How the best organizations get more done

Three people sit around a table with tablets and laptops to discuss work

I recently took part in a live global webinar looking at the lessons from our annual State of Work report. It was encouraging to see so many people tuning in, eager to understand how to help their organizations work more effectively.

This is the sixth year we’ve conducted our State of Work report, which surveyed 3,750 knowledge workers across the US, UK, Germany, and the Netherlands to understand the world of work through the eyes of a global workforce. Workfront serves more than 3,000 companies worldwide, so we need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding workplace transformation.

The findings from this year’s State of Work report build on insights from previous surveys to give us a more complete picture of how work is changing—from how people get things done in their organizations to how they collaborate. Here’s what we learned.

Make work matter.

This year’s State of Work results confirmed that people want to do work that matters, a trend that’s been on the rise in our research over the past five years. What’s encouraging is that most people say they want to be measured on results, not just on activity. To run successful organizations, we need to harness this enthusiasm. We need to connect people’s work to the strategy of the organization. In the webinar, we looked at how businesses can ensure their people are doing the work that matters most.

Tackle the inefficiency epidemic.

A curious conclusion we came to in analyzing the State of Work results is that work is getting in the way of work. People spend almost half their time doing things they weren’t hired to do: respond to excessive emails, attend unnecessary meetings, and wait around for status updates. It seems knowledge work is beset by inherent inefficiency.

During the webinar, I discussed the way manufacturing businesses focus relentlessly on productivity and resource optimization. Our study found that knowledge workers spend just 43 percent of their time on their core job. That dismal rate of productivity in a manufacturing context would be unacceptable.

In the webinar, I make a distinction between ‘run’ work and ‘change’ work, and how meetings ought to focus more on ‘change’ activities. I think people should feel empowered to walk out of meetings that don’t have a clear purpose. A radical thought maybe, but why not? These are things we can do to start increasing the time our high-value employees spend doing the work they were hired to do.

Choose technology that helps people.

Technology, in many cases, doesn’t help productivity. Technology without purpose is trash. It’s important to let people use technology that they like, and that works for them. Employees today expect to have useful, modern technology and tools to get their jobs done.

Actively manage work the way you manage other business assets.

Another important finding was that actively managing work is vitally important to efficiency and effectiveness. One of the key proposals in the webinar, and one that got the most people excited, was the notion of having a c-suite role responsible for managing work across the enterprise. We have executives in charge of HR, finance, technology, and so on—so why not work?

The idea of managing work the same way we manage other business assets isn’t radical. Companies ought to be measuring work capacity and velocity in their organizations, just as manufacturing companies measure productivity.

Four attributes of high-performing teams—revealed.

I rounded off the webinar by sharing four attributes that characterize high-performing teams:

From our front-row seat, we've picked these out as the fundamental characteristics shared by teams and corporations that consistently outpace their rivals. It’s something for everyone to take away from the webinar and think about in relation to their own organizations.

We’ll continue to produce our State of Work report every year to ensure we provide solutions that meet the real demands of workers in the knowledge economy. I can’t wait to see what we uncover about the changing world of work in the years ahead.

Listen to the webinar and download the State of Work 2020 report for more information.