Towards the New World of Work

Global statistics show that across the world, 10%-15% of company staff on average who are fully engaged produce results of up to 122%. The somewhat engaged group accounts for 30%-40% of the company’s workforce, creating 75% of output. At the other end, the 20%-30% disengaged workforce produce an output of up to 50% only.

According to Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group (Kelly OCG) VP for Asia and the Pacific Anthony Raja Devadoss, in order to increase the size of a fully engaged workforce, a company must look at addressing a number of issues. Here are some of them.

Flexibility in Communication

He said while some companies have chosen to restrict their staff’s access to social media, the move does not restrict them from having handhelds. However, a more effective solution is to have proper, clear guidelines which are not policing.

Active Engagement with Workforce

Devadoss cited an example of trends in designer coffee shops, where patrons take photographs and post them on social media to see how many people would like them. Likewise, he said, companies, should use such modes of engagement. To stay connected with Gen Y, Whatsapp and SMS may be an effective, while Gen X may be best engaged via email and the Baby Boomers over coffee chats or lunch discussions.

The current workforce expects instantaneous feedback, away from annual appraisals. “There is a need to shift to regular feedback in the form of informal conversations and discussion, or constant communication — at least once a month; coffee or corridor chats,” he said.

Models of the New World of Work

The New World of Work Report for 2020 published recently highlights the perception of Asian workforce generations coming together in the workplace.

“For the first time we have noticed that more than 50% of the employees in Asia have experienced inter-generational conflicts. It is going to continue to increase. We need to ensure that HR, business and line leaderships are aligned to address that,” said Devadoss.

“The second thing we are noticing is that 44% feel confident that we can contribute towards productivity despite diversity (in age),” he said. These four generations (Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y) coming together is going to be a very complex yet valuable productive exercise.

Based on aggregate data, more than 50% of the respondents from Malaysia have perceived that this generation mix inspired productivity benefits.

To address these needs, Kelly OCG have outlined three innovative work models taking place right now, for which the company is offering consultancy services with solid key performance indices (KPIs) pegged to each of them.

Free Agents

The rise of what is called the free agents (or better known as freelancers) is particularly impacting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce.

“Recently, the prime minister shared on investing in STEM from pre-school level to secondary and tertiary education,” Devadoss said. These comprise those who can work on their own time and on their own conditions, in any part of the world.

“The Malaysian diaspora is about one million across the globe, and I do know a lot of them are working on a freelance basis, supporting Malaysia and other countries. Allo-wing them to work on their own time, giving them the flexibility (telecommuting), the freelance ability to do things is rising. They will be the most supercharged and largest workforce by 2020 in the world, and in Malaysia as well,” he said.

Hybrid Workgroups

Otherwise known as integrated workgroups, these comprise a combination of different skills being matched by different kinds of talents.

“That means people coming in on a project basis, daily basis, a day a week or three hours in a week. This is going to pick up as well. This also has an impact on government and businesses because they need an infrastructure to support them. So you have the different kinds of generations coming and asking for different kinds of models of work. We should be ready to face that as well,” he elaborated.

Virtual Workforces

The trend of working from home is on the rise. The biggest differentiator here between success and failure is a very structured performance management or outcome-based model.

Devadoss cited a project undertaken by Kelly OCG for an unnamed international client to allow them to manage their activities in line with the KPIs set by the company, from home. Upon being selected for the job, the employee receives a shipment of a notebook and a phone at his home.

“The plug-and-play begins the next day and the training commences with KPI dashboard displayed. They don’t need to go to the office any more,” he said.

ResearchGate.net, another such network, has gained popularity over the past year for its ability to easily connect scientists, allow them to answer questions from peers, share research papers, and find collaborators for future projects. Essentially, it is a mash-up of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the science world where scientists can share their photos and profiles, as well as their work with colleagues around the globe. That is, the global workforce, and therefore business economy is now more “borderless” and there is a growing acceptance that work can happen anywhere, regardless of brick and mortar location.

Working in Malaysia?

Anthony said the models offer flexibility, allowing “for one to scale-up and scale-down according to the company’s needs, are lower in terms of contract overheads and are now being applied across the board amongst multinationals and government-linked companies in Malaysia. They are already working. The companies know in order to be competitive, they have to evolve,” he said.

The industries most likely to embrace this model include information and communication technology, business services, media and advertising and professional (consulting) services. “Of course the buy-in is greater with free agents and hybrids which account for less investment compared to virtual workgroups,” he said.

In terms of long-term sustainability, these may vary according to industry. He also noted that these models would be most popular among the senior generation of the workforce, as well as women who are looking for flexibility.

“Not just mothers but female caregivers (with aging parents). There are 25,000 tertiary education women who work from home in the Klang Valley,” he said.