By Paige dos Santos, digital lead at SAP Africa
What would you do if you didn’t need the money? It’s not a question we often give much serious thought to, but it may very well be one that we need to answer in the next few decades. The advent of the internet was expected to result in widespread economic democratisation; instead, it has resulted in increased polarisation of wealth – creating a small number of uber rich. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report for 2017, between 2009 and 2012 the income of the top 1% in the US grew by 31% , compared with less than 0.5% for the remaining 99%.
This trend is likely to become exacerbated as digital concentration continues unchecked. This level of polarisation cannot sustain itself in the long term and could result in social upheaval. The shifting role of organisations in this new paradigm requires many traditional organisations to fundamentally rethink their reason for being and their approach to their employee value propositions, both now and into the future.
Seismic societal shifts
Murmurings of public policy response can already be seen internationally. Over the last few weeks, the United Kingdom announced the introduction of Digital Services Tax, a 2% revenue charge on “specific digital business models,” predominantly targeting tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. However, the situation we find ourselves in might well require action that is a little more radical. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek economist, academic and politician, posits that a new approach is in fact imperative to the stability of civilisation. Enter the Universal Basic Income. Call it an obligation-free dividend if you will. Universal Basic Income is a fixed income bestowed upon each citizen of a country every month – regardless of income, resources or employment status. The World Economic Forum 2018 featured several discussions exploring the concept.
Would such an approach result in sloth-like existences for us all? Will we become the embodiment of the “idle-hands” saying? Perhaps not. Several studies are currently investigating the impact of universal basic income, two of which are underway on the African continent. Studies in Uganda showed that recipients of a basic income worked an average of 17% more hours per day, increased business assets by 57% and reported a reduction in spending on vices such as alcohol and cigarettes. The reason? For the first time, people had hope.
Concurrently to digital economic concentration, our global population is burgeoning rapidly, heading towards what Charles C. Mann points out is biological ‘outbreak’ status. Our beautiful planet has finite resources. If we continue to take these for granted by pursuing linear, consumption-driven economic development approaches, we will only see an acceleration of the difficulties we are starting to face globally: choking pollution, food shortages, extreme weather and more. We urgently need to find ways to preserve our world for years to come by redesigning our processes and economies to conserve and optimise, rather than consume and monopolise.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide highly visible targets around this. These problems are too big for governments alone to solve. Public private partnerships, and responsible corporate citizens, are essential to making this a reality. This is something that SAP is taking very seriously, contributing to the adoption of technology to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Purpose needs to be something indistinguishable from our core business. It should define what we do and why we do it, contributing to a beautiful world for generations to come.
Let’s revisit the opening question. In light of our changing society, if you had enough money to cover your basic expenses, what kind of an organisation would you want to work for? One that chased profits above all else, or one that really had a higher purpose? A study undertaken by BetterUp found that workers would be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.
Engaging your total workforce around organisational purpose can be hugely beneficial, creating significant opportunity for organic and innovation driven growth. However, this is easier said than done. As organisations metamorphose to perform in the digital age, talent models are changing. The skillsets required are in a constant state of flux, and the gig-economy is booming in response to this. According to Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018, more than 40% of workers in the US are now engaged in alternative work arrangements – contracting or gig working.
With such high percentages of an organisation’s human talent involved in external work arrangements, it’s essential to ensure that they are engaged and contributing to the organisations purpose too. Technology tools are available to assist customers in achieving this level of integrated engagement by approaching workforce management holistically. The SAP SuccessFactors and Fieldglass solutions integrate powerfully to ensure that both your internal and external workforce are striving towards a shared sense of purpose, and that individuals can see the impact of their efforts. At the same time, the solution suite manages the ever-present external workforce risks from a legal, security and privacy perspective.
Interlock – combining intuition and logic
When you are working for a purpose you truly believe in, you want to be able to add as much value as possible to that purpose every day. But as humans, we are fallible creatures. We often believe we are being logical and pragmatic, when the reality is that, according to research performed by Daniel Kahneman and his associates, we are primarily using our automatic intuitive responses rather than our logic-based ones. This is where intelligent systems are providing us with remarkable tools that ensure we get the right insights, at the right time, to equip us to make the best logical decisions for our organisations and minimise heuristic bias.
Consider the recruitment process. SAP SuccessFactors uses in-built machine learning analysis to ensure that job specifications created by managers are worded to equally attract male and female candidates, directly impacting gender diversity in the workplace. If the description contains too many masculine-oriented words, the system will automatically suggest replacing certain words and provide appropriate synonyms. This results in a gender-balanced job specification.
When embarking on new projects, SAP Fieldglass Live Insights enables organisations to identify the best geographic locations for the project, based on critical success factors. The solution scans SAP Fieldglass data on contract workers countrywide to recommend the best location based on resource skill level, availability and cost. Tools such as these enable our employees and organisations to perform at optimal levels, making the best possible decisions for their organisations and in turn, achieving their purpose.
The potential to thrive
If you didn’t have to work, would you choose to spend 18 hours a day at the office, sacrificing your family life and mental and physical wellness? And if by chance you did, would you be performing optimally? In the digital world, human creativity, curiosity and resilience are essential to personal and organisational performance, to achieving the purpose the organisation is driving towards. These characteristics are most evident when employees thrive, which is why special attention needs to be paid to the link between wellness and performance at work.
SAP, in collaboration with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global, has developed a solution that brings these together: SAP Worklife. SAP Worklife combines data on critical health indicators such as sleep, exercise, diet and mental health, with performance, development and employee satisfaction. The insight it provides enables HR professionals and managers to nurture talent to become the best they can be, in every aspect of life. Imagine the impact of unlocking curiosity and creativity across your organisation, and the energy of working with a team who are truly fulfilling their potential, not just as workers, but as human beings.
Universal basic income is just one of many possibilities that may unfold as we journey into exciting new frontiers as a human race. As our natural resources come under increased pressure and our societies start to shift, we need to pay careful attention to the change. Are we stubbornly focused on the immediate time horizon, ignoring the emerging reality of the next five years in order to fight fires for the next six to twelve months? Or are we thinking further ahead?
It’s time to be honest when you answer the question – would your employees still work for you if they didn’t need the money?