Crystal Gaze 2021: Predictions by Ben Waber, President at Humanyze
Today’s Crystal Gaze interview features Dr. Ben Waber, Co-founder and President of Humanyze. The COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses to look beyond productivity and profitability of their human resources. Due to the lockdown scenario, a majority of the organizations have begun using People Analytics and Human workplace performance and engagement measurement tools. Many companies have been in limbo this year when it comes to where employees work, so for 2021 these organizations are now experimenting with “return to the office” strategies to figure out how employees can be most productive, engaged, and collaborative.
To give you a sense of what is to come with the workplace next year, I’m sharing predictions for 2021 from Ben Waber, President of Humanyze, which is a workplace analytics company.
Tell us how organizations can improve their work strategies in 2021.
Organizations will rely on data-backed strategies versus gut decisions to properly inform back to work strategy.
“In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of companies choose not to use data to make decisions about whether–or when–to return to the office, and instead rely on gut instinct. Doing so can be a gamble regarding how well employees will perform based on this initial reaction. For instance, many companies are picking an estimated ‘safe date’ to go back to the office out of thin air, without using data to take into account engagement, productivity, and organizational adaptability. The decision about where to work should not be about introducing a singular, widespread policy across a company, it should be based on the needs of each job. A person in accounting may be able to work from home productively, but someone in engineering could need resources and collaboration in the office. So, examining an organization’s existing data can show what each job’s needs are, over making a guess. Those companies that invest in a data-driven back-to-work strategy will outperform those who don’t in the long run.”
How would these challenges and events affect performance of new employees?
New employees will continue to struggle if organizations don’t adapt their onboarding strategies to help immediate collaboration and engagement.
“One aspect of the workplace that I expect to see suffer in 2021 is companies’ existing onboarding strategies. In my research at Humanyze, we’ve found that since the pandemic, people collaborate as much as 12% more with their “strong relationships” in the workplace, over weak ones. This means that employees are communicating more with their close co-workers via apps and collaboration tools, but have virtually no connection with the people they would pass in the hallway, at the break room or at company social events.
For new employees with no strong relationships, this can be a challenge. In 2021, I’d challenge HR and onboarding leaders to re-imagine their onboarding strategy to meet the challenge of better integration of new employees. The companies that fail to do this will have medium- to long-term problems with corporate culture, employee performance and satisfaction, and collaboration.”
What kind of risks should the business leaders take?
Business leaders will take risks and make the leap to determine the right business strategy.
“The pandemic has uprooted the core operating principles of nearly every business. The ones that are currently surviving – or even gaining traction – are the ones that are re-thinking the way they did things before. I’d argue that now is the time for business leaders to take a critical look at the way their company is structured, even if it means taking risks that seem uncertain or scary. I’d expect to see company leaders re-evaluating things like the collaboration technologies they use (such as Slack or Microsoft Teams), restructuring teams, taking a hard look at the value of various office locations and reviewing internal processes.
The important thing that will help these changes be successful is to base them in that company’s unique data, rather than gut instinct, or worse – looking to trends that work for other companies. By looking at trends within your organization, leaders can make effective decisions that will ultimately benefit financially or operationally, resulting in the company coming out of the pandemic stronger than before.”
Thank you, Ben! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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Ben Waber is a President at Humanyze
Humanyze is a world leader in understanding team dynamics and work patterns. With over 10 years of research into organization network analysis and behavioral science, led by leaders in the world of social physics and graduates of the MIT Media Lab, we help companies understand how work gets done. Humanyze counts with a global presence spanning the US, Europe, and Asia, and we are on a mission to improve the future of work.