Business runs on people skills, not gadgets

Aug 02 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Wireless and mobile technology may have revolutionised the workplace, but it is still old-fashioned face-to-face people skills that get the best results.

American workers have embraced wireless and remote communications technology with a passion, but what continues to drive business is face-to-face, people-centred communication.

Research by workplace consultancy Randstad has found that for three quarters of Americans, instant communications tools are seen as a boon.

Rather than being suspicious of such technology or worrying that it will chain them to the office wherever they are, they see it as something that helps them to take more control their lives.

A third of the more than 3,000 workers polled said they were happy about the benefits that such technology brought in terms of easier access to information and its ability to help them stay on top of work. Four out of 10 felt it helped them to control their workload.

Yet although such technology clearly contributed to productivity gains, the research concluded that basic work and people skills remained the epicentre of what made businesses tick.

The wide-ranging research also indicated that Americans are more than happy to go the extra mile for their boss.

"People are working more even if pay is not increased, with 81 per cent of employers and 63 per cent of employees working as many hours as it takes to get the job done," said Genia Spencer, managing director of operations and human resources at Randstad.

"And the survey shows a clear connection between hours worked and increased productivity. Half of employees and 65 per cent of employers are working 41 to 60 hours on average per week, and half of employers and 40 percent of employees said productivity has increased since last year," she added.

In more detail, more than a quarter of employers said they worked 40 hours or less a week with 65 per cent averaging 41 to 60 hour weeks.

A total of nine per cent of managers admitted to putting in 61 or more hours per week.

Yet, contradictorily, while happy to give managers their pound of flesh, employees' faith in top management and their ability to make good decisions had dropped.

From 2003 to 2007, a rising number of employees and supervisors reported increased doubts about their top management (18 to 27 per cent and 15 to 23 per cent respectively).

And, while more than eight out of 10 employers and six out of 10 employees viewed their current work as a career as opposed to "just a job", there was not much evidence of loyalty to their job.

In fact, there was a strong feeling among employees that it was time to make a career change, with more than half looking to take on extra work of leave for another job.

"The survey indicates that 54 per cent of American workers are looking for new jobs, both a red-flag and an opportunity for employers to focus on growing and developing valued employees," said Spencer.

"The goal is for employers to motivate employees to stay and progress with the company," she added.