In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported, “The Rise of Knowledge Workers Is Accelerating Despite the Threat of Automation”, and now, a 2019 Jabra study reveals how management is planning to involve technology and AI to aid this continued rise in knowledge workers and increase productivity rather than automate it. Read on to find out what the rise in knowledge workers has lead to, and find out how senior US business executives view technology and AI in relation to knowledge worker productivity.
The US rise in knowledge workers
Exactly three years ago, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported a steady increase in US knowledge workers, in a polarizing job forecast against every other category that sat in a relative plateau. At the time, it caused quite a reaction. Today, with this increase in knowledge workers, where and how they work is also in a state of flux, with remote work and open office changes, technology shifts and a management culture that is varied in its adaptation to all of these factors. On the one hand, we know that open offices are here to stay, but we’re also aware that many are not the biggest fans of them.
Does a well-connected workforce guarantee increased productivity?
With these changes in work and developing technology, we are now the best connected workforce in history, with an endless range of communication and collaboration tools. But as much as we love technology, we’re not blind to the problems it can create and know that some attempts at making collaboration easier are sometimes being called into question. Though social media is being better regulated, it’s harder to say that you’ll bow out of a work messaging platform or limit your time on it.
Coupled with other factors, stagnating productivity is one of the biggest problems most businesses face; whether it’s remote workers over-using email and Slack to try and make up for their absence, or office workers struggling to focus in an open-plan space. In the technology industry, it’s become a firmly held belief that more tech is the answer to every problem, productivity included. But new Jabra research shows that it’s far more about the right technology and our use of it.
For our latest piece of research, we conducted in-depth studies among almost 700 C-level executives and compared the outcomes with our previously conducted knowledge worker research. And although three-quarters of US C-level executives find it important to measure productivity, many say they don’t have a clear picture how to measure it. What we did see though, was where their intent lay towards possible solutions.
Is transforming workers into digital hybrids a solution?
As robots make their way into the workplace, transforming operations and delivering efficiencies, our latest study revealed that C-level executives are examining how they can leverage technology to enhance their knowledge workers’ productivity. The push for digital transformation and arming workers with the right technology is rooted in a strong belief by nearly half (49 per cent) of CEOs and executives that digital will have the most impact on knowledge worker productivity.
Executives around the world are turning to technology to create a new breed of “hybrid worker”, using a range of systems and software to try and make employees more productive than ever before. In the US, the C-suite are most likely putting their faith in data and analytics, which are identified by a quarter of executives as the biggest driver of productivity among knowledge workers in the next three to five years.
What’s more, executives are investing to make this a reality – in particular, systems that enable knowledge workers to connect and collaborate. More than a third of US C-suite indicated plans to invest in this area.
Investment in artificial intelligence is seen as more important than increasing workforce in order to impact knowledge worker productivity.
Today’s US workplaces might look similar in a decade, but the world of the knowledge worker will likely be very different indeed, with technology playing a more important role in their jobs than ever before. This change will require businesses to invest in skills and training to ensure that employees make the most of the productivity dividend that such systems promise.
We urge decision-makers to think carefully about what technologies they implement, how they mandate their use throughout the organisation, and how they build a culture where people are free to work in ways that enable them to be as productive as possible. This takes collaboration, flexibility and a commitment to listening to knowledge workers themselves.
Download the full report here: Jabra C-Suite Perspectives Report 2019