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What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology.
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When employees find their work meaningful, there are myriad benefits for their productivity — and for their employers. Managers who support meaningful work are more likely to attract, retain, and motivate the talent they need to ensure future growth. But can companies ensure this experience for their employees? A groundbreaking study identifies five factors that support meaningful work — and the seven management sins that can destroy it.
Developing a successful strategy for managing customer experience and creating a great experience for employees at the same time can be a big headache, especially for large companies. In this interview, Donna Morris, executive vice president of customer and employee experience at Adobe, discusses how the company’s unique approach generates value and goodwill internally and externally. She is interviewed by Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Digital Leadership Initiative.
Companies aiming to be competitive in the long term do not see safety and productivity as trade-offs. Research drawn from multiple studies conducted with the support of companies, unions, and regulators in the United States and Canada finds no evidence that protecting the workforce harms competitiveness. “Once companies understand that safety is not the enemy of efficiency,” the authors write, “they can begin to build organizational safety capabilities.”
Managers have an opportunity to interrupt a sometimes vicious cycle between trust and commitment. The relationship between workers’ trust in decision-making authorities and their commitment toward the organization is a self-perpetuating one, and organizations can achieve a higher level of workforce engagement by proactively building and maintaining trust-based relationships. The key, research finds, appears to be the continuous anticipation and management of the so-called “expectation-experience gap.”
Today’s talented young professionals have a different approach to their careers — and a very different attitude toward organizational loyalty — than earlier generations. Although they may seem engaged and committed in their jobs, they nevertheless job hunt routinely and are not averse to job hopping. Those whose companies offer development practices such as training and mentoring job hunt less, and those who are given a high-stakes job show a higher commitment to the organization as well.
Successfully incorporating today’s digital technologies requires companies to operate in new ways. However, research by MIT SMR shows that being able to effectively incorporate digital strategy is strongly associated with a company’s overall digital maturity. There’s also an important HR component to digital strategy: Respondents expressed a strong preference for working for a digitally mature company, but many were dissatisfied with how their own companies were reacting to digital trends overall.
It’s well known that employees’ attitudes toward the organization have a significant effect on how they approach their jobs and how they treat customers. But recent research suggests that high levels of employee engagement are also associated with higher rates of profitability growth. While the products and services many companies offer can appear quite similar on the surface, exceptional service can be a competitive advantage. “Although we recognize that the ultimate focus of most organizations is on customers,” write the authors, “companies can benefit from adding employee engagement to their list of priorities.”
At the 2015 Milken Global Conference, attracting and retaining talent is a hot topic. It used to be that the job negotiation formula was simple: salary, benefits and bonus. But that’s not enough anymore. The next generation wants something different from their work life than their predecessors — a more self-actualizing experience — and corporations are scrambling to decipher the keys to keeping employees engaged.
Being fresh for the work day requires prioritizing sleep — which organizations can do a better job encouraging. Academics Christopher M. Barnes and Gretchen Spreitzer argue that sleep is “a key to human sustainability” but note that many leaders model behavior that discourages getting a full night’s rest: executives who brag about only needing a handful of hours of sleep “are not setting a good example, especially when it comes to getting the best performance out of the talent in an organization.”
Employees can be inspired to perform better if their creativity is challenged through teamwork. At four Deloitte LLP offices in India, an experiment in team-based contests to come up with smart, challenging and practical solutions to real-life business problems unleashed out-of-the-box, original thinking that challenged traditional wisdom.
At Mitel, an Ontario business communications company, managers have enlisted 1,600 people to become actively involved in social media. The company believes that all employees are stewards of the brand — and therefore can be trusted to represent it well on social media. Many large companies “do their best to inhibit and restrict employee participation in social or major brand initiatives,” says Martyn Etherington, Mitel’s CMO. “We, on the other hand, have tremendous faith and trust in our employees.”
At Mitel, a $1.2 billion communications technology company, employees tweet about the company and are proactive on LinkedIn with only one rule: “Use your best judgment at all times.” Martyn Etherington, the company’s chief marketing officer and chief of staff, has no problem with that. “We have to enable the majority and not hold them back by implementing catch-all policies that are aimed at a few.”
Recent research by the Center for Effective Organizations shows that most companies aren’t relying on HR departments as part of their sustainability focus — yet most think there’s an opportunity for HR to play a major role in the structuring of a company’s sustainability processes, practices and strategies.
How do you inspire employees to become more motivated and perform better? By challenging them to test their creativity and collaboration skills through a team-based contest. “The contest provided a safe environment for participants to unleash their imaginations and form an emotional connection,” write the authors. “That, in turn, triggered an increased level of psychological ownership and positive feelings.“
If you think social media crises are uncommon things that happen only to other companies, you’re kidding yourself. A panel at the 2014 South by Southwest festival highlighted some of the most prominent recent fiascoes and offered a compelling view of just how commonplace these events have become. Five key takeaways from the panel offer suggestions for keeping a company from being the next entry on the steady parade of social media disasters.
Social business can breed contentment among employees — but it doesn’t happen automatically. As the 2013 social business report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte notes: “Businesses that are making the greatest progress toward becoming a socially connected enterprise focus rigorously on four interrelated areas: leading a social culture, measuring what matters, keeping content fresh and changing the way work gets done.”
While change and innovation clearly produce much of the turbulence that besets modern businesses, research suggests that change itself is not the culprit, but rather how organizations perceive and cope with change. Both people and organizations rely on analogies to help them comprehend change, including the meaning and potential of new technologies, systems and processes. But do all analogies function in the same way? How strongly should organizations adhere to their chosen analogies?
For organizations to achieve the psychological synergies required to realize economic synergies from mergers and acquisitions, executives need to attend to a more complex set of identity issues. These issues define the essence of the entity and give employees a clear answer to the question “Who are we?” and external stakeholders a clear answer to the question “Who are they?” Left unattended, these identity issues will diminish engagement and will affect the performance of the merged entity.
A persistent challenge for companies as they grow is how to maintain the high level of dynamism and employee commitment that drove success in the early days. Over the years, thoughtful managers and management theorists have formulated many approaches for dealing with the problem, all aimed at giving managers and employees more responsibility and accountability for the performance of their own profit centers. But few companies have taken things as far as Kyocera Corp.
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