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5 Reasons To Kill The Work-Life Balance Myth

Meghan M. Biro

Work or life? Nope. There’s no such thing as either/or. The work-life duality is a fallacy. One way or another, we all know, deep down, that it’s simply not a functional construct, particularly in 2016. Here are five reasons why.

1. Passion is seamless

If we’re engaged in our work, we’re working from our passion — and passion is a key driver of success. It also means you don’t want to disconnect from what’s on your mind. Imposing a line of demarcation and isolating your work into a compartment can stifle your own creativity, as well as limit connection, opportunities and new ideas. The leaders we admire don’t separate one from the other — they are their work, and their work is who they are. And we expect that.

2. A different business culture

Unwittingly or not, the culture of business has evolved into a new paradigm — which supports a different human paradigm. Purposeful integration is a vital thru-line; when organizational message, mission and method are integrated, each supports the other and converges into an authentic and transparent company brand. Moreover, an employee brand that does not acknowledge the human-ness of its employees (similarly to a brand that does not acknowledge the lives of its consumers) is not nearly as compelling or engaging — or sticky — as one that does.

3. Purpose drives performance

We know this: according to the recent Workplace Purpose Index, (by Imperative and New York University), 28% of the workforce is driven by purpose. They know who they are as whole people, not just staffers, and they link their own purpose to the purpose of the organization where they work. This is a model of functional clarity by choice; the opposite of the company-man trope. Purpose-driven folks know the work they want to do in the world; and the study’s revelation uncovered that they outperform the rest of us in terms of money, advancement and competition.

4. Recruitment is competitive

From an employer’s point of view, if you want the high performers, you’d best get your candidate experience in line. Studies of candidate experience show that even the first active contact with a prospective employer acts as a pivot either towards or away from engagement. Make sure it reflects the organization authentically. Lack of transparency is a sign that an employee’s human-ness is going to be devalued. For someone already clear on their purpose, they’re not going to waste their time with that kind of disconnect.

5. We’re already past that

The zeitgeist approach is that once an idea takes hold, you can’t turn back — and we’ve reached that point in terms of work and life. There are already a number of different approaches on the issue of life and work. LIFEworking, for instance, affirms that it’s the individual and not the organization that defines what success means — and that boldness of choice, which goes into true innovation — has to do with the fearlessness of being genuinely self-aware. And even if you haven’t yet landed on the phrase that crystallizes it for you, the workforce itself has changed the context already. We are a contingency / consultancy / career not company / culture, assuming professional trajectories that accumulates skills and experience as opposed to jobs. We work in a more blended and disparate workforce than ever before.

If even the mobile, social, global, multigenerational, etcetera environment we live and work in supports this new idea of realistic and optimistic integration, perhaps it’s not as simple as choosing the right app, but it’s close. Flatter organizational structures, recalibrated views of parental leave, multiple platforms — all play a role in debunking the monolithic barrier of work standing in front of our life. We’ve never been more prepared for the change. The fact is that work and life are seamless. It’s the quality of how they intersect that we have to attend to.

Does remote work help or hinder work-life balance? Read Remote Work Requires True Mobility.

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How To Design Your Company’s Digital Transformation

Sam Yen

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

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Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

How Productive Could You Be With 45 Minutes More Per Day?

Michael Rander

Chances are that you are already feeling your fair share of organizational complexity when navigating your current company, but have you ever considered just how much time is spent across all companies on managing complexity? According to a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the global impact of complexity is mind-blowing – and not in a good way.

The study revealed that 38% of respondents spent 16%-25% of their time just dealing with organizational complexity, and 17% spent a staggering 26%-50% of their time doing so. To put that into more concrete numbers, in the US alone, if executives could cut their time spent managing complexity in half, an estimated 8.6 million hours could be saved a week. That corresponds to 45 minutes per executive per day.

The potential productivity impact of every executive having 45 minutes more to work every single day is clearly significant, and considering that 55% say that their organization is either very or extremely complex, why are we then not making the reduction of complexity one or our top of mind issues?

The problem is that identifying the sources of complexity is complex in of itself. Key sources of complexity include organizational size, executive priorities, pace of innovation, decision-making processes, vastly increasing amounts of data to manage, organizational structures, and the pure culture of the company. As a consequence, answers are not universal by any means.

That being said, the negative productivity impact of complexity, regardless of the specific source, is felt similarly across a very large segment of the respondents, with 55% stating that complexity has taken a direct toll on profitability over the past three years.  This is such a serious problem that 8% of respondents actually slowed down their company growth in order to deal with complexity.

So, if complexity oftentimes impacts productivity and subsequently profitability, what are some of the more successful initiatives that companies are taking to combat these effects? Among the answers from the EIU survey, the following were highlighted among the most likely initiatives to reduce complexity and ultimately increase productivity:

  • Making it a company-wide goal to reduce complexity means that the executive level has to live and breathe simplification in order for the rest of the organization to get behind it. Changing behaviors across the organization requires strong leadership, commitment, and change management, and these initiatives ultimately lead to improved decision-making processes, which was reported by respondents as the top benefit of reducing complexity. From a leadership perspective this also requires setting appropriate metrics for measuring outcomes, and for metrics, productivity and efficiency were by far the most popular choices amongst respondents though strangely collaboration related metrics where not ranking high in spite of collaboration being a high level priority.
  • Promoting a culture of collaboration means enabling employees and management alike to collaborate not only within their teams but also across the organization, with partners, and with customers. Creating cross-functional roles to facilitate collaboration was cited by 56% as the most helpful strategy in achieving this goal.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents found the implementation of new technology and tools to be a successful step towards reducing complexity and improving productivity. Enabling collaboration, reducing information overload, building scenarios and prognoses, and enabling real-time decision-making are all key issues that technology can help to reduce complexity at all levels of the organization.

