HRHeadStart #15: Managing Frontline Employees; Expanding Brainpower; Industry Trends
The Talent Agenda
Much has been written about changing work models during and after the pandemic and particularly so for knowledge workers. But there's also a segment of the workforce - an estimated 2 billion of them - that never really worked remotely. Even as the pandemic wreaked havoc, frontliners kept our world moving. Apart from feeling immensely grateful to them, I almost feel that many of these jobs are way too undervalued vis-a-vis the value they create. As we experience the Great Resignation, it is clearly altering the supply curve of this workforce segment. Record numbers of workers, including frontliners, have quit their jobs or work altogether and this will likely result in new wage equilibriums over time.
Microsoft's latest research shines a light on how frontliners are experiencing work. Here's a quick summary:
1) A culture of caring is the new currency on the frontline: Seventy-six percent of workers feel bonded to each other, yet over 60 percent say their company could do more to prioritize culture and communication from the top. In addition, 51 percent of those in non-management positions on the frontline don’t feel valued as employees.
2) Frontline workers are at an inflection point: Amid the Great Reshuffle, frontline workers cite better pay and benefits, work-life balance, and flexibility as reasons for considering a job change.
3) Optimism for tech is high: Sixty-three percent of frontline workers are excited about the job opportunities technology creates, and technology ranks third on the list of factors that workers say could help reduce workplace stress.
4) There’s an opportunity to bridge the tech and training gap: Forty-six percent of frontline workers feel pressure to adapt to new technology over fear of losing their jobs—and 55 percent say they’ve had to learn new tech on the fly, with no formal training or practice.
A common metaphor for our brains is a computer. The brain is seen as a self-sufficient "box" complete with all the hardware and software required to do the hard work of serious thinking. An inherent assumption of that metaphor is that the brain has limited computational or thinking power, unless its hardware or software gets a serious update. But how do we maximize the use and effectiveness of brain's powers? I recently read the book "The Extended Mind" by Annie Murphy Paul and it talks about how we can extend the brain's powers by thinking with our body, physical environments and with other people. A lot of it resonates well as I often find myself doing my best thinking when I am in distraction-free natural environments, walking and when I have a chance to visualise my thinking. I highly recommend the book or you can breeze through the summary.
A Productive Workout
The pandemic has shifted so many things in our daily lives, including our shopping lists! Here's a great set of visualisations using Google Trends about how shopping interests are changing over the course of the pandemic. There are "normal" products where search interest is unaffected by the pandemic (largely consumer staples), "unusual" products where search interest rose sharply but has returned to normal (fitness equipment, toilet paper, gardening etc.) and "new normal" products where search interest increased during the pandemic and is sustained (pet supplies, loungewear, grills etc.) Enjoy exploring! This might also be a good starting point for analysing trends in the industry you work in or aspire to work in.
The value and nature of an opportunity depends on how you treat it. With hard work, an opportunity can change your life. Without effort, good luck turns into nothing. Opportunity can come knocking on the door, but the results will not walk through the door on their own.