Will cognitive tech conquer the archaic hours-based contract?

Will cognitive tech conquer the archaic hours-based contract?

Modis Posted 19 October 2021

Traditional productivity metrics are suitable for measuring the value of machines, not people. According to freshly-published Adecco Group research, more workers want to shift to performance management based on results, not hours. Only 35% of non-managers feel they are being assessed based on results, and leaders say they are struggling with results-based performance management. As the march of technology allows us to reduce repetitive work, company leaders must seize the opportunity to quash the cult of long hours and the perverse incentives that reward it.

So how will your technology roadmap enable your teams to work smarter, not longer?

At Modis, we believe the solution is twofold: 1) harness disruptive cognitive technologies that let people work smarter, and 2) shift the performance management paradigm to value delivered, not hours worked.

Employee working at computer while drinking coffee

Harness disruptive cognitive technologies

As companies embrace new technologies on their path to digital transformation, they must ask themselves questions like, “What are we doing that's repetitive or low-value?" Or: "how can we make your job easier so you can work on higher value-added tasks?”

Virtual assistants

VAs (or chatbots) are computer programs that automate tasks by 'chatting' with users through a conversational interface. The cleverest ones are powered by AI, combining machine learning and natural language processing, and can understand complex requests, personalize responses, and improve performance as they go. They augment or substitute human assistance, freeing employees to focus on higher value-adding work, like keeping current customers happy or winning new ones.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Machine learning is reshaping how humans get work done. Benefits include quickly discovering patterns and correlations, helping prioritize work, and delivering increasingly personalized customer experiences. Think of your most challenging business problems. If you have enough historical data, you can apply machine learning algorithms to help solve them: from mining knowledge from IT infrastructure to extracting insights from unstructured texts, to making complex financial predictions. And in the hi-tech engineering world, AI-powered computer vision is nearing human accuracy levels and stands to eliminate repetitive work.

Robotic process automation (RPA)

Just like people, RPA software robots can understand what’s on a screen, navigate systems, and extract data. RPA is great for rule-based, repetitive tasks – and does them much faster than humans, and with fewer errors. And while traditional RPA is not ‘cognitive,’ it is often fused with AI tools, enabling enterprises to automate more complex (i.e., not only rule-based) tasks and handle exceptions without human intervention.

Every small task that’s automated means more time for employees to spend on strategic, value-adding activities. And with 7 in 10 (72%) of our respondents calling for employers to revisit the working week, it’s on employers to remove monotonous tasks and empower employees.

Shift the performance management paradigm

Hours-based contracts ignore a fundamental problem: higher output doesn't mean better results. Rewarding teams for hours worked and output volumes might incentivize them against taking on more thoughtful, higher-stakes projects. To unlock the full potential of hybrid working, leaders must reimagine how they measure and drive performance to goal attainment, quality, and teamwork.

In practical terms, that might look like:

  1. Working closely with employees to develop clearly defined – and objectively measurable – goals. (For example, instead of telling an agent to make 20 sales calls per shift, ask them to increase revenues by 10% and let them decide on the best way to go about it.)
  2. Dig into data for signs of continuous improvement. (Think: Is new customer acquisition improving year-on-year, even if this month's figures look terrible?)
  3. Set a regular and formal cadence for coaching and feedback. (In a hybrid setting, this likely needs to be more frequent.)
  4. Use cloud-based platforms to create detailed, personalized scorecards, ongoing analysis and feedback processes that link team and individual success to company success.
  5. Trust employees and teams to deliver on their work. Work with managers on resisting the impulse to exert complete control.

The last 18 months have proved that remote work doesn’t come with a loss of productivity and that a more flexible way of working is possible. It’s time to reframe how employees are valued and evolve company culture to measure more meaningful contributions. It's time to stop glamorizing long hours and welcome in a new era of tech-enabled performance management based on trust.

For more insights on the issues and trends shaping our working world, catch the playback of the Adecco Group’s recent online launch of Resetting Normal; Defining the New Era Of Work 2021, featuring guest speakers from Google, L'Oréal, and LHH. Or why now download the full report and dig into the detail for yourself?

Download Full Whitepaper Report

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