Cultural change must drive workplace solutions, not vice versa

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. 

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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.

Miserable at work? Take a leaf from Zuckerberg’s book

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Many think it’s a lofty ambition, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is adamant that purpose in the workplace is what it takes to create a happy and healthy life.

Our research backs up Zuckerberg’s recent speech to Harvard graduates extolling the virtues of achieving purpose and meaning at work.

Our report found that in the Australian context, workers were looking for work that has greater meaning and that fits into their wider life goals - 72 per cent of Australians are looking for purpose and meaning in their work and almost 50 per cent are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months.

The message was echoed in Zuckerberg’s speech, who said that purpose creates true happiness and that everyone was entitled to a sense that they have a role at work.

This is a call that should be heeded by Australian leaders who want to create engaged, productive and healthy workplaces.

Purpose is what makes our lives feel worth it – and when 35 to 40 hours of our weeks are spent at work, it is not worth doing a job that has no point or no purpose.  

What Mark Zuckerberg is doing, is encouraging millennials to create opportunities that are meaningful for their employees when they reach the top.

That is a great thing to encourage for the future, but we need to get leaders of today sitting up and listening: employees need to have a purpose or they will leave. 

To attract and retain employees over the long haul, there needs to be a process for business leaders to follow, and that’s what our report provides.

Organisations can start building a culture of purpose and meaning through our six-steps which lead to higher engagement, productivity and satisfaction.

It is great to hear from influential, international leaders about the importance of purpose – let’s hear it from the leaders of Australian businesses too.

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

Time for Australia to learn a French lesson and embrace the right to disconnect

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Australian workers should be given the right to switch off from emails outside of working hours to combat technology-related stress.

Policy-makers, employers and unions must recognise the negative impact that technology-related stress is having on employees, and take steps to improve the work-life balance.

According to my research of more than 1,000 employees last year, almost half of employees agreed that technology brings with it the feeling of being ‘always on’.

One possible solution to this is embracing recent reforms introduced in France, which gives employees the right to disconnect from emails outside of work hours.

The French legislation, dubbed the Right to Disconnect, came into effect on January 1, requiring companies with 50 or more employees to negotiate new out-of-office email guidelines with staff.

Firms now have a duty to regulate the use of emails to ensure employees get a break from the office.

The French solution follows moves made by a number of big companies to let employees completely switch off, with Volkswagen turning off their email servers after work.

As well as legislative or internal policy change, it is vital for employers to buy into this change, and improve the culture of workplaces.

Employers must make their expectations explicit to their employees, and recognise that having a stressed and tired workforce does not benefit them in the long run.

The sooner we move away from the old-fashioned idea that you work until you drop, the better, and it is one of the reasons I have kick-started the a future that works campaign.

The campaign is all about improving workplaces for employees by providing research and strategies that actively tackle the challenges facing the workplaces of 2017.

And the first step workplaces could take to begin 2017 is learn this valuable French lesson.

Four day work week - is it a good idea?

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

On face value, a four-day work week seems like the answer to Australia’s work/life balance struggle, but in practice it is more a passing fad than a sustainable solution.

A four-day work week may allow workers another day for family and ‘living’, but it does nothing to address the bigger issues occurring when workers are at work.  

Our research of 1,000 Australian employees revealed that 46 per cent feel like they can’t turn work off anymore, whether they were in the office or not, so a four-day work week may not change much for these workers.

While the debate around the four-day work week signals Australia is at least beginning to acknowledge the important role workplace wellbeing plays, it does not achieve genuine change.

In order to achieve this we need to take a holistic approach to our workplaces to improve outcomes for workers, management and the organisation.

Employees need to take a closer look at the culture and relationships within workplaces which are closely linked to inclusion, development, engagement and life enhancement – four principles that are essential to maintain a healthy workplace.

We need to respond to the big challenges innovatively and proactively and as part of a broader discussion that aims to deliver productive and purposeful workplaces.

It is our aim, through the a future that works campaign, to ignite a robust debate about changing entrenched work practices and improving outcomes for Australian workers. This is achieved through a comprehensive reform process, rather than partial measures like a four-day work week. 

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

Business leaders tell-all: Ten tips to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

From relinquishing total control and delegating to others, to being open to changed work practices, the CEO tell-all is part of our national workplace campaign a future that works.

We have put together a list of the top ten pointers for people wanting to become the next big business leader and provide instructive views into what it takes to be a successful CEO from interviewing 50 of Australia’s big bosses.

This research reveals what it takes to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. 

