Does your organization have productivity paranoia?

Can AI-powered skills intelligence tools solve today's efficiency conundrum?

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

As quiet quitting continues to dominate headlines, some leaders’ efforts to encourage high output levels may have gone too far. Two-thirds of North American companies with headcounts above 500 now utilize some form of employee monitoring software, despite worker productivity improvements across the board by 3.4%.

Amazon’s time off task policy is a notable example of the devastating impact that workforce surveillance technology can have on employee morale. When the e-commerce leader began recording every pause warehouse workers took, some high-performing employees were fired for having a single off day.

While most companies aren’t adopting such extreme policies, studies show that employee monitoring has the potential to become invasive and break the trust between workers and their employers. Rather than keeping tabs on everyone’s activity levels, visionary leaders are harnessing skills intelligence tools to gain a better understanding of where employees’ skills lie and how to tap into them.

Inside today’s productivity paradox: comparing leaders’ beliefs against employee sentiments

When it comes to understanding the discrepancies between how workers and employers are viewing productivity, Microsoft’s recent study reveals key insights. Their research found that 87% of employees report being productive at work and 48% of workers are already feeling burned out. Overall, the number of meetings that employees have has climbed 153% since the start of the pandemic.

However, employers don’t see eye to eye about their people’s output levels. The same research found that 85% of leaders say that shifting to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that their workers are being productive. Only 12% fully trust that employees are getting things done efficiently.

This stark disconnect between workers and employers is fueling a new workforce epidemic: productivity paranoia. It happens when leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though the hours they work and the number of meetings they’re in have increased.

What’s really behind quiet quitting?

Stories about quiet quitting, or workers doing the bare minimum to stay employed, are undoubtedly contributing to today’s productivity paranoia. Given that Gallup reports that as much as 50% of the US workforce could be considered quiet quitters, it’s easy to understand why leaders are growing concerned about output levels.

However, some HR experts are convinced that quiet quitting is actually just a misinterpretation of employees’ needs and aspirations. As leading HR industry analyst Josh Bersin explains, “I don’t believe in this quiet quitting stuff. I think most people come to work to do something great for themselves, and for the company and their team. They just want to help. They want to know where they should spend their time.”

Rather than telling people to do more, Bersin thinks leaders need to reimagine how work is structured and allocated. “People are overworked,” he notes. “They’ve had it with the pandemic. 81% of them are burned out, 87% of them say they’re productive. So you know, they’re thinking ‘I can’t do anymore. Don’t tell me to just do more stuff.’ So we’ve gotta re-engineer how we get to this new business model and bring people with us.”

When it comes to reimaging work, shifting to skills-based practices is a strategy that holds plenty of potential. 98% of organizations indicate they want to shift towards skills-based work and 90% are actively experimenting with it. By replacing jobs with skills as the primary unit of work, leaders can move talent to high-priority projects based on their capabilities and capacities—in turn, unlocking hours and optimizing efficiency levels while putting their people into more engaging roles. But in order to make the shift to skills-based strategies, businesses must have a single source of truth for skills, which is where skills intelligence tools like Gloat’s Skills Foundation come into play.

3 ways skills intelligence tools can solve today’s productivity paradox

It’s easy to diagnose productivity paranoia—employee monitoring tools, micro-managers, and always-on cultures are tell-tale signs. However, treating it is more challenging. To bridge the efficiency disconnect that separates workers and employers, organizations must embrace skills intelligence tools to shift to skills-based strategies.

#1. It makes it easier to keep job architectures up to date
Job architectures are often the backbone of businesses, but few organizations are on top of keeping them updated. As a result, some job descriptions may not accurately reflect the scope of work that employees are responsible for, which makes it difficult for leaders to fully assess capabilities and workloads.

Rather than relying on a manual approach, skills intelligence tools make it easy to keep roles and responsibilities updated with insights from internal and external data sources. Leaders can also view suggested positions to merge and receive recommendations on trending skills that should be connected to jobs.

#2. It identifies knowledge gaps before they snowball into major problems
As the half-life of skills shrinks and new business priorities emerge rapidly, some employees may feel like they’re struggling to keep up with today’s frantic pace of change. Instead of expecting employees to learn as many new skills as quickly as possible, leaders should get strategic about their development initiatives to ensure employees are learning relevant skills. Workforce intelligence makes this possible by identifying knowledge gaps before they emerge, as well as keeping a pulse on which skills are trending or declining.

#3. It helps leaders make strategic hiring decisions
With talent shortages and tightened budgets, businesses need to ensure that every hiring decision makes an impact. All too often, leaders feel unclear about which roles they need to recruit external candidates for and which positions current employees can be upskilled to fill.

Skills intelligence tools equips executives with the data-driven insights needed to make this decision. And once they identify a role they need to hire for, workforce intelligence solutions can even present leaders with similar job descriptions and popular titles from the market to make sure their position stacks up.

To learn more about the gaps between workers and employers and how to connect the dots, download our report on workforce agility.

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