While these initiatives won’t help everyone, it is interesting to see that more than half of companies believe that if they could cut complexity in half they could be at least 11%-25% more productive. That nearly one in five respondents indicated that they could be 26%-50% more productive is a massive improvement.

The question then becomes whether we can make complexity and its impact on productivity not only more visible as a key issue for companies to address, but (even more importantly) also something that every company and every employee should be actively working to reduce. The potential productivity gains listed by respondents certainly provide food for thought, and few other corporate activities are likely to gain that level of ROI.

Just imagine having 45 minutes each and every day for actively pursuing new projects, getting innovative, collaborating, mentoring, learning, reducing stress, etc. What would you do? The vision is certainly compelling, and the question is are we as companies, leaders, and employees going to do something about it?

To read more about the EIU study, please see:

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @michaelrander

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About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Research Director for Future Of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, operations manager as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler and entrepreneur.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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3 Ways HR Can Break Through Barriers To Digital Transformation

Susan Galer

If it’s true that every company is in the technology industry, human resources (HR) is at the forefront of this metamorphosis, well-positioned (or not) to help people and the organizational processes they use evolve.

For the most part, technology isn’t necessarily the problem. Companies can feast on an expanding menu of technologies providing them with the ability to adopt HR cloud-based platforms, use analytics for more informed decisions, and infuse daily work with social and mobile capabilities. Even so, most HR practitioners and their companies are in the early stages of digital transformation.

Industry analyst, Lisa Rowan, research vice president of HR, Talent and Learning Strategies at IDC, said her firm’s latest research shows more companies are opportunistically pursuing digital transformation:

“Our digital maturity model in HCM shows that most companies are stuck in opportunistic mode when it comes to having a digital mindset around technology adoption, meaning applying mobile, social, big data and cloud,” she said. “Some technologies are being used but it’s not pervasive. So for example, they might have some mobile but don’t allow it for everything.”

Unfortunately, the price of disconnected HR these days is high, often resulting in talent pipelines overwhelmed bv low-quality applicants, not to mention lost productivity. I talked with Rowan about the top three factors holding back HR’s ability to impact digital transformation.

Educate against risk aversion

While company climates may view mobile and social as risky channels, HR has to champion cloud-based technology.

“HR needs to step up and say this might have been seen as riskier three years ago but most data incidents have involved breaches in the company’s own data centers. You are actually safer if you are in a third-party data center because they have that much more security around them,” said Rowan. “HR has to educate the business on the fact that cloud is no longer as risky and this is why.”

HR can also dispel misperceptions about social platforms. “When people hear social they sometimes think that’s employees going out on Facebook which they shouldn’t be using during business hours. They’re misconstruing that social is not necessarily outside the firewall. Social collaboration across intra-company platforms is now the norm,” said Rowan.

Understanding the nuanced benefits of social are just as important. Rowan said HR needs to realize that social is about letting people speak their mind internally. Companies often make better decisions as a direct result of letting employees have their say. This is precisely what happened at a major retailer that implemented an internal social platform for employee ideas and input.

“The beauty of social is that it’s the bottom-up sharing of ideas. Who knows better than how something will sell than the people in the store selling it all day,” she said.

Fix broken processes first

Embarking on a digital transformation journey means take a hard look at how work does or doesn’t get done. “You can’t digitally transform something that’s broke to begin with,” said Rowan. “If you’re not getting tasks done efficiently because processes like recruiting are too clunky, it takes too long to do things, or there are disconnects between learning and HR, software alone won’t solve the problems.”

Set digital policies

Championing new technologies is all well and good, but HR isn’t always at the leading edge of the company’s adoption of advances like mobile and social. This is where HR assumes the voice of reason in policy development.

“It’s amazing how many companies are using multiple collaborative networks and where HR hasn’t established any kind of standards or guidelines,” said Rowan. “HR can play a role in developing realistic policies around social and mobile that establish some level of consistency so that employees can collaborate across departments. HR can help implement sensible policies that take into consideration the reality that people will use their own cell phones, and will want to use social technology. With that kind of understanding, HR can be the voice of reason putting in place policies people will follow.”

In the digitally transformed workplace, companies can quickly find and hire quality people through internal development, or access to contingent, contract, or freelance talent. Software applications are ubiquitous in this environment, boosting collaboration whether employees are in the office or working remotely. Company culture adapts to support the business strategy and operating philosophy around digital.

Many companies have already made this leap, having realized that the employee experience is key to the customer experience.

This story also appeared on the SAP Business Trends community.

Follow me on Twitter, SCN Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

Image: Shutterstock

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