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WTF is learning quotient – and why it matters now

In January, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps, there was much chat about ChatGPT, OpenAI’s large-scale language model that has been fed 300 billion words to help it generate plausible, passable answers to most questions. An Elon Musk tweet summed up the sentiment for many. “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!”

With generative AI advanced enough to produce eerily-human text responses, and other related foundational models now able to create music, art, and code, is it time to turn the page on traditional education? Further, is rote learning and cramming for exams, only to forget the key facts instantly afterwards, finished? Granted, it has its place for times tables and languages, but what else, really? 

While some may want to defer answering these uncomfortable puzzlers, speakers on oversubscribed AI-related panels at Davos 2023 heralded LQ as the new IQ.

So what exactly is LQ?

It stands for “learning quotient” – as opposed to intelligence quotient. Essentially, it’s a measure of adaptability and one’s desire and ability to update our skills throughout life.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Time for culture of overwork in financial services to change

When Spain’s Labor Ministry revealed in January that government officials had hit the Big Four accounting firms’ Madrid offices in the Cuatro Torres business district with surprise inspections at the end of last year, as part of an investigation into alleged abusive work practices, it generated global headlines.

The Spanish arms of the world’s four largest professional services networks – Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC – generate combined annual revenues above €700 million ($770 million), according to the Financial Times. The firms provide audit, assurance, taxation, management consulting, actuarial, corporate finance, and legal services and employ more than 20,000 people in Spain. 

Given their revered position in the market, the Big Four tend to attract the brightest graduates, who often switch to other sectors after gaining their accountancy qualifications. To earn those credentials and climb the ranks there is a tacit understanding that employees will put in the hours, despite earning meager early career wages compared to contemporaries in other areas of the financial services industry. 

Could it be that after decades of flogging junior staff, in particular, the Big Four will have to transform their work policies – in Spain and elsewhere? And what will that mean for the rest of the financial services industry?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

What do Gen Z-led sober curiosity and the ‘damp’ lifestyle movement mean for work socials?

After an indulgent festive season, some people who opted for a detoxifying Dry January will have counted the weeks, days, hours and possibly minutes until Feb. 1 and its promise of uncorking some wine or sipping a frothy ale again.

Yes, after 31 sober days — and nights — their skin is smoother, their eyes are more sparkly and their bank accounts also look healthier. But the promise of a pint, a goblet of red or another favored tipple will likely be irresistible. Or will it?

Increasingly, people — especially Gen Zers — are looking at giving up booze entirely with a glass-half-full attitude. A decade on from when the first official Dry January was observed as an Alcohol Change UK campaign, today’s “damp” lifestyle movement and “sober curiosity” are reshaping societal norms.

Social media platforms, especially TikTok, have had a hand in driving the popularity of these trends. Indeed, the #Sobertok hashtag — where sober TikTokers share their stories and experiences — has over 1 billion views.

What, though, does this mean for work socials and client meetings, where, traditionally, booze has been a social lubricant? 

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Why managers are losing their grip on their leader and employee expectations

One has to gallop back to the mid-16th century to discover the origin of the verb “to manage.” Initially, it was all about horsemanship, as in “handling a horse,” putting it through its paces in the manège – an enclosed area where horses and riders train – and taken from the Latin manus (hand). 

Half a millennium later, there is a worrying sense that business managers are losing their grip and falling at ever-higher hurdles. But to what extent is it their fault the reins are being dropped, considering the increasing intensity of competing pressures from above and below in a period of economic uncertainty?

At the start of 2023, Gartner identified “managers will be sandwiched by leader and employee expectations” as one of the top nine workplace predictions for chief human resource offices this year. 

This assessment was backed up by workplace culture and recognition firm O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report, published in September. The study, which captured answers from 36,000 employees across 20 countries, found that in the U.K. specifically, 41% of managers felt pressured to choose between what their leaders want and the demands of their direct reports. 