CEOs from around the country have said that the days of hierarchical, dictatorial workplace are over and leaders must lead through engagement, partnerships and compromise.

Overall the report tells us that CEOs are cautiously optimistic about what the future holds, but see challenges in the rapid rate of change and massive upheaval technology is creating.

This is a unique insight into the minds of business leaders and provides some interesting food for thought for the business community.”

And here are the ten pointers for the CEO of the future:

1.       Model the change they want to see occur in future workplaces.

2.       Recognise the authority and seize it to make even small changes that impact on ourselves as CEOs but also their workplaces and employees, and the industry in which they specialise.

3.       Talk about how you measure performance around vision and innovation not just the short-term benchmarks.

4.       Relinquish authoritarian control, delegate to and trust in others who will work in teams – and grow their resilience and wellbeing.

5.       In a team environment the CEO will need to compromise on decisions, see opportunities and skills in the team, negotiate, persuade and lead.

6.       As a modern leader, be nimble, adaptive and creative – innovate and show vision to compete in a global market in a time of rapid change.

7.       Be a friend to ambiguity and uncertainty.

8.       Find a way to let go of the day-to-day control and step away from the detail, and to reflect on what you have done, where you are going, and what you are contributing.

9.       Be open to changed work practices which reward creativity, provide community, engage in sustainable practices, nurture and support staff and see connectedness of business, family and community life.

10.   The changes do not have to be revolutionary, but they start with each and every CEO being open to connecting head and heart, listening carefully and slowing down to allow reflective in-action to guide decisions.

To read the report, CEO Insights click here.

TGIF (thank god it’s Friday) is the general sentiment around Australian workplaces

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

“Thank god it’s Monday” is a phrase that is not often heard from workers, with 72 percent of Australian workers found to be searching for more purpose and meaning in their work.

According to our recent piece of research, employers have lost focus on their most important asset – their workers – and are failing to foster a sense of purpose in individual roles.

This is a significant problem with a Gallup Poll showing that a ten per cent improvement in a workers' connection with the mission or purpose of their organisation would result in:

  • an 8.1% decrease in turnover
  • a 4.4% increase in profitability
  • a 12.7% reduction in safety incidents

And not to mention the increased healthiness of the workplace as a whole.

However, in the increasingly fast paced business landscape, the goals of employee retention through fostering growth and connection are frequently swept aside in an ill-fated bid to blindly chase profit.

What these companies forget is that the opportunity costs of losing valuable and skilful employees pose significant obstacles to their ability to maximise their potential performance as a business.

Firms have the opportunity to deliver real workplace reform for their employees and need to start seeing the benefit in developing and retaining valuable and skilful workers.

Our new report recommends a step-by-step process to avoid this situation and provide a more fulfilling workplace for employers and employees by building a culture of purpose and meaning

A business that focuses solely on the bottom line will miss the bigger picture and will lose their most valuable employees to companies that understand the importance of creating a meaningful and fulfilling work environment.

Fostering growth and connection to an organisation has become a must in the modern workplace.

‘Outsourcing epidemic’: CEOs reveal sobering views of technological disruption

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Australian CEOs have expressed concerns that the rapid pace of change in the workplace and technological advancements could be creating an “outsourcing epidemic.”

That’s the verdict from CEO Insights, our latest survey which examined the views of 50 CEOs over an 18 month period.

The new survey delivers a unique insight into the views of Australian business leaders who have spelt out their concerns about what the future holds.

I think it is fair to say that this latest research reveals Australian CEOs are concerned about the future of workplaces.  

The rapid rate of change and the impact this is having on how business is done and what is expected of them is of increasing concern to the business leaders.

Our first report, 2016 Snapshot of Australian Workplaces, provided the employees view of the workplace and the latest report is the flip side of the coin.

Of course technology is having a revolutionary impact on business practices and it is clear from these responses that not all of it is positive.

There is a real concern amongst some CEOs that technology and globalisation has made it too easy for companies to outsource key functions, and this is having too big an impact on local employment.

As technology advances and global interconnectedness increases, more businesses will take the road of outsourcing key functions, but the concern is as to the impact.

Yes you have the intended consequences of more agility and flexibility and profitability, but also unintended ones around losing core skills and corporate knowledge, and impacts on staff.”

The survey also reveals that CEOs are seeing technology actually make it harder to communicate with what are becoming more disparate teams.

With technology allowing work to be conducted in different places, often across borders, CEOs expressed concern that it was making it more difficult to communicate across staff.  

These findings highlight the concerns of CEOs and the issues facing workplaces in this time of great change.

To read the report, CEO Insights click here.