The Australian Workforce Speaks Out About Workplace Wellbeing

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Wellbeing is playing an increasing role in today’s work landscape and workplaces who wish to remain competitive will need to know how to deliver it.

Wellbeing is not a buzzword to attach to any new HR strategy, but rather it requires careful consideration, factoring in worker’s evolving needs in our rapidly-changing work landscape. 

Ever wondered what the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace is? Or if Australian workers think wellbeing programs are worth the time and money?

A new report from the a future that works campaign will soon reveal that and much more after it asked over 1,000 Australian workers the big workplace questions. 

The report, entitled Workplace Wellbeing, launching in Melbourne on 23 November and in Sydney on 1 December, was undertaken by global HR think-tank, Reventure.

With worker wellbeing increasingly coming under the spotlight, the new report will provide a range of insights straight from the workers themselves.

Some Australian workplaces have recognised this rising trend and have addressed it with workplace wellbeing programs, in fact, 43 per cent of Australian workers claim their workplace offers a wellbeing program.

We have taken the next step and asked the question that often requires multiple internal workplace surveys to gauge – are these programs effective?

The results deliver significant insights for employees and employers alike and we look forward to releasing them soon.

Everyone is welcome to join us for breakfast for the launch of Workplace Wellbeing in Melbourne and Sydney. You can purchase your ticket here.

Importance of emotional intelligence in the age of artificial intelligence

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

I recently came across this excellent piece on The Conversation about the importance of emotional intelligence in our increasingly digitally enabled society. I encourage everyone to read it.

The article highlights some of the key issues confronting workplaces around Australia and the world, namely the rise of automation, increasing use of digital platforms for work and the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Importantly, it also points to something that the a future that works campaign has been highlighting for some time now, and that is the importance of giving employees purpose and meaning at work, and highlighting the emotional dimension of work.

Our 2016 research showed some really negative and unhealthy results for workers throughout the country and across a diverse range of industries.

A central finding in this research, which surveyed 1,001 Australian workers, was that a massive 72 per cent said they were after greater purpose in their work.

And as technology continues to impact how work is conducted, there is a real risk that employee wellbeing is becoming secondary to work output, which leads to disengagement and unhappiness in the workplace. The act of feigning happiness and cheerfulness at work becomes an added burden.

Purpose and meaning at work aligns with the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, especially as technological advancements rapidly influence the workplace.

As The Conversation piece highlights: “Many indicators suggest that jobs of the future will require much more emotional intelligence to complement the sophisticated machines we work with.”

With artificial intelligence becoming increasingly pervasive, workers will need technology skills but it will be almost more important for employees to develop their emotional intelligence. For example, the globalised workplace means more employee to employee interactions occur digitally, however this means workers should be even more aware of the emotions of those they are working with.

It is time for all workplaces to start thinking about this and implementing the necessary policies. To get the ball rolling a future that works’ six steps to build a culture of Purpose and Meaning are:

1.                   Foster Employee Participation and Inclusion

A culture of respect and valuing employees can be generated and sustained by the simple act of inclusion.

2.                   Communicate the Alignment between Individual Roles and Organisational Goals

Leaders need to be able to identify and articulate the way in which an individual employee’s role contributes to the achievement of the common purpose.

3.                   Encourage Autonomy and Active Engagement

After there has been a clear identification and articulation of purpose, workers should be afforded a high degree of autonomy to carry out their role and make an active decision to work towards this vision.

4.                   Provide Resources and Information

To increase autonomy, employees should have all the information and resources they require to effectively do their job.

5.                   Serve a Greater Purpose

While an altruistic outcome is not a requirement for developing meaningfulness, this is a recommended addition to help maximise the update of purpose among workers.

6.                   Reinforcing Engagement

Actively implementing these strategies will result in higher levels of engagement, and may be reinforced through incentivisation that is not only linked to financial outcomes, but measures of application and alignment. This can be achieved through career construction and job crafting.

These six steps set the course for businesses who want to create a culture of purpose and meaning and by creating this culture, business leaders can foster more emotionally intelligent workers ready for the future of work.

Why we need to work less to accomplish more

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

This week chief executive of BHP, Andrew Mackenzie made an extraordinary statement – Mackenzie, who has been CEO at the mining giant since 2013 said the higher he rose through the ranks, the more important it was for him to work less hours.

It is a statement that can be hard to believe. After all, the image of the CEO we conjure in our minds is the overstretched workaholic, putting in long hours and a superhuman effort to single-handedly manage the entire company. Coffee in one hand, board papers in the other.

