How to work productively under hectic circumstances?


How to work productively under hectic circumstances?

Niklas Nordling works at Nokia as the director of the ”People Organization Development” -division. His work includes everything related to developing people, management, skill and performance management and developing the company. We were glad to welcome him to share his wisdom on Waffle Wednesday 10.4.2019. He shared his thoughts about how we can be productive while doing knowledge-intensive work.

The subject has interested Nordling for long and he started by telling, that productivity comes from many different things: for example for what we do, how work is analyzed, how our work is managed and how we process things. The world is changing fast and at the same time assignments become more demanding. The ability to think, plan and resolve things faster than ever is desired of us. At the same time we should be able to create something new and be more innovative.

Productivity is decreasing

For some reason productivity has been decreasing since the 80’s. There are many reasons for it, but one is absolutely that nowadays work assignments are more complex than they used to be. A second explaining factor might be that technology is developing faster than we can master it. Lately there has been so many investments towards productivity and working that its direction should switch upwards. Because the matter is important and no-one has found a clear reason, therefore it is profitable to spend time towards clearing the subject in the future.

In big companies, like Nokia, productivity is a bigger problem than in small companies due to company history and traditions. When a company has been operating for decades, some paradigms have made permanent marks to behavior. These traditional influences also slow down development. This is a problem for big companies in comparison to little nimble start up- companies that can start new things quicker and develop operations more swiftly.

This same challenge concerns productivity in Nokia. The company has always had an aim to perform, make things happen and achieve goals. All these things are important but little problematic from the employee point of view. Because if we want to be good in knowledge-intensive work, we must spend a lot of time thinking, planning the big picture and solving problems. If the company’s goal is for their employees to perform as efficiently as possible one day after another, they aren’t able to use their whole capacity and get through aforementioned tasks successfully.

Nevertheless it is important that the company and its employees perform tasks in a good pace, but productivity is much more important! Especially when the company wants to create something new, build new solutions, new products and be nimble in markets. Productivity comes from creativity, great problem solving and efficient thinking.

What will happen in the future?

Todays work is generally very challenging for us because we can’t know how much of it will be automatized in the future. What will be our role? Will our role be to coordinate and analyze rather than really make things happen? We have great pressure to work more, do more, think better and be more productive. We have pressure to work strictly and precisely.

The brain is the world’s most complex machine, that in some ways work very simply. To create new and think freely we can’t experience too much pressure. We should feel safe, even happy. That is creativity.

Also our skills (or those we don’t have yet) make today’s work challenging. What do we do at this moment and what we should do in the future? What skills do we have? How does future work look like? Up until this day it looks positive, because the amount of jobs has increased compared to those that have disappeared. Some jobs are still in danger to disappear, but there are many new possibilities for example in analytics, programming and data processing. Many of these professions that are coming up require more creativeness and are in many ways demanding and complex.

Four most important skills to maintain productivity

What kind of value we can produce in the future? This is the problem that Nordling tries to solve daily at his own job. He doesn’t have a ready list of tasks, roles and skills that Nokia will need in the future, because these are things that you can only try to guess.  Through scientific study it’s known that there is certain specific metaskills that keep Nokia employees updated, value-producing, performing and well-being, even when performing knowledge-intensive work. These four stand out as the most important:

  1. Problem solving Everything related to our cognitive abilities: our capacity to think, reflect, solve problems and plan. If we can improve and facilitate these abilities, we will be able to better utilize these valuable skills. How does this relate to work? All the things Nokia can do about better work organization, structures, management, and management make it easier to solve problems. Nokia employs 50,000 engineers who sit and brainstorm every day. Providing them with the opportunity to work more productively will make a big difference to the company.
  2. Emotion regulation. To solve problems, we need emotion regulation. This is because we do not always act logically. We can choose to be friendly and behave well instead of shouting and screaming in certain situations. We do this by regulating our feelings. Most of the things we do during the day have to do with controlling emotions so that the strong feelings we experience don’t bother us. To think clearly and logically and to be productive, we must be able to do so.
  3. Interaction. When do emotions usually come into play? When we meet other people. Then we might get excited or, on the contrary, we may become angry and our feelings come to the surface, which may disturb our thinking.
  4. Decision making. All the previous steps lead to good decision making. This is why Nokia spends a lot of time developing them. It would be important for every employee in the company to be helped to be better at problem solving, emotion control, interaction and decision making through these.

Nordling concluded his speech by putting together the three most important things at work life right now,, according to his opinion:

  1. Productivity (how we can help people achieve their best)
  2. Performing at work
  3. People’s wellbeing

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