When it comes to buying a new vacuum, the two most important questions are: Is it easy to handle and can it really pull up dirt? We wouldn’t be Good Housekeeping if the vacuums on this list didn’t pass that test with flying colors. But this next part gets personal:
If your home is mostly carpeted and all on one floor, an upright vacuum is your best choice. It comes with attachments for crevices and upholstery and uprights do the best job deep cleaning carpets.
For homes with stairs, bare floors and only a few carpets, go for a canister vacuum. Most come with a power nozzle and rotating brush to clean the occasional carpet, but often have a dedicated attachment to clean hard floors without scratching or scattering dirt. And, they are easier to maneuver into tight spaces and up and down stairs.
Stick or pole vacuums are best suited for bare floors and low pile rugs. Most are rechargeable with limited run times, so they’re ideal for quick clean-ups.
Robot vacuums get under the bed and behind furniture and can even clean while you do something else, but they don’t deep clean. Used regularly, they can help cut down on the need to haul out your full-sized vacuum.
Finally, grab a hand vacuum for the dry spills on bare floors and to quickly clean upholstery or the car.
Keep reading for more details about each of our picks, if you think your kid will want in on the action, too, you’ve got to check out one of our favorite toys: Dyson’s “Little Helper” toy vacuum!
TOP LAB PICK
Miele Dynamic U1 Maverick Vacuum
$399.20 (20% off)
This Miele is ideal for allergy and asthma sufferers, since the Good Housekeeping Seal-holder’s self-sealing bag keeps dirt out of the air. It’s a powerhouse that cleans everything from delicate curtains to deep carpets. Some consumers said it was heavy, but its cleaning power can’t be beat.
Good Housekeeping Seal holder
Quietest model in our test
Bissell Air Ram Cordless Vacuum
This GH Seal holder ran for an impressive 37 minutes in our lab tests and was among the quietest we tried. We also like that the handle lays flat on the ground (by rotating it at the base), which makes it easier to vacuum under furniture and other tough-to-reach places.
Good Housekeeping Seal holder
Long run time
Miele Compact C2 Electro+ PowerLine Vacuum
The motorized power nozzle on this Miele canister can tackle five different carpet pile heights. The soft parquet brush is perfect for bare floors that may be susceptible to scratching. The adjustable suction lets you clean everything from delicate drapes to heavily soiled carpets. No speck of dirt is out of reach.
Good Housekeeping Seal holder
High filtration bag and HEPA AirClean filter
Durable metal wands
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iRobot Roomba i7+ Vacuum
The i7+ easily picked up oatmeal and sand from carpet and bare floors. Unlike other robots, when it returns home, any debris is automatically dispensed into the base and enters a sealable, replaceable bag. Great for allergy sufferers, there is no emptying a bin after each use.
Goes around furniture legs well
Goes back to base on it’s own when bin is full
Must buy replacement bags
Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Vacuum
$558.00 (20% off)
Despite its slim look, this 2-in-1 machine rivaled full-size upright vacuums when it came to pulling dirt out of carpets. It’s super easy to use and it comes with two heads, one for carpets and one for bare floors.
Doubles as a hand vacuum
Black + Decker Dustbuster Cordless Vacuum
This small but powerful handheld comes with a long nozzle that pivots a full 360 degrees to nab dust around tight spaces. The pull-out crevice tool extends the vacuum’s reach, and the flip-up brush gently removes dust from delicate furniture surfaces, carpet, and upholstery.
Easy to empty dust bin
Long charge time
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Hoover REACT Vacuum
This Hoover can go from carpet to bare floors without missing a beat. Its special floor-sense technology automatically adjusts the brush speed to prevent scattering and damage as you move from one floor surface to the next. It has a removable canister to better reach underneath low furniture.
Floor-sense tech adapts to different floor types
Great for hard-to-reach places
Four included attachments
Tips over easily
SARAH BOGDAN, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING INSTITUTE Product Analyst, Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab
Sarah Bogdan, a trained mechanical engineer, researches and evaluates home appliances and cleaning tools for the Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute — whether she’s assessing irons and vacuums or detergents and cleansers, she’s constantly analyzing data and tracking what’s buzzing with consumers.
CAROLYN FORTE, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING INSTITUTE Director, Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab and Textiles, Paper and Plastics Lab
Carolyn Forté, a certified consumer science expert, is the director of the Home Care &
Some of the items in your pantry (like and ) work as effective cleaners and, even better, cost next to nothing. So the next time you’re staring down a big mess but you’re out of , don’t run to the store — try one mixing up one of these DIY standbys instead.