It is with good reason that this stereotype was formed. CEOs work almost 20 hours more than the average Australian a week – in 2015, ceo.com found CEOs worked approximately 57.8 hours a week, which calculates to over 11 hours worked each week day.

So how would working less hours help you manage a more demanding role?

Experts say that overworking sends us into a “negative spiral” that slows our brains and impedes our emotional intelligence.

In a globalised economy, some CEOs work from several different clocks – accommodating for time differences for international business calls made early in the morning or late at night.

Sleep is a key part of ensuring we are at our peak potential so if work is eating up our rest time, we cannot perform our best at work the next day. Mackenzie said being rested allows him to accomplish more in four hours than in eight tired hours.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it is important business leaders do not overwork as their leadership position grows.

It is something that has been found in my own research; two-thirds of CEOs said they wanted to step back from day-to-day matters to focus on the long-term sustainability of their business. In short, CEOs begin to manage less and lead more.

The effect of an overworked CEO is even more far-reaching than their individual productivity as it sets a dangerous precedent for employees to follow. CEOs need to demonstrate that you can work sustainably and be successful.

For the employee who overworks, it is important to examine their own motives, whether they are genuinely under the pump from the boss or under the pump from their own expectations.

As an employee, if you are under pressure from the boss with an unrealistic workload, the conversation to be had is with your boss. However, if the real pressure is coming from yourself, the pressure to overwork is often rooted in the thought that this is what is expected.

In a time when the office never leaves your hand and follows you home, it is more important than ever to take stock and renew the workplace to make sure workplaces are happy, healthy and more productive.

Perhaps we can all take a lesson from the BHP CEO.

New report calls for professional services to prepare for AI transformation

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to cause organisational restructuring amongst firms in the professional services, according to our newest report from global HR think-tank Reventure.

The Industry Insights report finds organisations in the legal, accounting, management and engineering services are just some of the sectors that will be impacted by increased AI presence.

AI would likely start by replacing entry level work in the professional services, however millennials will not be the only ones affected.

The current pyramid structure of organisations is likely to face disruption because AI will begin taking over the repetitive, mundane tasks from everyone’s job.

There will also be changes to what organisations in the professional services look for in candidates and technological aptitude will be high on that list.

Despite the inevitable technological changes, purpose and meaning remained the most pressing issue for workplaces.

A Reventure survey of 1,001 workers found office workplaces had the lowest rates of workers who say their job has purpose and meaning.

It is a great detriment for both organisation and employee if a worker thinks their job has no purpose or meaning, and it is up to business leaders to address the issue. 

It is also likely that if employees don’t have purpose and meaning in their work, the AI revolution will impact them the hardest.

But many of the jobs thought of as unimportant in professional services have an important function in the organisational machine, leaders simply have to communicate that importance.

Sometimes it can be as easy as making the connection to an employee with their everyday tasks and how it contributes to the overall goals of the organisation.

The latest report from global HR think-tank Reventure, Industry Insights has conducted research into the challenges that are being faced by five industries and how they can be addressed.

Mental health is a workplace issue and addressing it is simply the right thing to do

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

As well as a being a significant health and social issue, mental health is a workplace issue that must be taken seriously by Australian workplaces.

According to the ABS, a staggering 45.5 per cent of the Australian population will experience a mental health issue once in their lifetime.

Many of us will know someone who experiences a mental health issue, or will experience one ourselves, however it can be difficult to imagine that the people we see at work may be among this cohort.

Unfortunately, workplaces are still lagging behind in implementing structured approaches to combating poor mental health according to a new report from the NSW Government.

Last week, the Government released research which showed half of businesses in NSW do not have a mental health strategy.

That is despite overwhelming evidence that mental health is a critical workplace issue.

A 2017 Australian study found that mental illness is the leading cause of extended sick leave for workers, and internationally, mental illness has eclipsed back pain as the most common reason why workers are unable to come into work.

Workplaces lose $2.8 billion in New South Wales alone, likely in absences and lost productivity as a result of poor mental health.

Much of what needs to happen in workplaces is cultural change. Unfortunately, many workplaces still see mental health as a “personal problem” and it therefore ends up sitting in the “not our problem” basket.

The other likely claim is that mental health strategies may not work or have an impact. However, the research gives a resounding yes that addressing mental health at work does make a difference.

The Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation and the Brain and Mind Centre found that businesses reap four dollars for every dollar invested in workplace health promotions, in the form of reduced absenteeism and improved productivity.

The numbers speak for themselves. We spend a third (and increasingly more) of our time at work, so it is time to start making that time count. Well thought out and well implemented mental health policy in the workplace, works.

And whilst the economic cost of mental health issues at work is clear, it should not be the driving force behind reforming our workplaces.

It is simply the right thing to do.

Cultural change must drive workplace solutions, not vice versa

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Cultural change, rather than prescriptive fads, is needed to improve workplace productivity and ensure Australians are enjoying an improved work-life balance.

At the centre of this approach must be greater flexibility and autonomy for workers. 

But, too often in the workplace the word flexibility is used to spruik the benefits of a new fad, and is often only flexibility for the employer, or alternatively it is used to spin the latest attempt at workplace renewal.

Real flexibility recognises the changing nature of work, the changing demands of the home and the wishes of employees to find workplace solutions that will help them improve their own work-life balance and productivity.

Coupled with this, is a need for greater autonomy for workers - empowering workers to make their own decisions, and supporting them when they do.

Policy fads

One of the many fads floated as the ‘answer’ to workplace discontent is often the introduction of a six-hour working day.

On its face it sounds good, but scratch the surface and it is yet another prescriptive policy that, on its own, will fail to improve work-life balance for many workers.

It fails to take into account workplace culture and behaviour, and on its own does nothing to actually empower workers.

If a worker gets to clock off after six hours, but is then inundated with work emails and work calls, which they feel they are obligated to address, the policy is worthless.

The fact of the matter is that for those who can’t seem to switch off now, the six-hour working day means very little. Instead, employees are likely to see a shorter day to complete the same number of tasks they used to complete in eight.

Employees who answer emails at night and stay back are doing so because of an implicit culture that either expects or rewards overworking.

Cultural change must come first

For these policies to have any real impact on improving work-life balance and worker productivity, cultural change must come first.

Workers must be encouraged to ‘switch off’ when they are out of the office and know that they are supported in doing so.

The fastest way to communicate a cultural change is for leaders to lead by example. Leaders need to make a conscious decision to set a positive precedent – don’t send emails outside of working hours, leave on time and do it loudly.

Inevitably, you will encounter the resistant employee who continues to work over-time, so have a serious one-on-one conversation with them. To be clear – this isn’t discipline, it’s an open and honest conversation that you don’t expect them to work outside of hours and that they their value is not measured in how much overtime they do.

Unfortunately, the underlying assumption in many workplace cultures is that those who overwork are more valuable. However, this is a deeply flawed way of thinking. It neglects the fact that looking after yourself and your wellbeing is the only way to grow and learn as an employee. Nobody improves by burning themselves out.

The Norwegian approach

A good example of positive workplace culture comes from Norway, where it is standard business etiquette not to schedule meetings after 3pm Monday to Thursday, as a courtesy to parents who leave to pick up their children. On a Friday, meetings are not scheduled for after 2pm.

By making this a workplace cultural norm, employees can be confident knowing what the expectations are, and have the real flexibility and autonomy to actively improve their work-life balance. 

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The myth of perfect work-life balance

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

I recently read a Harvard Business Review article from 2012 on how the constant pursuit of perfection in the workplace can hinder work-life balance.

Despite five years elapsing between that article from Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and a myriad of workplace fads and gimmicks sold as work-life balance solutions, individuals in the workplace are still struggling.

We see this constantly in our research, and other workplace research, which shows employees feeling increasingly stressed and unhappy at work.

Whilst many organisations, including PepsiCo, PwC and Deloitte, have started to implement worthwhile flexible working policies in an effort to make it easier for employees to create their own work-life balance, it is clear more needs to be done.

For individuals, work-life balance is still marred by the perception that it means being perfect at everything, all the time.

In our mind, the work-life balanced individual has the perfect job in the perfect career, the perfect family and perfect relationships against a backdrop of the perfect house in the perfect suburb.

They excel at work, they are completely present partners and parents, they pursue hobbies and find time to exercise, relax, read and learn.

It is no wonder work-life balance can seem mythical at times. This is because these priorities inevitably clash – you have to work late on your partner’s birthday or you have neglected doing laundry because work has left you so exhausted. And that often fills us with guilt.

Kanter says perfection myths have a “do-it-yourself flavour” which is what makes them so appealing. The “do-it-yourself” mentality says you can have the perfect life if you continue to stretch yourself.

