The Cyclical Nature of Redesigning Work
We might hear “redesigning work” frequently since the pandemic, but do you know that redesigning work has been a hot topic among companies for a long time? Technology always becomes a must-to-discuss topic related to redesigning work. Meanwhile, there are various aspects that we can look up to prepare, such as people, organization, etc. If we take a closer look, this redesigning work makes us more aware of the role of humans and their surroundings, which continue to evolve and are interrelated. That is why redesigning work must be done regularly, not because of a critical incident. At this time, we are not just talking about technology, but we will also talk about another aspect that we have to pay attention to when redesigning work and the correlation between them.
Since the industrial revolution 4.0, there has been a process of manufacturing and engineering revolution throughout the world, in which systems have begun to transform into cyber-physical systems such as the internet, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and many other things (Li, 2018, 2020; Xu et al., 2018; Li & Zhou, 2020; Xu et al., 2014). Workforce, capital, and technology are the 3 big components that contributed to the industrial revolution which happened before. Now, the world is entering the fifth industrial revolution which requires a lot of development or even re-planning, especially in the workforce setting. The thing that needs to be highlighted is that redesigning work does not only occur due to mass and critical incidents. If examined further, redesigning work has been around for a long time since people started to consider how important change is to keep up with the times.
Work design began to be discussed by eminent scholars who have identified work design theory as a result of the organizational theory, which is simultaneously valid, meaningful, and useful (Miner, 2003). The stage for work design research was set by economic perspectives on the efficiencies of specialization and division of labor (Babbage, 1835; Smith, 1776). Early in the twentieth century, Taylor’s (1911) time-and-motion studies in scientific management work design described how jobs, tasks, and roles are structured, enacted, and modified, as well as the impact of these structures, enactments, and modifications on an individual, group, and organizational outcomes.
The work design theory has helped practitioners and scientists describe, explain and change employee experiences and behavior for more than 40 years (Hackman & Oldham, 1976 on Grant & Parker, 2009). Work design shows the results of behavior changes such as performance, turnover, and absenteeism (Fried & Ferries, 1987; Hackman & Oldham, 1976 on Grant & Parker, 2009) as psychological outcomes such as stress, job satisfaction, or physical outcomes for employees. However, the term redesigning work is heard more often after the pandemic or crisis that occurred globally in 2020 and according to changes in all aspects of human life.
The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020 has resulted in many impacts and changes throughout the world. To stop its spread, humans are required to keep their distance from each other and carry out self-quarantine. Many human behaviors have changed because of this condition, including the shift from things that are usually done offline to online, such as shopping, studying, and entertainment to work (Vargo, Zhu, Benwell, & Yan., 2020). In terms of work, companies are changing the work system by utilizing technology such as teleconferencing applications. Though the relationship between humans and technology has actually been documented for a long time, a global pandemic has made its usage even more massive and extensive (see more in ASIC Quarterly 2nd Edition → bit.ly/ASIC-Quarterly-Volume-2)
The process of changing this work system certainly has an impact on how the company can provide adequate facilities for its employees. In October 2020 and January 2021, the World Bank (2021) noted that 34% of firms have increased the use of the internet, social media, and digital platforms. In addition to increasing usage, 17% of companies have invested in new equipment, software, or digital solutions. This data shows that there are efforts to improve work systems towards digitalization and online due to the demands of the pandemic situation. However, is it only technology that needs to be enhanced when the work system changes? Of course not; there are many other factors that are also affected by this condition. A mature thought process is needed to determine what is required in repairing or rebuilding the company.
Re-planning or redesigning work needs to be done regularly, and there is no need to wait for a crisis to come to do it. However, what exactly is the critical point for the company to redesign work? Is it because the surrounding environment continues to move forward with its innovations, so companies have to try to catch up with that renewal? Are humans actually moving forward with dynamic needs that are increasing every time? Are humans and the environment always interrelated, resulting in them developing simultaneously, thus redesigning work become necessary? These questions are essential as a basis for companies to re-plan. This can help them find the true purpose behind the redesigning work when the global crisis is not happening but is really needed to improve themselves both organizationally and individually for the employees who work in it.
The design process begins with a deep understanding of the company’s jobs and productive capabilities, people, their needs and experiences, networks, and how knowledge flows (Gratton, 2021). Without this deep understanding, there’s a risk that many of the new processes that come up now will be viewed as a fad in a few years and be either buried or abandoned. If this happens, of course, redesigning work will not be able to increase company productivity as initially intended, and it will only be a waste of time.
