Posted 30th October 2019

Edited from a speech delivered by Optunli Co-CEO Delia Zanatta at the Vault: Digital Workplace conference in London, 8 October 2019

We live in a digital world. Digital technology is all around us.

Take our phones, for example. We can’t put them down. They come with us wherever we go. We’re obsessed with checking the weather, the news, how many calories we’ve burned or steps we’ve walked in the last 5 minutes. All this information – all this data – right there for us to consume whenever we want it.

At home, we’re surrounded by digital tech too. Smart TVs; smart meters; smart heating and lighting; fridges that know what products you’re about to run out of and order them for you; virtual assistants like Alexa that are ready to answer your every question.

But we’re used to it. It’s part of our daily lives. We’re permanently “on”. Permanently connected. Permanently in control. We have everything we need instantly. In fact, we expect it. Millennials and Generation Z demand it.


A digital workplace?

We have all this digital tech giving us control over our home lives, but do we have that same kind of experience at work? As business leaders and individuals, do we have the data and insight we need at our fingertips to succeed or be our best? Is our work life smart and connected? The general consensus seems to be that we are still struggling with this challenge.

Let’s look at this from a business leader’s perspective first. How many of us know how many people we have in our organisations today? How many of us know how many people we’ll need in 18 months’ time, and what skills they’ll need to have?

If we don’t know the answers to these questions, how can we plan? How can we predict the future? How can we capture new markets and get ahead of our competition? How can we answer the question: do we have the right people, in the right place, at the right time? Today, and for the future.

We have plenty of data, but if we don’t have the right data and the right information about our people and where the gaps are readily available, we can’t answer these questions.

Let’s look at this from an individual’s perspective now. When people join our organisations, they’re generally invested, motivated, and ready to contribute. They want to know they have a future with us. But over time, in reality, the majority will slip slowly from our field of vision unless they’re particularly good at networking or they have a particularly good manager pushing them forward. Even then, only “if” that manager happens to know of all the different projects or job opportunities within the organisation, and all of the different possible career paths. That’s arguably nigh-on impossible in organisations over a certain size.

So, the majority of our people become invisible to us. How demotivating is that for those who, either right now, or with a little support, training, or development, would have and could have grabbed an opportunity with both hands that would have been ideal for them?


People learn to leave an organisation to move up in their career

Let’s let that sink in a little. It’s true, isn’t it?

LinkedIn announced recently that over 80% of people find their next role externally, having spent only 2-3 years on average with a company.

We’ve brought them on board, at great cost, developed them, nurtured their talent, and now when they’re ready and keen to give more… and they’re leaving.

If only we’d been able to see them, their potential, and their ambition. If only they’d been able to make themselves visible and tell their employers what a perfect fit they would have been for particular opportunities or career paths.

So, not only do we end up with a demotivated workforce who feel invisible, undervalued, and unfulfilled, but we also end up with the unnecessary cost of recruitment and time to get new people up to speed. We lose good people to our competitors for no good reason other than, well, we couldn’t see them. We didn’t know they existed, we didn’t know they had those skills, and we didn’t know they had that ambition, that passion, or that motivation.

It’s no wonder that according to Gallup, 87% of people worldwide are not engaged at work. Believe these stats or not – and of course it’s different in every organisation – but either way, intuitively, we know that the figures are too high. This isn’t really working. From either side’s perspective.

As business leaders, we need smart data at our fingertips that helps us to plan and to predict the future. We need to know who we’ve got and what they’re capable of; where the gaps are and how we could fill them.

As individuals, we want control over our careers. The chance to make ourselves visible. To explore options. To be proactive, not passive. To say what’s important to us as individuals.


What is important to us as individuals?

Everyone is different. What’s important to one person isn’t necessarily important to someone else. For me, it might be salary, or the opportunity to work flexibly. For you, it might be a shorter commute, the chance to use or develop a particular skill, or to not be pigeon-holed just because a certain job title is on your CV.

How can we as business leaders create the right individual employee experience if we don’t know what each individual wants and needs? If we don’t know what’s going to drive them, excite them, and motivate them?

That’s the missing bit isn’t it? But whilst these are big and fundamental questions, how you can answer them is simpler than you might think.


Digital technology has created an opportunity for us

By leveraging technology in the right way, you can build an employee experience where everyone feels listened to, valued, understood, appreciated, and happy in themselves and in their work.

Individuals can make themselves visible by telling you exactly what they are capable of, what skills they have, how they want to develop, what’s important to them, and therefore what motivates them.

Then by making your opportunities visible to your people, you can both see how the two fit together, and what the gaps are between where you are today and where you want to get to in the future. As a result of this, rather than looking externally for their next role, your people will be able to see a future within the organisation based not only on what it needs, but what they need and what is important to them.

If you then roll all of that amazing, rich data about your people, as individuals, up to the corporate level, that’s the unprecedented insight. The ability to understand what your total current capability is, and your future potential. Where your commercial and delivery risks are and your options to address them in real time. What motivates your organisation at a collective as well as an individual level so you can see which HR policies will be effective. Where your flight risks are so you can do something about it before the exit interview.

This is the visibility, the insight, and the confidence we need as business leaders to capture new markets and get ahead of the competition.

That amazing, rich data is available to you now via the Optunli platform. Talent management done with your people, not to your people. Now that’s a fresh perspective…

Teresa Fox
Post author:Teresa Fox

Teresa Fox is a Co-CEO and Founder of Optunli.

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