However, that can only lead to burn out and cynicism that work-life balance does not exist at all.

We should not give up on being balanced, instead workers must learn that work-life balance is imperfect. Instead of striving for perfection, we should be striving to make choices that are purposeful.

If we inform all our decisions with purpose, we can afford to let certain things slide for something that has higher priority. Purpose can seem like a vague concept, however if you know what is most important to you, you have purpose.

Today, purpose has an increasingly important role to play in the workplace too.

Work with purpose is becoming increasingly important for business leaders looking to attract and retain great employees. More workers are looking for jobs that fit with their life goals and more people are likely to see work as a calling rather than an occupation.

A perfect work-life balance is unattainable, but for those looking to have it all, I strongly recommend aiming to have a work-life balance that is purposeful instead.

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The secret to employee happiness and workplace success

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A happy employee with purpose and meaning in their work will be the best advertisement any company could possibly hope for.

In Newsmodo’s latest episode of Brand Storytelling, I explored the concept of employees as brand ambassadors.

The most effective approach to getting employees to promote their workplace is by aligning their role with the organisation’s narrative.

Giving employees genuine purpose and meaning in the work negates the need for employee advocacy.

An employee that understands the organisation’s goals is more likely to enjoy coming to work which will lead to a positive workforce and organisational brand.

It is vital that employees feel like they are valued and contributing to the goals of the business.

If employees know how their role fits into the broader organisational objectives, they will be happier and more productive. 

It may sound like a basic step – but it is surprising how often business leaders take this for granted, especially when the results are extremely beneficial.

An employee that does not understand how they are contributing to a broader goal is more likely to be disengaged and unhappy in their job.

This isn’t good for them or the reputation of the business.

In order to create a workplace where employees are happy and engaged, a number of principles must be adopted as outlined in Reventure's research piece Renewing Australian Workplaces.

We should be ensuring workplaces prioritise inclusion, staff development, teamwork and positive and constructive feedback to ensure the future workplace is founded on good principles.

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Casual workers “put up and shut up” about workplace bullying

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A pilot study of the Australian hospitality industry has found casual workers “put up and shut up” about workplace bullying, because they are afraid of losing their jobs. 

Professor Michael Quinlan from UNSW Business School found employees with insecure, casual employment were under increased pressure to tolerate bullying because they needed the work. 

Workplace bullying is a major concern, with one in ten workers having experienced verbal abuse or bullying in 2016.

Bullying has a devastating effect on the mental health of victims especially if their claims are being dismissed by senior management.

However, this new study has found that many casual employees are not even getting to the point of telling their managers.

It is the responsibility of business leaders to create healthy workplace cultures and to not treat casual workers as ‘second-class citizens’. 

Business leaders need to build workplace cultures that encourage everyone to speak out against bullying, otherwise they will end up with systemic turnover issues and seemingly no reason for it.

The casualisation of the workforce means more people have less job security, and that makes people afraid of making mistakes or ‘stepping out of line’, because they feel expendable.

Regardless of what contract an employee has with an organisation, they need to be afforded an opportunity to have a meaningful and purposeful experience at work.

Casualisation of work is one of seven overarching trends affecting the Australian work landscape according to Reventure’s latest research report, Renewing Australian Workplaces.

In 2012, the Productivity Commission estimated the cost of workplace bullying to the economy as being between $6 billion and $36 billion annually. 

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Robot redundancy risk for over 35s

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A top-tier tech executive at Westpac Bank has warned that workers aged over 35 are at risk of facing redundancy if their organisations fail to adapt to changes from automation.

According to Dave Curran, CIO at Westpac Bank, current business structures are not preparing to re-skill workers for the future, putting those who have been in the workforce for longer at risk as being under-skilled as automation claims more jobs.

Automation would affect workers of all ages, but those over 35 may be resistant to change and face barriers to re-skilling.

Automation underlines the importance of relationships, and that there are a number of benefits to keeping on older staff in new capacities.

Long-time, loyal employees should be retained as much as possible; they know the business well and can be a real stabilising asset if an organisation restructures.

The first point of order is to identify who has what skills, but not in a malicious way. You may find some of your most valuable workers now, do not have the skills needed in the next five or ten years.

This is a really valuable pick-up to make sooner rather than later, and allows leaders to be conscious of weaknesses and gives them the opportunity to update employee skills and better prepare for the future.

The fact is, unpreparedness for these changes are widespread – leaders of businesses are not exempt and they should be open to the areas where they themselves might need a lesson or two.

