having more motivated and productive employees, innovative culture, better performance, as well as more flexibility and adaptability. Moreover, it will help companies face their current challenges such as high turnover rates and employees with limited skills that cannot balance the needs of today’s industry.

In the end, it is believed that even with all these changes undergoing in the world, both career paths are needed within the workplace. Employees get to choose the career path that suits  their priorities and future plans. But at the same time, their choices have to be well planned and thought of because there is a huge difference between growing horizontally in a structured manner and hopping from one job to another. In the same context , companies need to go beyond the traditional linear career path and embrace other ones to be able to come up with the changes going on.

Whether you go up or across the ladder in choosing a career growth, it is important to be competent. Invite your colleagues and join The KPI Institute’s Certified Performance Management Professional course to boost the knowledge and skills on improving performance at all organizational levels. Visit The KPI Institute’s website for more information.

   

Upskilling or Reskilling: Are You Ready for Tomorrow’s Workforce?

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Image Source: Geralt | Pixabay

The future of work requires transformation not just at the organizational level but also at the individual level. Changes in the job market induced by technological innovation contribute to the global skills revolution. 

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), believes that technical positions, such as data analysts/scientists, artificial intelligence specialists, big data specialists, and digital marketing and strategy specialists, will generate demand in the future. 

According to WEF, about 50% of companies expected their full-time workforce to decline by 2020 due to automation. Meanwhile, more than half of all employees may be compelled to reskill and upskill.

Upskilling is defined by the Cambridge lexicon as ‘the process of gaining new skills or teaching workers new skills,” while reskilling is ‘the process of acquiring new abilities in order to perform a different job or of training others to perform a different one.”

How can employees prepare themselves for the revolution? Should they reskill or upskill?

Key Strategies

If the last several years have taught us anything, work flexibility and an openness to change are essential for a successful career. Both reskilling and upskilling can help you future-proof your career and increase your employability. It’s critical to make the right decision, and here are some ways to help you determine your next career path.

Decide on your future career goal: Whether you want to stay in your current industry or move on to something new, it’s critical to be explicit. Decide where you want to go with your career and divide it into manageable chunks of information. With a clear plan, you can easily determine the steps aligned with your end goal.

Recognize your existing skillset: Before you try to better yourself, it’s important to understand your strengths, skills, and potential first. After you’ve written down your qualifications, ask bosses and friends to assist you to grasp your personal and transferable abilities as well as your role-specific ones.

Determine what you need to learn: A little research can go a long way here. Job postings, online career guides, attending industry events, and speaking with companies can all assist you in obtaining the information you need.

Choose a learning approach that works best for you: Online training is one of the finest solutions for reskilling and upskilling. Online courses are extremely adaptable, accommodating a wide range of learning methods and fitting seamlessly into even the busiest schedules. It is perfect if you want to maintain strong job standards while also preparing for the next big move.

The technological improvements of the last five years alone have caused enormous shifts in the types of skills needed today. Furthermore, an unprecedented pandemic has compelled sectors to rethink their approach to skill development.

On the other hand, the pandemic’s isolation protocols have resulted in a major push for remote workers. It appears that the shift is here to stay. Upskilling choices that are simple and accessible must be developed. Learning paths can make a difference in this area because of accessibility, flexibility, and effectiveness.

Businesses must invest in upskilling and reskilling in order to prosper. One approach to ensure this achievement is to use learning pathways. Upskilling has become a cornerstone of today’s business strategy that benefits both the individual and the company. However, it is also an investment to make. As more companies recognize the importance of upskilling and reskilling, now is an excellent moment to look for high-quality training programmes and certifications.

Both upskilling and upskilling are excellent options if you’re considering a career change but don’t want to work for a different organization. 

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