Further, almost half (46%) of U.K. managers reported their responsibilities have increased since the pandemic. Tasks that took up the most time included project and team meetings, management meetings, and training and mentoring. On a global scale, 61% of respondents said they had more general responsibilities at work since before the pandemic, compared to only one-third of employees.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Gen Zers are fueling ‘gap career’ trend — but how will that affect career development?

Most people have heard of, if not taken, a “gap year” — a term that typically refers to 12 months between high school and higher education when textbooks are swapped for low-paid jobs to fund exciting and life-enhancing adventures in distant destinations. But now there is a new twist: “Gap careers” are on the rise, especially for Gen Zers, a new study suggests.

Like gap years, gap careers tend to feature extended travel experiences in far-flung places. They also involve learning things that enrich people’s careers and can mean, for some, starting a business. The main difference between the two is timing: Gap years are taken before the first meaningful step on a career path, while gap careers happen — as one might guess — between jobs. So will a career break for sun, snow, sand, sea and skills put someone at a disadvantage when they want to return to work?

Almost half (47%) of U.K. Gen Zers have taken a career gap of six months or more, according to research commissioned by ethical hiring organization Applied and social enterprise Women Returners.

The research, undertaken as part of a campaign aiming to end the stigma surrounding career breaks, indicated that young people no longer view personal development as limited to traditional gap years. Instead, many are seeking to thread new opportunities into their working lives. However, given that resume holes are still considered suspicious by many prospective employers, is a gap career a good idea?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

WTF is an insider threat – and why is it a growing problem for businesses?

Most (95%) cybersecurity incidents were caused by human error last year, the World Economic Forum calculated. Such incidents appear to be spiraling, with the annual cost of cybercrime predicted to reach $8 trillion this year, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. If that wasn’t alarming enough, experts warn that bad actors within organizations are a growing security risk.

Some employees, manipulated and compromised through “social engineering,” might not even realize they are aiding and abetting criminals. Similarly, employers might not know they have been attacked, until it’s too late.

Worse, all too often, businesses — which are, in the post-pandemic era, being urged to provide greater autonomy to and trust in employees — are blindsided by this so-called “insider threat.”

In a nutshell, an insider threat refers to someone who steals data or breaks the internal systems of the organization they work for, for their own purposes. For example, in 2017, an administrator working for Dutch hosting provider Verelox, deleted all customer data and wiped most of the company’s servers.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Why ‘re-recruiting’ existing employees is critical for 2023

As the long tail of the Great Resignation continues to swish and sting, labor markets contract and economic uncertainty bites, organizations should make every effort in 2023 to hold on to their employees. More specifically, they should “re-recruit” workers already at the company, urged Microsoft’s Liz Leigh-Bowler.

To support the case for re-recruiting, the product marketing leader, based in Epson, U.K., cited the results of Microsoft’s recent global hybrid work survey, which captured answers from over 20,000 employees in 11 countries. Of the many telling statistics surfaced by the report, she said a handful stood out on this subject.

For example, two-thirds of employees would stay longer at their company if it were easier to switch jobs internally. Similarly, 76% of respondents would remain with their employer if they could benefit more from learning-and-development support. 

Unsurprisingly, without growth opportunities, most workers across all levels would depart. Without chances to develop, 68% of business decision-makers would not hang around. Worryingly, 55% of all employees reckoned the best way for them to learn or enhance skills would be to change employers. 

The level of workforce thirst for development has never been higher, according to the research. In fact, the opportunity to learn and grow is the number-one driver of a great work culture – a jump from ninth position in the rankings in 2019.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How the drive to improve employee experience could trigger a ‘data-privacy crisis’

How much personal information would you feel comfortable with your company knowing, even if it improves the working experience? Where is the line? Also, will that boundary be different for your colleagues?

Right now, it’s all a gray area, but it could darken quickly. Because of that fuzziness and subjectivity, it’s a tricky balance to strike for employers. On the one hand, they are being encouraged — if not urged — to dial up personalization to attract and retain top talent. On the other hand, however, with too much information on staff, they might be accused of taking liberties and trespassing on data privacy issues. 

