Pressures on the knowledge worker in 2010

Thursday, 18 February, 2010

A global research project has painted a lukewarm picture of GFC workplace recovery and revealed new pressures on the knowledge worker in 2010.

The research from Delphi Group and Australian-based Panviva revealed that sentiment is low for a near-term (6-12 months), job-based recovery with many respondents indicating strategic plans are in place for long-term jobless growth over the next five years.

When asked what the most likely period was for a job-based recovery to begin, 60% said it would not be until after the second quarter of 2010, 35% percent believed it would be in 2011 and 20% indicated the second half of 2011.

The research, which spanned across 15 industries and more than 1000 mid-large companies, also revealed hiring plans are being influenced, with 65% of companies planning for reductions in staff or replacement hiring and only 15% indicating hiring had been unaffected.

With companies operating on reduced workforces and no restaffing, an impact is being felt by knowledge workers, the research also revealed.

An attempt to define the conditions current knowledge workers are operating in showed that 53% of respondents felt they were doing the work of three of more people while 15% felt they were doing the work of five or more people. Many comments revealed the burden of work is increasing radically and at a very high cost of stress, quality and poor sustainability.

The impact on day-to-day activity can also be seen. Approximately 60% of workers have at least six separate windows open on their desktop at any one time and an incredible 39% spent at least 25% of their day searching for the information they require to do their jobs.

The sentiment towards uncertainty has also shifted with 87% of respondents saying that uncertainty is increasing, revealing that for many uncertainty is not a passing phenomenon but part of the new landscape for some time to come.

Meanwhile, there is a definite acceptance of the continuing role uncertainty will play with the majority agreeing that uncertainty can absolutely be leveraged for economic gain.

CEO David Frenkel of Panviva, which specialises in Business Process Guidance, said the research is ultimately pointing to a longer-term shift in how we work.

“There is a need to do more with less - companies are learning how to operate with a significantly reduced workforce - and this requires some new approaches and new tools for knowledge work,” said Frenkel.

“Throw into the mix the ageing population and, as Prime Minister Rudd has pointed out, the need to boost productivity and it is clear that something has to be done to enable fewer workers to grow the economy and juggle more tasks in order to create the long-term stimulus needed for long-term economic growth and jobs.

“There is also a need to embrace the increase in volatility and unpredictability in the market, economy and the world and non-rigid solutions tare needed that can cope with this unpredictability.

"In terms of future planning, this research points towards a need for solutions that help understaffed workforces better deal with the basic obstacles of search times, the complexity of desktop and enterprise technologies and the stress of change and uncertainty," said  Frenkel.

“Knowledge Management and Business Process Management has to grow up to accommodate  these changes, and that’s what Business Process Guidance is all about - navigation systems that power users across multiple applications and information sources in real time in complex environments so that they can find exactly what they are looking for.

“Other technologies will need to follow suit and mature accordingly,” said Frenkel.

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