More businesses should take a proactive approach to up-skilling employees rather than making redundancies.

I encourage businesses not to make the mistake of making workers redundant whilst recruiting at the same time, even if they are for different jobs that require different skills.

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The Future Workplace is Part Human Part Machine

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By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Automated machines and artificial intelligence (AI) are set to become the favoured option for certain tasks in the workplace. Bookkeeping and supermarket cashier work are two areas at high risk of being completely computerised in the next twenty years, according to a report by the Productivity Commission.

Previously on this blog, I gave a couple of Australian examples where automation and artificial intelligence were changing the workplace. Brick-laying robots and self-driving cars are becoming a more efficient choice in construction and mining than human labour.

Increasingly we can expect workplaces to be part human and part machine, where tasks are shared between people and robots. So how can businesses make this work? Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy and Future of Work, Ed Husic co-wrote an opinion piece in the AFR recently describing Australia as being “spectacularly unprepared for automation”.

Part of this inadequate preparation is linked to the lack of strategic planning. Reventure’s own research found  two-thirds of 50 CEOs surveyed said they wished they could step back from day-to-day matters to focus on long term planning – the big picture.

Here are two big picture items to consider before transitioning your workplace to part-machine.

1.       Look at ways to retain experienced employees.

Unsurprisingly, most of the pain will come from redundancies. The biggest mistake businesses can make is to think automation will be purely a logistical question of increasing efficiency and output. Redundancies will be painful and emotional, especially for those who have made a career out of their current job.

However, a redundancy does not have to mean leaving an industry for good. One thoughtful approach at General Electric (GE) looks at retaining experienced workers in a new capacity, training them to oversee the machinery that replaced them. Although not all jobs can be saved this way, it is clearly beneficial to both parties; GE benefits from employees that have an understanding of the manual process and can identify when machines get it wrong, and employees retain a job they have experience in.

2.       Check the value of doing tasks manually.

Not to suggest businesses do a U-turn on automation and AI, however there is a need to examine what value you obtain from performing tasks manually.

An example is the value of repetitive tasks for employees as a training device. Entry-level work may be mundane; however, it often gives employees a basic understanding of an industry – paralegals for example cut their teeth on trawling through legal documents.

Identifying and filling a training gap will ensure your employees’ skills will not diminish over time.

There is an argument to be made that mechanical maintenance is a lot easier than “maintaining employees” so to speak – particularly given the fact our research shows 72 per cent of workers are still looking for purpose and meaning in their work. However automation and AI could only serve to increase this statistic, with employees questioning their value if a piece of machinery could do the same work.

Delivering Purpose and Meaning provides proactive strategies that looks at effectively managing an integrated workforce that are increasingly looking to contextualise their work in a bigger organisational narrative. Before workplaces think about introducing AI into their workplace, they need to check whether they have the basics down including an effective and collaborative culture. Machines are knocking at the door, is your workplace ready to open it?

Hostile and threatening workplaces on the rise

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A “disturbingly high” number of workers in the US have reported working in hostile or threatening workplaces – part of a global trend of distressed workers that has the experts worried.

Almost one in five Americans say their workplaces are hostile or threatening, according to a study co-authored by Harvard Medical School of 3,066 workers. 

Unfortunately, the US findings are largely consistent with the situation in Australia: half of Australian workers have experienced one or more serious incidences of conflict or negative impacts at work including verbal abuse or bullying.

It is no wonder then that 14 per cent of Australian workers experienced a mental or physical decline as a direct result of their work, and almost one in three have high stress levels often or always.

We need to take workplace culture more seriously. To improve Australia’s standing in the workplace stakes, a renewed focus on workplace relationships was urgently needed.

Hostility can be external, and customer facing workers bear much of that burden, but, internal hostility and a threatening culture is bred when employees do not work together.

This is typical in highly competitive and highly punitive workplace cultures and it is up to leadership to change the nature of workplace relationships by example.

Something as simple as showing employees their development options can make a big difference to employees because it shows that you are thinking about their long-term prospects.

Our research shows that the four principles to keep workplace relationships healthy are engagement, development, inclusion and life enhancement.

Microchips for work, the ultimate micromanagement?

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Die-hard tech enthusiasts were once the only people who would consider getting a microchip implant, but a new report says more people might consider getting one – for work.

An international PwC survey of 10,000 respondents has found 70 per cent of people would consider treatments to enhance their brains or bodies, all in the pursuit of greater work performance.