In 2023, organizations are increasingly using emerging technologies — artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, wearables, and so on — to collect more data on employees’ health, family situations, living conditions, and mental health to respond more effectively to their needs. But embracing these technologies has the potential to trigger a “data-privacy crisis,” warned Emily Rose McRae, senior director of management consultancy Gartner’s human resources practice.

Earlier in January, Gartner identified that “as organizations get more personal with employee support, it will create new data risks” as one of the top nine workplace predictions for chief human resource offices this year.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Is flexible working expanding the gulf between desk-based and deskless workers?

In the last three years, organizations have been spurred by increasingly empowered employees and the pandemic fallout to imagine new ways of working. Top of the list of wants from staff has been greater flexibility, either in terms of location or time. But at what cost?

Some companies have been able to amend working policies, accommodate worker demands, and in doing so attract and retain top talent. However, a large number of industries with frontline or “deskless” workers — such as teachers, retail assistants, hospitality staff, healthcare professionals, factory workers, and public-transport operators, without whom the smooth running of society would be impossible — have been incapable, by the nature of the jobs, of offering significant levels of flexibility. 

While well-meaning and purportedly progressive organizations have now built in as much flexibility and autonomy as possible in the former group, as an unintended consequence, they are creating an ever-expanding gulf between desk and deskless workers.

And it’s a growing worry, given 2.7 billion people — about 80% of the global workforce — operate without a desk, meaning they have roles that involve interacting directly with people, machines, and infrastructure. Where’s their flexibility?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Lack of in-office experience shows many Gen Zers don’t know how to behave at work

London-based banking consultant Amy – an alias to which WorkLife agreed to protect her identity in the highly regulated financial services industry – has managed dozens of Gen Zers in the last couple of years. She has often been frustrated – and at times flabbergasted – by their attitude towards traditional workplace norms. She offered plenty of examples, but overall it’s the sense of entitlement despite a lack of experience that most sticks in the craw. 

“Many started their careers in lockdown, but they are super-ambitious and expect to be calling the shots. Yet when restrictions lifted, it became clear that they were unsure of the right workplace etiquette,” said Amy, who has worked for numerous banks in a 20-year career.

She explained how there was an agreed expectation for everyone to return to the office for one specific day a week to improve face-to-face connection and collaboration. However, Gen Zers would frequently not show up for the brainstorming sessions. “I’d have to call them to see if they were coming in, and they’d say: ‘No, I’m working from home.’”

Amy’s insights tally with recent Gartner data that suggests the rise in remote and hybrid working has meant that many career starters have committed faux pas due to having few in-person experiences. Expressly, this lack of face-to-face time in the office has limited the chances to observe workplace norms or determine what is appropriate and effective within their organizations. 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How hybrid working brings teams closer but also creates ‘micro cultures’ and internal conflicts

Who needs a water cooler in the digital age? Paradoxically, the pandemic-induced shift to hybrid and remote working has, in many instances, drawn teams closer together, according to Gartner research. 

“We have seen that people have stronger ties with their immediate hybrid team as they have more interactions with those members,” said Piers Hudson, senior director of Gartner’s HR functional strategy and management research team.

Conversely, Hudson noted bonds between people from different departments, who they would have previously run into more often when in an office environment, have weakened in hybrid and remote setups. “We found that employees interact once a week or less with their ‘weak ties’ — people outside their function — versus several times a week before the pandemic,” he said. 

For most hybrid or remote workers, though, team members are “the only people they interact with several times a day,” added Hudson. 

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Why cybersecurity leaders are actively recruiting neurodiverse talent

In an attempt to clamp down harder on the increased risk of cybersecurity threats to businesses, tech leaders are actively hiring neurodivergent people because of the strong problem-solving and analytical skills they can offer.

The neurodiversity spectrum is wide, ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette syndrome, to autism and bi-polarity. But common characteristics of neurodivergent individuals – including pattern-spotting, creative insights and visual-spatial thinking – are finally being realized, not least in the cyber security sector.