Redesigning work will require cross-functional teams representing a range of perspectives, including business operations, human resources, technology, and workforce planning. They will evaluate the existing job roles through internal data gathering and external market research and refining work options based on feedback from stakeholders, including leaders and employees. Gratton (2022) explained that there are four steps to redesigning work, and it’s formed a cycle and always happens around the workplace (figure 2. The four-step process for redesigning work).
Based on the four key facets of organizational strategy and structure, processes and tasks, technology, and people can be considered (EY, 2021). This structured approach is critical to the effectiveness of job redesign efforts, given the interdependence of the four facets. From this, it can be seen that one of the parties that need to be prioritized when considering redesigning work is the people who work in the company. Even when companies decide to use increasingly sophisticated technology, they still need human resources to run it. If outlined, new technologies help increase the speed of innovation and collaboration, machines will enable digital innovation, and the main driver of this innovation will be people within the company.
From a people perspective, businesses need to consider and address challenges in finding the right talent to perform newly configured jobs. Upskilling or reskilling to handle different tasks resulting from job redesign is critical to close any skill gaps and enhance the business value of job roles. Where appropriate, jobs should also be redesigned to better harness the capabilities and potential of existing employees, such as making jobs more age-friendly (Goh, 2021). Losing key team members is costly and inconvenient in any way we look at it. When the company’s best people leave, it can disrupt its flow. Worse, when they move to our competitor, they beef up their side while creating a vacuum in yours and weakening your team. Then, what kind of improvement does the company make while redesigning work from the manpower side?
a. Side of Work: Wellness and Work-Family Balanced has a point
One of the considerations for employees to choose where and how to work is that the company can help their employees stay healthy. Employees tend to work optimally if their physical and mental health is maintained properly. When employees work so hard that their health is compromised, their bodies will not be able to withstand the workload, and they eventually decide to leave the company. Providing programs guaranteeing employees’ health makes it something we can avoid. According to one study in America, 45% of Americans choose to stay in their jobs when their companies provide programs that support employee welfare.
Without any support for welfare needs, workers lose their drive to work, feel bored and unable to complete challenging tasks, and even look for a new work environment and leave the company, which can make a much more significant loss.
Companies are also starting to consider creating a health program as an activity that focuses on individual change and may become a target for drafting regulations that support healthy behavior in the office environment. Healthier employees are more productive, take fewer sick and disability days, and are at a lower risk for many serious health problems (Phillips & Gully, 2014).
Changes in the atmosphere at work, which was initially in a public place such as an office but had to move to a more private place (e.g., home), certainly has a significant impact on work. One of them is making professional and personal relationships without clear boundaries because they work around the people closest to them. When workers in these conditions make decisions, they have to pay attention to the people around them, whether it can interfere or can actually make the situation very helpful. Therefore, companies often have to understand the needs of workers both for office and personal needs. The balance between these two things is often known as work-life balance.
From the IDN Times 2022 research report, 70% of Indonesian Millennials say that it is important for them to have a work-life balance, with “a healthy work environment” being the most searched keyword from 2020 to 2021 (IDN Times Report, 2022). Work-life balance was first introduced in the early nineteenth century after a long campaign by workers against long working hours in factories (Hogarth & Bosworth, 2019), and this continues today. This concept continues to develop yearly, along with the understanding and aspects considered.
According to Greenhaus et al. (2003) in Brough et al. (2020), work- life balance is defined as “the extent to which an individual is engaged in and is equally satisfied with his or her work role and family role.” by using the equality approach. Meanwhile, Timms et al. (2015) portrayed work-life balance in terms of complementarity rather than compatibility of domains, suggesting that the experience of multiple roles can enhance an individual’s overall well- being. At this time, the term WLB is also known as Work-Non-Work Balanced to reach a broader range of individuals, Casper et al. (2018) identified three subjective balance domains previously not acknowledged by researchers: affect (emotional), effectiveness (sense of success), and involvement (level of— engagement) as instrumental in contributing to individuals’ sense of balance between their work and non- work domains.
From this, we can see that the company paying attention to the balance between work and family of its employees will benefit the company itself. Employees with sufficient time for their personal lives are reported to have high job satisfaction. As a result, the company’s resignation rate has decreased (Costa et al., 2020). Employees are also proven to be more motivated, and their productivity increases with a good work- life balance (Alfatihah et al., 2021).
