Successful Selling: Navigating the changing workplace - Dec 2019

By Sandy Smith

For many years, the American workplace was characterized by people who desired a professional career-one where they could wake up, report to work and sit in a big office at a desk in front of a computer screen every single day. Their primary goal was job stability.

Today’s workplace is comprised of a new generation of young workers, who desire challenging and engaging jobs, a purposeful life, an active community and financial stability. Those Millennials we have read so much about are now in leadership and management roles in their organizations. This younger generation of leaders is armed with technologies that will transform the workplace by 2020. According to Forrester Research, a market research company, more than 47% of executives interviewed believe that by 2020 technology will have an impact on more than half of their sales. Practically every industry is experiencing digital transformation.

There is growing evidence in some industries that we are witnessing “the death of the office.” The future workplace will be more virtual as telecommuting is on the rise. Many organizations allow their employees to work from home as technologies like Dropbox and other file sharing platforms make working mobile easier. In addition, freelancing is a fast-growing segment of the economy, as companies are relying on outsourced labor to accomplish important projects for their customers.

This new generation of leaders and managers believes that workplace culture is just as important as salary and benefits. Creating a culture of health and well-being not only attracts top talent but also retains them.

In yesterday’s world, most organizations focused on “satisfying the customer.” More recently, this phrase has been replaced with “creating positive customer experiences.” Today the major corporate trend in progressive organizations is to “create compelling employee experiences.”

Susan Peters, senior vice president of human resources at General Electric, says, “We define employee experience simply as seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected and being aware of their major milestones. In the last year, we have appointed a head of employee experience, and we are developing a strategy to create an employee experience, which takes into account the physical environment our employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity, and learning to achieve their best at work.”

In a recent TED talk, Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, made the case that most workplaces are designed for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation. She highlights how introverts are highly talented individuals with a very different set of characteristics. Progressive organizations find creative and practical ways to accommodate both introverts and extroverts in the workplace.

The Steelcase Global Report, “Engagement and the Global Workplace,” indicates that employees who have some control over where and how they work and are free to choose a workspace that fits their task at hand are more than 88% more engaged at work.

One of the most innovative organizational cultures in the world is Pixar Disney Animation Studios. In his bestselling book Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull, former president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, describes a turning point that occurred during the making of Toy Story 2.

The people at Pixar worked long hours-seven days a week over a grueling nine-month period-to complete the movie. At the end of the nine months, a third of the staff had repetitive stress injuries. On one occasion, an exhausted artist forgot to drop his infant son off at day care and left him in his car parked in the broiling Pixar parking lot for three hours. When the child was discovered, he was unconscious. Fortunately, he was revived. The incident traumatized the entire organization. It forced Pixar leaders to ask the question: what have we become?

Pixar had drifted into dangerous territory by putting the movie ahead of the well-being of its people. The incident became a wakeup call for the organization and led them to create an organizational culture of putting its people first.

While this is an extreme example, it serves to illustrate the outcome of neglect on the part of companies for its employees. Perhaps it is time to assess your company’s workplace environment, considering how you can best serve your employees, so they are best equipped to serve your customers.

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