Holly Foxcroft, head of neurodiversity in cyber research and consulting at professional search firm London-centered Stott and May Consulting, said that neurodivergent individuals have “spiky profiles.” Foxcroft, who is neurodivergent herself, explained that these visual representations highlight the strengths and areas needed for development or support. “Neurodivergent profiles show that individuals perform highly in areas where neurotypicals have a consistent and moderate line,” she said. 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Will 2023 be the year we stop idolizing tech entrepreneurs?

In Ancient Rome, where the public was enthralled by celebrity culture and helped elevate and sink reputations, 2022 would have been labeled an annus horribilis for cultish business leaders. 

Given the recent fall from eminence of several headline-generating bosses, could 2023 be the year people – including investors – finally become more careful not to be hoodwinked by technology entrepreneurs and even snub them altogether? Moreover, have we reached “peak idolatry of innovators,” as suggested by Scott Galloway, clinical professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business?

Galloway calculated that the wealthiest leader in the tech space had a 33% chance of being named Time magazine’s person of the year. However, the “gross, nonsensical adoration” of celebrity innovators may have reached the pinnacle after “a tough couple of months for the ‘Church of Technology,’” he added. 

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How to lead and manage stressed-out workforces

No organization can say it has nailed hybrid working.

To help navigate the journey ahead, WorkLife selected nine recent statistics to show the direction of travel, identify the most prominent likely obstacles, and offer advice from experts on how employers can overcome them.

Four were featured in this piece and the remaining five are here. These include:
– 70% of C-suite executives in the U.K. feel burnt out
– 79% of global employees are not engaged at work
– 85% of global business leaders with hybrid workforces are not confident employees are being productive
– 43% of hybrid workers don’t feel included in meetings
– U.S. workers have, on average 18 hours of meetings a week – but almost one-third are deemed unnecessary

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

The future of work is not evenly distributed – how employers can prepare

“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” U.S.-Canadian writer William Gibson, the father of the cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction, has had his finger on the pulse of breakthrough innovations for decades. However, in early 2023, this perceptive comment is especially apt for the working world, which is going through the most seismic transformation in our history.

The digital revolution, accelerated by the pandemic fallout, presents challenges and opportunities. For instance, technology has enabled remote working. And yet, employees are clocking up more hours when not in the office, and loneliness that harms mental health is becoming a worrying side effect. Plus, the number of meetings has also shot up, and often people mistake being busy for being productive.

Moreover, while workers demand more time and location flexibility, where does that leave industries in which it isn’t feasible? It’s all very well for those in desk-based jobs to use tech to improve their work-life balance, yet around 80% of global workers are “deskless.” They need to be physically present to do their jobs. 

To help navigate the journey ahead, WorkLife selected nine recent statistics to show the direction of travel, identify the most prominent likely obstacles, and offer advice from experts on how employers can overcome them. In this article, we have included four, and the remaining five will be published separately.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How recruitment firms are embracing flexible working policies

Are recruitment firms practising what they preach when it comes to flexible working?

After all, these organizations have had a front-row seat to spot the evolving workforce trends, which in the last three years have seen demand for flexibility and, for some candidates, part- or fully-remote roles.

To find out how the most pioneering recruitment firms have changed their working methods, WorkLife spoke to various organizations within the industry.

Here we consider the challenges and opportunities of embracing a four-day week – aka “Flex Friday” – digital detox holidays, and supporting employees to achieve the optimal work-life balance.

This article is the third of a three-part series in which DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, rounds up a range of flexible models used by employers in different sectors.

The full version of this piece was first published on WorkLife, in December 2022. To read the complete piece, please click HERE. And to read the other two articles in the series please use the links below.
What media and marketing execs have learned from flexible-working experiments
Remote-first, WFA, nine-day weeks: Flexible working experiments of 2022

How Gen Z is driving the sustainable commuting movement

Has your commuting method – if you still go into the office – evolved since the pandemic?

As society lurched from the coronavirus crisis to the climate emergency, the heat was turned up on employers and employees to be more eco-conscious. And new research suggests that the youngest generation in the global workforce, Gen Z, is doing the most to lead a sustainable commuting movement. 