Even though it looks difficult to achieve a work-life balance, several researchers and professionals have conducted studies that it is possible to achieve it. According to McCormack & Niehoff (2019), improving workplace conditions can be one of the ways to increase job satisfaction and be closer to work-life balance. Sometimes, the balance will shift toward work or personal life, but the point is to be aware of employees’ feelings about both. Several ways to improve working conditions include creating a healthy, inclusive work environment and providing recognition for employee achievements.
Creating a healthy work environment is certainly not easy, as many supporting factors must be considered in making it happen. Workplace diversity and inclusiveness help companies gain access to desired in-demand capabilities. In addition, broad diversity also brings a much wider variety of views and creates greater possibilities for innovation. Giving recognition to employees can also increase productivity and resilience at work because it will provide a strong message about the hard work that has been done while in the company. This recognition can be in the form of bonuses, salary increases, gift packages, or certificates of appreciation which show that the hard work done by employees is noticed by the company.
Communication is also an important thing that needs to be established when creating a comfortable work environment among employees. The exchange of ideas that are well communicated will create space for growth among employees and generate innovations that can help the company’s productivity. These ideas can be suggestions, goals, regulations, or even practical things employees go through daily. Companies must create an environment in which employees think they have the potential to contribute and face challenges. This open communication will make the flow of delivery better. Employees also become more open about what they feel while working, which helps the company know about its employees better to better meet their needs.
b. Upskilling faster than machines
Job redesign is also required when processes need to be simplified to increase productivity and effectiveness through automation or digitalization. This includes low-value tasks but uses up a lot of time and resources. New technologies certainly offer digitization opportunities that enable faster and more resilient processes by improving how things work or driving a better customer and employee experience. However, this increased use of technology has also affected job roles, which require employees to learn new skills to keep up with the latest technology.
The profound effects of technological progress on the world economy, taken together with globalization and demographic change, have led to a pressing societal problem: how to equip people with the skills they need to participate in the economy. The World Economic Forum projected in its Future of Jobs Report 2020 that half of all employees worldwide would need reskilling by 2025 (Schwab & Zahidi, 2020).
It is estimated that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be replaced by machines (Schwab & Zahidi, 2020). Many new skills are increasingly needed to survive the onslaught of society’s digitalization. As people get a sense of how their job might change, they will emphasize work and organizations that enable them to upskill as part of their current job. Those who believe their job will change will look to the organization to support them to reskill and move to a completely different job. So, as people understand the extent to which automation will transform their work, they will be particularly interested in the capacity of the business to support them in learning, navigating their careers, and certifying their skills.
By giving people opportunities to develop their skills, they will need to participate fully in the workplace and ought to create more inclusive or sustainable economies. By investing in employees in upskilling, companies not only build employee capacity for growth but also accelerate better employee experience. This is very helpful for companies, whereas the phenomenon of resignation has occurred en masse recently in several places so that the positive experience experienced by employees can be one of the efforts to retain them. The 2021 EY Work Reimagined Employee Survey found that employees ranked online or virtual learning as their top learning and development focus. Concurrently, almost two-thirds (64%) of employers are looking to strengthen virtual learning (EY, 2022).
Life-long learning is becoming a reality. New skills and technologies have been introduced much faster than a decade ago and have become something we need to consider. Respondents to the Future of Jobs Survey estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling for six months. Half of the workforce will need to reskill in the next five years as the double disruption of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasing automation transforms jobs (Whiting, 2020). Supporting workers in their increased skills requirements may be a different approach for employees to meet their work challenges. On the other hand, when companies don’t think about the challenges of digital disruption that employees may experience, there is a high possibility of a decline in the company’s own performance.
Based on the two points of the explanation above, it can be seen that humans and their surroundings will always be related to one another. In this case, when companies need change to obtain maximum results, they will need innovations such as automation and digitalization. Moreover, they also need manpower to make it happen possible to do. This manpower can be obtained from talented resources who are always allowed to improve their abilities in line with physical and mental health, which is always maintained in its implementation. This increased capability will help people continue to innovate and survive amidst any challenges, including periodic changes.
There is a phrase that says that “our people are our greatest asset” in the company, which shows the importance of the role of people in the company’s sustainability. Merely improving technology without increasing employee capacity does not solve existing problems. Companies need a new approach and work attitude in every job of their employees. Companies can provide mentors and training opportunities or allocate funds for one-on-one training. Not only upskilling the employee but giving attention to the employee’s well-being is also crucial at this point. By giving them the opportunity and space to grow, they can find the best version of themselves while maintaining their health, both physically and mentally. (FYT)
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