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Six Steps to Fix Work

September 13, 2017

Nowadays, it seems that companies spend increasing amounts on HR technologies and engagement tools, yet employee engagement, productivity and overall satisfaction is decreasing.

It feels like work just doesn't work.

Rigid employment contracts, too many distractions from the 'flow' of work, and outdated processes (think annual appraisals) are just a handful of the ways in which the modern-day workplace actually suppresses productivity.

Fortunately, we are starting to understand these problems and the ways that we can fix them.

Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Williams, looks at bringing the six new stars of the HR and engagement world into alignment in a way that has never been seen before:

1) Contract of alliance

The days of a 'job for life' are over. Employee loyalty and predictable career paths for solid performers are a decreasing reality. Globalisation and the 'information age' have created conditions of rapid change and the need for adaptability to remain competitive and relevant. Our new culture of work is rendering the traditional employee/employer contract – where solid, reliable, long-term service was rewarded by predictable progression – outdated and ultimately unfulfilling.

Until recently, a contract of employment was just that – a monologue directive within which the employee was told what they must do to earn their paycheck. And that was that – a transactional agreement that states 'if you do these things, you will get this much money.' Call me a romantic, but where is the adaptability and personality, or 'humanness', here?

People First supports a new, mutually agreeable contract between employer and employee.


  • We will work together to align and grow your skills and life with outcomes that enhance our business – so that work can be fun, fulfilling and sustainable.
  • We will create an environment where you can be absorbed in the best of your work.
  • If a future alignment between us cannot be found, we will amicably give you good time to find another opportunity that fits you better.


  • I will consistently explore – for myself – how I work best, what skills I am best at, and those I want and need to improve.
  • I will listen and respond to constructive criticism.
  • I will be flexible, enjoy new challenges and tackle them to the best of my ability and effort.

2) Science of flow

makes you happy

In a nutshell, flow can be explained as being 'in the zone' at work in three areas:

  • Absorption (cognitive)
  • Enjoyment (emotional)
  • Interest (motivational)

We have all been there (I hope!) – being challenged just enough but not being overstretched, able to utilise our skills to great effect, being immersed in our work and feeling energised by our activities.

Companies should be obsessed with helping employees to stay in the flow, as that is where the greatest productivity is achieved. Removing distractions is one of the primary ways of keeping employees in the flow. The other is ensuring that the employee is being given the right level of challenge to operate at optimal output, engagement and satisfaction.

The ability to keep employees in the flow is largely down to smart management and communication with employees, but People First technology is able to enhance flow management with ways of working, such as graphical representation of your team in the flow, and augmented check-ins (more on this later).

Where to go

3) Automatic job crafting

Even the most organised managers often have their hands full. And with people management becoming more personalised, you would think the situation would become more intense. Fortunately, technology now exists to support the expectations of a new alliance and lend a hand to managers to make sure that their team are performing in the happiest, most productive state that they can.

By evaluating the identity and significance of tasks, monitoring variety and allowing autonomy and feedback, activities like automatic job crafting will sculpt job tasks and expectations to the right people, to get the best performance from employees – keeping them in the flow for enjoyable, sustainable, high performance. Simple!

Communicative objectives

4) Personal assistants

Traditionally, a PA was for top levels only – a friendly voice checking in on you, helping you arrange your life and get on with your day. Not so anymore. A kind of 'Fitbit for work' can help people to stay in touch with their performance, anxiety or happiness levels – in short, their flow. When administered using Chatbot technology, this gives all employees control over their working life – a far cry from disempowered and disengaged employees simply going through the motions. Importantly, information that is collected can be 'downloaded' by employees as part of the check-in process to make sure that managers are fully up to speed on the wellbeing of their team members.

5) Pragmatic people analytics


Here's an idea. How about using only useful analytical methods to make decisions? The stuff that gives real value at a human level? Sounds good, huh? Too much or too little data can be a dangerous thing, and for years we have collected byte after byte of data on employees which is useful for statistical purposes only.

Right now, analytics can step up a gear to collect real people data that can influence – you guessed it – the lives of real people working in an organisation. The informally dubbed 'Fitbit for work' is a great example of this. It is not data collection for data collection's sake, but in some cases an almost 'dear diary-style' personalised collection of thoughts and feelings that contribute to real-life decisions, to improve employee happiness and output.

6) Augmented check-ins

Hands up, who enjoys a good old-fashioned annual appraisal?

Only a tiny percentage of HR leaders feel performance reviews are effective. Considering this is the current standard for checking in with employees, often just once per year, I am worried! We all should be. And I am not surprised that disengagement is a significant workplace issue.

Fortunately, the market is driving change. Many progressive companies are now replacing annual appraisals with real-time feedback and check-ins.

Check-ins are the meeting where each party evaluates how their alliance contract is going. Some technology solutions offer a more flexible approach to appraisals, but people first has taken the support of managers and employees during a check-in process to a whole new level – it asks for talking points, prepares and runs the meeting, helps make new tasks on-the-fly and then checks both parties are satisfied with the outcomes.

Yes, it's cute. Yes, it's exciting. But over and above anything else, it's effective in nurturing the relationships in play at work.

So, there you have it. The ability to adapt to new ways of working. Simple.

About People First

People First is the most employee-focused HR platform on the market. It provides businesses with the tools and thinking to nurture and engage talent while increasing retention and driving productivity, promoting the workplace of the future – today.

Available to purchase through our partner network, People First is the world's first open people platform – a global HR and employee environment supported by an ecosystem of best-in-class partner and People First technology apps.