Microchipping employees for greater work performance would be the ultimate micromanagement with your employer able to have a digital record of all your movements. 

It is vitally important that workers don’t feel pressured to adopt drastic and invasive measures such as microchipping.

Our research tells us that workers are already feeling technology-related stress and we should be developing strategies in the workplace to combat this, not exacerbate it.

54 per cent of millennials say they are experiencing technology-related stress; workers are unable to switch off because they think being “on call” is what makes them valuable.

The 2016 study of over 1,000 Australian workers by Reventure also found 46 per cent already feel technology makes them feel “always on” and unable to completely shut-off from work.

If emails after work are causing Australian workers such stress, you can imagine the impact of invasive measures such as microchipping. 

Despite this, one expert from PwC said microchips and implants that improve work efficiency could be much more acceptable practice in ten or fifteen years.

Microchips are a part of a global trend; earlier this year Swedish company Epicenter announced plans to implant 150 workers with microchips to monitor work hours.

Implanted technology would be much more intrusive to the private lives of employees and warned against unhealthy workplace practices.

Work-life balance is vitally important and all Australians should get a chance to be completely away from work. We need to address this with a concerted response from employers and industry to change the culture - or it will only get worse.

AI presents opportunities for workers, if we start planning now

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

The inevitable rise of AI and further automation presents a range of challenges for Australian workers, both for their job security and how they conduct their work.

But, in amongst the very real concerns, are opportunities for employers and employees.

With the right strategies in place, employees can actually capitalise on the coming AI revolution.

AI relies on harnessing data and putting it to use to carry out predictable and often repetitive tasks.

The key for employees and employers when confronting the impact of AI on job security and the nature of work is empowering employees with something AI and robotics cannot achieve, and that is a sense of purpose at work.

A sense of purpose, means employees are not just carrying out passive, repetitive tasks that could be done by a machine, but actually given the authority to use their judgement and make a difference.

Research as part of the a future that works campaign found Australian workers are already feeling the impact of technology; 54 per cent of millennials experience technology-related stress and 46 per cent say technology makes them feel “always on”.

As has been recently argued by the Harvard Business Review, the rise of AI will compliment human judgement. It’s the employers’ role to facilitate this in the workplace by empowering employees and giving them purpose and meaning at work.

Workers who have purpose in their work and can exercise their judgement, rather than just conducting passive tasks, will be better placed when the AI revolution takes off.

An eye into AI (and automation)

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Improvements in robotics and automation could potentially change the work landscape, this time for bricklayers and miners.

Fastbrick Robotics, has built a robot that lays bricks at twenty-five times the speed of a human and last week secured significant investment from Caterpillar for their venture. If it has successful up-take in the industry, this brick-laying robot could put workers out of a job that was once considered “safe as houses”.

In the mining industry, which has been declining since 2013 from its significant boom, automation has been initially “disorienting”. That is how the Australian Head of BHP Operations described it, after seeing a 200-300 tonne truck driving around without a driver. Fortescue Metals has driverless trucks across most of its operations.

Yes, bricklaying and mining operations are manual work, which is theoretically easier to automate, but office workers should be concerned too. More jobs once considered “safe” are predicted to turn into redundancies thanks to automation; jobs like record keeping and repetitive customer service. Anything repetitive is easier to codify for accurate and cheap implementation by technology.

The CSIRO’s report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce found 44 per cent of Australian jobs are “potentially at high risk of computerisation and automation” whilst the Productivity Commission’s report into Digital Disruption found improvements in sensors and machine learning will broaden the range of capabilities, and therefore jobs, that robots can take over. Sensors can be found in mass production lines and machine learning in smart phones are set to make virtual assistants like Siri even smarter.

The fact is most of us are already touched by AI and automation in some way. We often feel frustrated with the automated voice recognition systems used by our insurance companies or our government departments, because many of us remember how it used to be – a person on the other line who could understand a complex problem.

The big question is: what do we do about it from a workplace perspective?

As of yet, there is no reality where we are without human work. The fact is, people are going to be working with technology and not against it.

My own research found Australian workers are already feeling the impact of technology; 54 per cent of millennials experience technology-related stress and 46 per cent say technology makes them feel “always on”.

For employees facing technology stress, it is increasingly important to demonstrate purpose and meaning in their role and follow the core Healthy Workplace Principles: engagement, development, inclusion and life enhancement as outlined in Renewing Australian Workplaces. This will help employees understand why they are important and improves the vital (human) relationships in the workplace.

