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June 16th 2015, by Harold Coenders

Power of productivity

Transition form The New Way of Working to Working Productively

Companies scramble to reduce costs as their first reflex during economic downturns. Many multinationals have managed to salvage their profits in recent years by taking such measures. Companies cannot reduce costs ad infinitum, however. They will once again have to find ways to boost productivity to emerge from the crisis at a competitive fighting weight. To this end, The New Way of Working will need to be transformed into Working Productively: no longer an emphasis on Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour, but on Promotors, Productivity and Performance.

The New Way of Working, a development that involves a transition from facilitating workplaces to facilitating work, has undergone accelerated implementation ever since the financial crisis struck in 2008. In this process, Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour served as the foundation for working independently of place and time. Of the three, Bricks offered the greatest savings, because The New Way of Working resulted in decreased demand for workstations and office space. The average occupancy rate in office buildings in the Netherlands is 45%, which presents opportunities for further improvements. The business community and the government grabbed the bull by the horns during the financial crisis and quickly embraced The New Way of Working as a means to reduce costs. The result is reflected in the record vacancy rates in office buildings throughout the Netherlands (Het Financieele Dagblad put the figure at 14.6% in May 2013), the concealed vacancies in leased office space (Het Financieele Dagblad, May 2013: 12.4%) and the most pronounced decrease in facilities costs in all of Europe (Het Financieele Dagblad, November 2013: decrease of 6%). The mean reduction in facilities costs in the European Occupiers Cost Index is 3%, which is only half of the Dutch figure (Het Financieele Dagblad, October 2013).

From input factors: Bricks, Bytes, Behaviour…

The New Way of Working is starting to lose its lustre, partly due to the obsession with accommodation and cost savings, and a lack of emphasis on yields. The philosophy has only itself to blame due to its one-sided focus on Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour. These three B’s represent input factors based on labour, and are not oriented toward results. As building blocks in The New Way of Working projects, accommodation, IT and HRM are only indicative of the success of the project itself, and not of the added value for the organization in terms of productivity.

In this sense, the critics of The New Way of Working are correct. The philosophy has a strong internal focus on how we perform our work, while the future situation will require us to emphasize how and where we will perform our work to maximize productivity and business results. The New Way of Working should no longer focus only on facilitating work, but especially on facilitating results and competitiveness. ‘Where and how can the organization perform its most productive work?’ This is a proper approach for ensuring that business results serve as a guide for working practices. output factors: Promotors, People and Performance

In 2014 The New Way of Working became more High-Performance Working. The focus shifted from the input factors of Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour to the output factors of Promotors, People and Performance.

  • Promotors: the employees who actually implement the new way of working and promote the corporate identity to strengthen the organization and its competitive position on the labour market. This requires integration of marketing parameters such as the Net Promoter Score in tackling new working methods.
  • People: personal productivity is key to enhanced organizational performance. The New Way of Working has been implemented in many organizations as a one-size-fits-all concept with no scope for individual work styles. High-Performance Working is focused on monitoring and facilitating this kind of personal productivity, not as a means of control but issuing from the employee’s own sense of professionalism and commitment. The Quantified Self movement and its technical developments are making this possible. The challenge for HRM is to embrace this technology and to implement it wisely to provide focussed support to individual employees and teams.
  • Performance: design IT systems and working environments based on factors that truly make people and processes more productive. A productivity-driven design is paramount rather than a cost-driven design. This means applying novel design techniques that make use of social forecasting, swarm intelligence and social valuation.