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The overwhelmed worker needs to be a top priority for business leaders: Deloitte survey

Survey reveals that 24/7 work environment impacts productivity

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25 August 2014: Organisations not ready to address the striking shift in employee expectations, face potential retention and leadership crises, according to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 survey of over 2,500 business and human resource (HR) leaders.

The survey results highlight that information overload and the always connected, 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity, and contributing to low employee engagement. More than one-third (34 per cent) of business leaders rate this issue among their top five priorities, and fewer than one in ten believe they are dealing with it effectively.

“HR departments have an opportunity to lead efforts to manage pervasive communications practices that tend to overwhelm employees, simplify the work environment, create more flexible work standards, and teach managers and workers how to prioritise workloads,” said David Brown, Deloitte Australia’s Human Capital Leader.

“The point of these and similar efforts is not merely to save employees’ time, reduce stress, and foster employee engagement, even though these aims are important. Rather, it is to free up unproductive time to allow more engaged employees to really focus on business priorities.”

More than half of survey respondents believe their organisations are not doing a good job helping workers address information overload in today’s demanding work environment. And nearly six in ten (57 per cent) say their organisations are “weak” when it comes to helping leaders manage difficult schedules and helping employees manage information.

“One strategy organisations are following to help employees become more productive with their time is creating smaller, more agile teams and looking at ways to outsource or insource repetitive, non-core tasks to free up employee time and energy,” concluded Mr Brown.

They can do this by:

  • Leading through example: Change is often most powerful when it comes from the top
  • Seeking input: Assess employees’ current workloads and what issues trouble them most. Rather than ask high-level engagement questions, survey them on their most “frustrating” work practices or systems
    Simplify HR and talent programs: Reduce the number of steps and make it possible to complete an entire process in a few minutes
  • Simplify information and HR systems: Consolidate HR and employee find information, people, and content systems in one integrated place
  • Publicise and celebrate flexible work policies: Trusted employees need to know that it is sometimes OK to work at home, take time off during the day, and miss meetings
  • Make meetings productive: Post guiding principles in every meeting location to encourage effective meetings and to help reduce the size of meetings, number of emails, and frequency of communication
  • Delegate decision making: Is it clear who makes decisions in a particular work group? Can those people make their own decisions without involving many others or asking others for help?

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