Productivity spiked at the beginning of the pandemic and has all but crashed since then. On episode #41 of High Growth Matters, we spoke with Edie Goldberg, Ph.D. about how we can restore employee engagement and productivity to record levels.
Edie is a nationally recognized expert in talent management and the future of work. For 20 years, her practice, E. L. Goldberg & Associates, has partnered with clients in all industries spanning the Fortune 100 and hyper growth startups to design HR processes & programs. Prior, Edie was a global thought leader in the human capital practice at Towers Perrin. She serves as board chair for the SHRM Foundation and is on the Board of Advisors for three HR tech companies.
Adapted from our podcast conversation, this article covers:
- Driving forces behind plummeting productivity
- Internal talent mobility as a potential antidote
- Closing the talent gap with technology
- A new definition for the future of work
To hear the full episode, visit this page, or subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Driving forces behind plummeting productivity
At the beginning of the pandemic, life slowed down — everyone went home and there was little to be done outside of working at home. Productivity hit record levels for awhile, but as the pandemic progressed, and the world opened back up, productivity dropped.
According to Edie, flagging productivity can’t be remedied with a one-size-fits-all solution. A multifaceted approach is necessary to address root causes to improve productivity levels.
“One reason for the drop in productivity is really stress and burnout,” Edie says. “People aren’t taking a step away to take the time they need for themselves.”
In addition to burnout, companies have difficulty accessing the talent they need to execute their business strategy. This is a two-fold problem. First, there are simply more jobs available than we have unemployed people. Second, the people available for work don’t have the skills required to perform many of the open positions.
“As technologies and needed skills shift really quickly, companies can't access the specific skills they need,” Edie says.
Ultimately, businesses must better match talent and leverage technology to regain efficiency in their workforce. And according to Edie, hope resides in an important first step: Assessing potential areas of innovation outside of existing systems and practices. With this approach, the future of work carries the promise of unforeseen levels of employee productivity.
Internal talent mobility and technology as potential antidotes
In her book The Inside Gig, Edie explores the importance of internal talent mobility. Traditionally, this concept implies moving an employee into a completely new role as a learning experience. However, Edie broadens the idea in a more novel and arguably more evolved way.
“Rather than having to leave their jobs to get a new experience that helps grow new skills, internal talent mobility can mean employees simply making room for a project that's outside their day-to-day responsibilities,” Edie says. “They can work on a project that exposes them to new technologies and experiences, to learn and grow, or explore career opportunities.”
With this more adaptive, flexible approach, says Edie, employees can grow their skill sets, contribute broader value to the business, and participate in things they’re passionate about.
“If we let people leverage their skills, experiences, passions and interests — really bring their whole selves to work — we can unlock and unleash a great amount of productivity within the organization,” Edie says.
Closing the talent gap with technology
Productivity cannot truly be addressed until the talent gap is closed. But how can we get the right people in the right seats when technology and systems move so quickly?
One promising solution, says Edie: technology.
We needn’t fear robots will take our jobs. Rather, technology can be leveraged to enable working people to maximize their skills, offload basic tasks, and focus on things that interest them and push their work forward.
“The future of work involves a world of better, different work,” Edie says. “The ability to gather information in that world is fundamentally different, but it still requires human creativity to assemble, fact-check, and uplevel information.”
Creating a World of Work that Works for All
Bridging the talent gap, says Edie, also involves new strategies for finding and supporting the employees that make our organizations work. As Board Chair for the SHRM Foundation, Edie is proud of the main areas of focus of their work, and how they positively impact workers and workplaces. The SHRM Foundation has three main bodies of work.
Workplace mental health. By creating a healthier, safer workplace where mental health and wellness are destigmatized, says Edie, employees can do their best work and enjoy themselves while doing so. Employee engagement and retention tend to follow.
Diversifying the HR profession. By increasing diversity in the HR profession, the human resource function will continue to expand its business impact and influence.
Widening pathways to talent. New pathways are needed to access talent. “We have several programs helping HR professionals widen their aperture to talent, specifically around helping them to understand how to successfully hire and retain veterans, people with disabilities, older workers, and people who were previously incarcerated,” Edie says.
Skills-based hiring is a special new initiative that supports widening pathways to talent. Many people may have lacked the means or opportunity to achieve a four-year degree have pursued skills certification to obtain the specific, in-demand skills. HR professionals will do well to develop new strategies to consider, hire, train, and empower underrepresented groups with untapped potential.
Did you enjoy the content? Listen to the full High Growth Matters episode.