The study, unveiled in late November by e-bike engineers Swytch Technology, found that 37% of Gen Zers in the U.K. now walk or cycle to work. Further, 43% of the same cohort said they would change to an electric-powered mode of transport in the next few years because fossil fuels damage the environment. 

Admittedly, the organization behind the study had an obvious agenda – and it is worth noting that the sample size was 2,003, of which only 210 were Gen Zers – but sustainable commuting does appear to have gathered momentum recently. 

There is an opportunity for employers to develop their green credentials and attract and retain Gen Z talent by subsidizing sustainable commuting. Consider that a BUPA study from late 2021 found that 64% of 18 to 22 years olds in the U.K. thought it was important for their employers to act sustainably. And more than half said they would resign if they did not do so. 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

What media and marketing execs have learned from flexible-working experiments

Leading media and marketing organizations have been in the vanguard of pioneering flexible-working policies in the last couple of years. 

For example, Spotify launched a new work model called “work from anywhere” in February 2021 that was music to the ears of its 8,600 employees, according to data published in August 2022.

The policy enabled staff to decide when they worked in a Spotify office or wherever else on the planet, as long as the music-streaming company had a country hub. As a direct result of the policy, and despite the Great Resignation trend, Spotify claimed staff churn had reduced compared to pre-pandemic levels and increased the diversity of its workforce.

Elsewhere, streaming giant Netflix is lauded for its impressive level of flexibility for employees, as well as a progressive benefits package. It may be headquartered in California – the U.S. doesn’t provide maternity or paternity leave to citizens – but Netflix has one of the most robust parental plans in the world, offering a full year of maternity and paternity leave for employees.

To discover what others in the marketing and media industries are doing regarding flexible working, WorkLife spoke to a range of organizations. Below we explore a hybrid working model that has boosted productivity by 56%, a fully remote policy – and Friday afternoons off – flexible-working holidays, and a “work your own way” culture.

This article is the second of a three-part series in which DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, rounds up a range of flexible models used by employers in different sectors. The full version of this piece was first published on WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Remote-first, WFA, nine-day weeks: Flexible working experiments of 2022

Technology titans were among the first to make drastic and permanent flexible-working policy changes in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, unsurprisingly. After all, if the last three years have taught us anything, technology is an excellent enabler for remote working.

Household names — including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe and others — quickly declared their intentions to update their working methods. And before long, they had published blueprints for hybrid working — for example, when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky unveiled the company’s remote working policy at the start of May in only 105 words, an act that was lauded at the time for its boldness and simplicity.

WorkLife spoke to numerous technology organizations, away from the usual suspects, to discover what flexible-working policies they had adopted recently and to find out what worked and didn’t. Below we consider the merits of a nine-day week — an alternative to the much-vaunted four-day week — complete location flexibility, a remote-first policy and, finally, one that offers employees to work where and when they want.

This article is the first of a three-part series in which DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, rounds up a range of flexible models used by employers in different sectors. The full version of this piece was first published on WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

U.K. businesses reeling from pre-festive season strikes

U.K. organizations are counting the cost following one of British history’s most damaging weeks of industrial protest. As railway workers, nurses, and postal staff all went on strike less than a fortnight before Christmas Day, businesses – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprizes (SMEs) – are feeling the chill of the “winter of discontent.”

The mass walkouts were estimated to cost the London economy alone almost £2 billion ($2.4 billion) in lost sales over the festive period. Industrial action happening throughout the Christmas season could work against the unions. As former Labour cabinet member David Blunkett said, protesting throughout the Christmas season was “mean and spiteful.”

Stephanie Milledge, senior people manager at London-based branding and marketing agency Brandwidth, argued that the strikes were cynically timed. “As the casualty list of affected businesses and the knock-off effects [of the industrial action] grow, public sentiment and support may change,” she said.

What are businesses – especially SMEs – doing to mitigate the ongoing industrial action?

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.