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It’s tough out there in the corporate jungle. And often a company’s survival depends on the strength of its people. That puts a lot of pressure on business leaders to make the right staffing decisions—finding qualified talent, developing strategies to keep productivity up, making sure their teams have the right competencies to stay relevant and competitive in their industry.
But competition for the best people is fierce, and economic, technological, and political changes are constantly shifting the business landscape. The results of the 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey highlight the reality of this struggle: 65 percent of CIOs worldwide think a lack of talent will prevent their organization from keeping up with the pace of change.
As Bill Gates has said, “The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.”
How to find that edge—and how remote work structures and policies can help you get there—is something we’ve studied a lot over the past year, especially when it comes to staffing and managing qualified tech teams.
We wanted to share some of the highlights from the research studies and developments we looked at in the areas of hiring and human resources, productivity, big data, and more.
What We Learned in 2016
We've been thinking about hiring from the wrong perspective.
Most hiring initiatives focus on recruiting impressive individuals. Even when most would admit that there’s so such thing as a perfect hire, many hiring methods still revolve around the idea of the “unicorn” candidate—finding that perfect person with the perfect combination of skills who will fit right into your company and magically make your business goals materialize.
And while candidates with a resume of relevant skills and a track record of accomplishments can certainly add value to your company, there’s only one problem with this approach: it doesn’t take into account the reality that’s it’s not an individual who can “do it all” that has the most potential to help your business achieve more—it’s an effective team.
In fact, while studies indicate that top-performing individuals are usually around 10 times more productive than average, top-performing teams can be up to 2,000 times more productive. To put it in perspective, work that a fast team could complete in one week might take the slowest team 2,000 weeks.
If businesses were to shift their focus to staffing scalable, high-skill teams of individuals who each offer a blend of character traits and abilities that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, rather than betting everything on a single person with limited potential, what could they achieve?
We've also been doing hiring the wrong way.
Traditional hiring assessments like interviews and resumes have been in use in one form or another for centuries. Tradition has it that Leonardo da Vinci invented the resume to make a record of his own formidable skill set and accomplishments.
However, just because something has become customary doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to do things. In 2016, 40 percent of employers worldwide reported difficulty filling open positions. Statistics like this one should give us pause: maybe some of our long-standing hiring practices aren’t doing managers any favors in finding qualified candidates.
It's common knowledge that resumes are frequently embellished and interview results are subject to human error and bias—yet these remain the foundation of most hiring methodologies. So if these assessments don’t necessarily offer an accurate view of candidates, particularly when it comes to predicting job performance, what’s the alternative? The Harvard Business Review points out that the best solution may be the last thing many managers check off their hiring to-do list: testing.
Skill testing or work sample tests that resemble the tasks candidates would be doing on the job have been shown to be the best predictor of job performance—even compared to traditionally emphasized qualifications like years of work experience or unstructured interview results.
People aren't very productive at work.
We’ve all wasted time at work: lingering a little too long in the break room, getting distracted online. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a widespread problem—one that comes with hefty costs (by some estimates, nearly $600 billion a year in the U.S. alone).
One survey by Microsoft puts this epidemic of wasted time in more personal terms: worldwide, workers average only three productive days per week.
But there is a solution to this issue that far too few business are taking advantage of: data-driven initiatives that power continuous performance improvements. Michael Schrage, author and research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, puts it this way in the Harvard Business Review: “If you’re not collecting productivity data, you’ll never succeed at work.”
In the workplace, data analytics have been linked to productivity gains, better customer service outcomes, increased employee retention, and improvements in other key business metrics. But according to a survey by management consulting firm Bain & Company, only 4% of companies make good use of data analytics—leveraging the right combination of people, tools, and data with the intent to drive improvements.
So obviously there’s a lot of untapped potential in this area to encourage workers to be more aware of how they’re spending their time. Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of people operations, told The New York Times:
“One of the applications of Big Data is giving people the facts, and getting them to understand that their own decision-making is not perfect. And that in itself causes them to change their behavior.”
Both managers and workers can benefit from a data-driven sidekick to keep track of time spent on various activities, project progress, goals met, and other metrics. Check out our list of five time-tracking apps for some recommendations.
The time to prepare for the future of work is now.
There’s been a lot of hand-wringing, particularly in the tech industry, about the difficulties in staffing qualified, highly skilled candidates. Is there a tech talent shortage? Is there a dearth of accessible technical education? Are businesses too focused on hiring candidates out of Silicon Valley or certain top-tier universities? The debate rages on, but what is clear is that several issues exacerbate the staffing struggle:
- Hiring is too localized, and the best talent isn’t determined by geography (Further reading: Your Next Great Hire is Halfway Across the World. What Do You Do?)
- Women and minorities are passed over for tech positions far too often (Further reading: Women in Tech: Why So Few?)
- Remote and flexible business models are the future of work, but many companies still cling to outdated processes and structures (Further reading: Remote Work Is the Future: 9 Ways to Know Your Company Is Ready)
The shift toward flexible work models is perhaps one of the biggest changes to hit the workplace in recent years, and businesses that don’t recognize the need to evolve risk getting left behind by more agile competitors.
But all the hype over remote work isn’t just a trend. Recent statistics reveal how widespread it has become and points to continued growth:
- As of 2012, one in five workers worldwide were telecommuting frequently. (Reuters)
- Work-life balance ranked as the #1 contributor to job satisfaction worldwide in 2016. (Indeed Hiring Lab)
- Business executives at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit forecasted that half to three-quarters of their full-time employees would be working remotely by 2020. (London Business School)
While implementing remote and flexible work policies might seem like a move that is primarily a nice perk for employees, it also offers significant benefits for organizations. Not only do agile talent and work environments enable greater responsiveness, adaptivity, and scalability—critical in the digital economy—but multiple studies have demonstrated that location-independent workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts.
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