Yes, some jobs will be automated and taken over which is an overwhelming transition for a workplace. It is important organisations recognise change in their industry and adapt to survive.

But there is a brighter side – big data analysts, complex decision support analysts, remote controlled vehicle operators and online chaperones will be among the new titles we can expect in the near future.

It’s all part of the changing world of work.

How to get the best of your employees and develop a healthier workplace

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

It’s time to get rid of KPIs and direct reports, and develop more meaningful indicators to measure success in the workplace.

Developing job landscapes, which outline the goals of an employee and how they interact with the goals of colleagues is a more beneficial approach than the standard ‘list’ of tasks and performance measures.

According Reventure’s recent reports Delivering Purpose and Meaning and Renewing Australian Workplaces, job landscapes build employees' purpose and meaning at work, resulting in improved relationships and engagement.

Purpose and meaning are becoming non-negotiable across workplaces – in fact, our research found 77 per cent of millennials are seeking purpose and meaning in their work.  

Around the middle of the year, organisations can tend to find there is a high level of attrition by their employees, and this is a great opportunity for organisations to re-focus on employees, to make sure they are attracting and retaining the best talent.

To help employees feel purpose and meaning at work, leaders must also be able to identify and then demonstrate how individual roles align with organisational goals, the report says.

This means building a relationship and fostering an understanding of how the employee’s personal attributes such as their interests, abilities and values uniquely equip them to do their work well.

Effective work relationships contribute largely to the success of a workplace - 300,000 hours of workplace counselling by Converge International found relationship breakdowns at work was the number one reason employees seek counselling.

There will be serious issues for workplaces if employers don’t act.

Only when you foster healthy and positive relationships can organisations experience higher retention and productivity, and lower instances of excessive stress and greater job satisfaction.

Five HR Solutions Workplaces Will Need This Financial Year

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

As another financial year ends, workplaces around the nation have taken stock, organised their accounts and started planning for the financial year ahead.

Organisations around the nation have renewed their property leases, their insurance policies and countless contracts with vendors – but what about renewing your workplace?

As financial planning and reporting takes centre stage, Australian workplaces often overlook reviewing and refreshing their workplace practices and culture.

As part of our national campaign a future that works, Reventure has devised five strategies that genuinely address the workplace challenges organisations will face this financial year.

1.       Talk in terms of purpose not results – a common pitfall among organisations is to solely motivate workers with financial outcomes or competition. With our research finding that the next generation is increasingly looking for purpose at work, leaders will need to actively foster an understanding of how an employee’s personal attributes such as their abilities and values uniquely equip them to do their work well.

2.       Articulate a narrative – while understanding what drives your employees, make sure your organisation has a purpose to which employees can align themselves to. This doesn’t have to be a struggling rags-to-riches organisational story, but simply what makes your organisation and your workplace different.

3.       Goals are better than roles – job descriptions are over, it is time for job landscapes. Instead of a list of KPIs and direct reports, job landscapes outlines a list of end goals assigned to an employee and the way in which these goals interconnect and relate to the goals of others. This promotes a more connected and understanding workplace culture.

4.       Follow the leader – in this rapidly changing work landscape, business leaders and managers often set and model the workplace culture. Organisations must ensure they equip this executive level with the soft skills of transformational leadership in which leaders work with employees to identify needed change, create a vision forward and execute the change. 

5.       Resurrect creativity – in a bid to complete work efficiently, creativity and innovation can often take a backseat. Carefully select teams for projects to ensure workers collaborate and learn from others with different skills sets or encourage workplace huddles which allows for short bursts of creative internal input to solve problems.

These five HR solutions have been comprised from our two recent research pieces, Delivering Purpose and Meaning and Renewing Australian Workplaces, which takes a closer look at 2017 workplaces.

Workers are the most valuable asset of any workplace and as such, the financial year should also mark a time when leaders take a closer look at their workplaces and renew them for next year.

Increasing productivity is no longer viewed in archaic terms such as longer working hours but how the workplace can effectively understand and harness employee’s individual talents.

Each year, the bottom line is the focus of reporting and the measurement of success – leaving little time for visionary thinking or employee development which can also genuinely grow the organisation.

Reventure’s reports can be accessed at http://www.afuturethatworks.org.au/reports/.

Relationships are the key to workplace success

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

An analysis of more than 300,000 hours of workplace counselling sessions undertaken by our workplace assistance arm Converge International, has shown the leading reason employees seek counselling is a breakdown in relationships at work and in the home.

