A Formula to Understanding and Enhancing Workforce Effectiveness in the Digital Age

The Workforce Effectiveness (WE) equation helps harness the realized/unrealized potential of available talent to achieve desired objectives.

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Most progressive organizations have faced the challenges of increasing the effectiveness of their workforces, mainly, due to the fast pace of the Digital Age that is brutally unforgiving of complacency in fulfilling strategic imperatives. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a ‘wake-up’ call to even the most robust corporate entities as the primal fear of unforeseen situations has upended prevalent business models due to ‘surviving in uncertainty’ gaining a profound new meaning with faltering customers/clients/stakeholders who have been forced to alter their lifestyles/expectations under a deluge of restrictive conditions. As a remedial measure, the following Workforce Effectiveness (WE) equation is being presented for optimally harnessing the realized/unrealized potential of available talent to achieve desired strategic imperatives:

WE = Workforce Constitution + Workforce Deployment

WE = E1(D+I(B+E2)) + W(R+E3(P1+P2))

E1 = Engagement, D = Diversity, I = Inclusion, B = Belonging, E2 = Equity, W = Wellbeing, R = Resourcefulness, E3 = Empowerment, P1 = Proficiency, P2 = Productivity

Workforce Constitution

This is the first part of the Workforce Effectiveness (WE) equation. It focuses on the infusion of diverse talent throughout the organization as a baseline for astute talent management that is further strengthened by inclusivity, bolsters a keen sense of belonging, and amplifies the ‘felt-fairness’ element of organizational justice driven by equitable employment practices. Such a makeup of the workforce is reinforced by a value-driven corporate culture manifesting in the form of steadfast engagement from aEngagementvated workforce that revels in displaying organizational citizenship behavior to propel the organization through the good times and uplift it during the bad times.

Let’s test some extreme situations on the respective part as follows:

  • When E1 = 0, the whole part loses its significance as Engagement is the theEngagementfying factor for all the constituent elements
  • When D = 0, Inclusion amplifies the Belonging and Equity element; however, such initiatives are only focused on the overall homogeneity within the workforce by elevating the marginalized/neglected talent.
  • When I = 0, Diversity is primarily a marketing ploy without any form of Inclusion. Some Belonging might exist due to a natural affinity for the organization as a ‘paying’ employer. At the same time, the existence of some convoluted form of Equity is more likely a manifestation of the whims of a nepotism-prone leadership that is inclined towards showering favors for loyalty.
  • When B = 0, the organization becomes highly susceptible to ‘talent poaching’ by opportunistic competitors as the employees merely stick around for a better offer from outside the organization, significant attrition levels, especially within highly competitive industries, e.g., Tech, are generally a good indicator in the respective context.
  • When E2 = 0, there is a dreadful lack of organizational justice and the psychological contract is frequently broken while discontent reigns supreme within a large segment of the workforce that is unable to gain a favorable footing within the corporate hierarchy from the regressive leadership at the helm. Significant attrition levels are also observed in this case as a glaring consequence.

Workforce Deployment

This is the second part of the Workforce Effectiveness (WE) equation. It focuses on the astute channelization of the inherent human capital to boost the organization’s ability to stay relevant and competitive in the tricky dynamics of the Digital Age, especially, in terms of navigating through precarious situations emanating from the impact of catastrophic events, e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic. It combines the skill levels and efficiencies of the employees with the amplified effect of empowerment. It beckons the complementary ability to develop innovative solutions through the prudent use of available resources while signifying the augmenting impact of wellbeing being wellbeing or achieving the desired outcomes.

Let’s test some extreme situations on the respective part as follows:

  • When W = 0, the whole part loses its significance as Wellbeing is the Wellbeingfying factor for all the constituent elements.
  • When R = 0, there is a debilitating lack of ingenuity within the workforc,e and employees generally follow a prescribed and rigid set of policies/procedures/practices while possessing the necessary credentials to do the assigned role(s). Such an organization becomes a prime target for marginalization/obsolescence by ‘disruptive’ competitors.
  • When E3 = 0, the organization is highly centralized and bureaucratic with a high power distance that is frequently manifested in chronic delays of critical operational activities due to ‘pending’ decisions. This is a common trait of an organization that stubbornly refuses to ‘delegate’ authority while sitting on the laurels of past accomplishments with an insecure leadership and occupying a dominant market share due to very high barriers of entry for ‘troublesome’ competitors.
  • When P1 = 0, there is an appalling lack of skills within the workforce to do the assigned roles which leads to high costs of producing a product and providing a service complemented by an avalanche of customer/client complaints due to profound concerns pertaining to quality. It might be an indication that the principle of ‘right person for the right job’ is being flagrantly violated.
  • When P2 = 0, the efficiency levels within the organization are woefully inadequat,e and there is excessive ‘waste’ generated about producing a product and providing a service. Additionally, a plethora of non-value activities become part of the business processes that become an unnecessary burden on the employees leading to highly stressful working conditions.

The workforce above Effectiveness (WE) equation embodies the needs and expectations of employees who have been rattled by the onslaught of challenges about the COVID-19 pandemic as mental health issues continue to rise and are still a ‘taboo’ topic across the corporate landscape despite assurances by the leadership of progressive organizations that such challenges will not affect ‘career growth and progression of deserving professionals.

Interestingly, organizations that are in the process of recovery from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations are finding that the consequential/contingency decisions taken earlier in haste/panic to furlough/reduce the headcount have resulted in an unexpected situation as the affected employees have moved on to other options and are not available anymore to rejoin their previous organizations in the desired numbers. This has also been observed with the current employees who continue to embrace the phenomenon of the ‘Great Resignation’ due to untenable situations at the workplace, the ‘delightful discovery’ of the freedom related to working from home, recalibration of personal/professional priorities, and the lure of better options elsewhere. Furthermore, hiring new employees by ‘rebounding’ organizations is hampered by the rejection of qualified candidates due to poorly written job descriptions and the deployment of error-prone hiring software.

Consequently, the formulated guide given above is an ‘ode to proactive action’ that is designed to resonate with conscientious leaders who have the mettle to engage in an honest self-reflection frequently and are bold enough to drive and institutionalize efficacious talent management practices while facing passive/active resistance from influential quarters, that can serve as a reliable buffer against the daunting challenges of the pandemic-impacted Digital Age. Are you that leader?

Murad S. Mirza
Murad Salman Mirza is an innovative thinker and an astute practitioner of areas within and associated with the fields of organizational development, talent management, and business transformation. He has lived, studied, and served in different regions of the world, including, the U.S., Australia, South Asia, and the Middle East. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/muradsalmanmirza