Couple this with the seismic social shifts in Australian workplaces, including the role of technology and the rise in part-time work, and it is clear that a greater focus on relationships at work is needed.

As a result, our a future that works campaign has released a new report, Renewing Australian Workplaces, highlighting what employers can do to improve relationships in the workplace.

The report highlights an issue that is not getting enough attention and is often taken for granted – our relationships at work.

Relationships are key in our personal life, but the research behind our latest report has shown that Australian workers are taking their workplace relationships for granted.

This is a massive issue, because relationships are central to how people do their jobs, how people develop and how you can achieve sustainable workplace performance.

This report posits four Healthy Workplace Principles that help workplaces create healthy relationship frameworks: inclusion, development, engagement and life enhancement.

These are more than techniques, they provide workplaces with the structure to develop a relational culture, which will enhance productivity and improve worker wellbeing.

This report details practical ways these principles can be implemented and is a must for all Australian workplaces.

The report is a wake-up call for all workers and employers in all industries, even suggesting our political leaders would benefit from focussing on improving relationships.

This is a call to action for both employers and employees: a focus on relationships is crucial to improve workplace outcomes, and I am talking about all workplaces.

We constantly see our political leaders abandon or refuse to develop relationships, either across the aisle or amongst business and community leaders, in favour of political expedience.

But if they focussed more on building relationships I think they would get better policy outcomes and more public support.

The four Healthy Workplace Principles which are key to improving workplace relationships are:

·       Inclusion – Showing a genuine interest in the people around you at work

·       Development – Creating a culture of creativity, where mistakes are allowed

·       Engagement – Developing a listening culture

·       Life enhancement – Creating an environment where positive, and constructive feedback is normal

Renewing Australian Workplaces can be downloaded at http://www.afuturethatworks.org.au/reports/

Millennials are after their very own meaning maker

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Ever left wondering after a day’s work, whether you’ve made a difference? You may be in need of a meaning maker.

No, it’s not the slickest tech gadget or latest app that millennials are desperate to have, meaning makers are people who help young workers navigate work life and their life purpose.

This isn’t a new fad, but something that workers, especially millennials are looking for – someone to help make sense of work and life.

As part our research on purpose and meaning in the workplace, we found 77 per cent of millennials are looking for purpose and meaning in their employment.

Purpose and meaning are foundational qualities in a business and without them, organisations can suffer from high employee turn-over, disengagement and lost productivity.

Disengagement costs the Australian economy up to $53 billion, so it’s in the interest of businesses that employees have purposeful and meaningful work – this is why meaning makers are important.

Mentoring is an important part of career development however; young people are looking for more than sound advice over coffee.

Meaning makers are more than just mentors, they are in the workplace and they are the people who can say ‘This is why we exist as an organisation and this is why it matters’.

A lot of people gain valuable knowledge and advice from a good mentor, but it’s not your mentor’s role to then say, ‘Okay, how does that fit into your life goals and your personal mission?’

They can be your colleague or your supervisor, the point it that young people want to open up about the hard stuff including how their work is contributing or enhancing their life.

A meaning maker is not about coddling or spoon-feeding employees but providing context about how their work fits into their wider life purpose.

This is high level leadership and if an organisation is successful in providing this for their employees, it will be a hard job to tempt those employees away to another company.

a future that works’ six steps to build a culture of Purpose and Meaning are:

1.                   Foster Employee Participation and Inclusion

A culture of respect and valuing employees can be generated and sustained by the simple act of inclusion.

2.                   Communicate the Alignment between Individual Roles and Organisational Goals

Leaders need to be able to identify and articulate the way in which an individual employee’s role contributes to the achievement of the common purpose.

3.                   Encourage Autonomy and Active Engagement

After there has been a clear identification and articulation of purpose, workers should be afforded a high degree of autonomy to carry out their role and make an active decision to work towards this vision.

4.                   Provide Resources and Information

To increase autonomy, employees should have all the information and resources they require to effectively do their job.

5.                   Serve a Greater Purpose

While an altruistic outcome is not a requirement for developing meaningfulness, this is a recommended addition to help maximise the update of purpose among workers.

6.                   Reinforcing Engagement

Actively implementing these strategies will result in higher levels of engagement, and may be reinforced through incentivisation that is not only linked to financial outcomes, but measures of application and alignment. This can be achieved through career construction and job crafting.

To read the report, Delivering Purpose and Meaning click here.