: Never combine ammonia-based cleaners with chlorine bleach or products containing bleach, such as powdered dishwasher detergent. The fumes they’ll create are extremely dangerous. Before doing any mixing, read the product labels first. Always label any bottles of DIY cleaners with all the ingredients inside. In case a child or animal gets into it, it’s important to know what the mixture contains.Important Safety Tip
1. Scented All-Purpose Cleaner
What you’ll need:
One part water
Combine the above ingredients together, pour into a spray bottle, shake, and then let infuse for a week before using. Once done, you can use the solution to remove hard water stains, clean trash cans, wipe away wall smudges, and . Plus, the fruit’s acid adds extra cleaning properties — perfect for stubborn stains.
2. Kitchen Cleaner and Deodorizer
What you’ll need:
1 quart warm water
appliancesGood Housekeeping Institute
To clean kitchen counters, , and the inside of your refrigerator, all you need is baking soda. “It makes a great deodorizer and can be used to shine stainless steel sinks and appliances,” says Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab. Just pour the above solution on a clean sponge and wipe.
What you’ll need:
2 cups water
1/2 cup or
rubbing alcohol 70% concentration
1 to 2 drops of for smell (optional)
orange essential oil
wash your windows
The next time you need to and mirrors, combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle. Hint: Don’t clean windows on a hot, sunny day, because the solution will dry too quickly and leave lots of streaks. For mirrors, spray the solution on a paper towel or soft cloth first before wiping.
4. Brass Cleaner
2-Ingredient Polishing Tricksby Good Housekeeping US Pause Unmute Current Time 0:24 / Duration 1:06 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% FullscreenCLICK TO UNMUTE
What you’ll need:
White vinegarlemon juice
To clean non-lacquered cabinet pulls, bathroom appointments, , dampen a sponge with vinegar or lemon juice, then sprinkle on salt. Lightly rub over surface. Rinse thoroughly with water, then immediately dry with a clean soft cloth.
5. Heavy-Duty Scrub
What you’ll need:
enamel sinks and tubsAmazon
Rust stains on porcelain or are no match for this cleaner. Dip the lemon into the borax and scrub the surface, then rinse. (This is not safe for marble or granite.) Tip: You can find borax, a laundry booster, in the detergent aisle or order it on .
What you’ll need:
Sudsy ammonia contains detergent that helps remove . Mix 1/2 cup with enough water to fill a one-gallon container. Then clean your racks, stove hoods, and grills by dipping a sponge into the solution and wiping over the surface before rinsing with clear water. You can also soak oven racks and grill grates in the mixture directly, with a little extra ammonia if they’re particularly dirty.
7. Water Ring Remover
What you’ll need:
white non-gel toothpaste
left a water ring
Places you’ve accidentally (but not on unfinished wood, lacquer, or antiques), dampen a cloth with water, add the toothpaste mixture and rub with the grain to buff over the spot. Then take a dry cloth and wipe off. Use another soft cloth for a final shine. Polish as you normally would.
8. Last-Resort Clothing Stain Remover
What you’ll need:
1 gallon hot water
powdered dishwasher detergent
1 cup , not ultra or concentrate
regular liquid chlorine bleach
badly stained but washable white clothing
Treat by mixing the above ingredients into a stainless steel, plastic, or enamel bowl (not aluminum). Soak garment for 15-20 minutes. If stain is still there, let it soak a bit longer, then wash the item as usual.
9. Marble Cleaner
What you’ll need:
mild dishwashing liquid2 drops
2 cups warm water
Mix dishwashing detergent and water the next time you want to clean natural stone countertops. Sponge over marble and rinse completely to remove any soap residue. Buff with a soft cloth; do not let the marble air-dry. Caution: Never use vinegar, lemon, or any other acidic cleaner on marble or granite surfaces; it will eat into the stone.
It is clear that today the success of businesses depends on leaders who are agile when it comes to learning – The ones who can perceive problems, resolve the most complex challenges, and effortlessly thrive even in a constantly changing and volatile environment are truly the kind of leaders that all organizations need today.
What some companies, strangely, do not realize is that such people may already be working with them, and hence their potential may be underutilized or even ignored. Studies show that in companies today at least 15% are top potential because they are high on learning agility, and it is the job of companies to identify and develop this critical-to-success attribute.
It is easy to identify your top talent – the ones with high learning agility. They would display social prowess, empathy, higher tolerance for a lack of structure, and would be highly engaged. They are the ones who have promoted twice as fast as the rest, owing to their top-class performance and contribution to the company. Ideally, these qualities should be immediately recognized and highly appreciated, especially in today’s business environment. The qualities mentioned are what make outstanding leaders whom every company would want to retain.
Is Learning Agility Recognized?
Despite the importance of and the easily recognizable qualities associated with high learning agility, companies seem to favor and recognize attributes and talents that are easier to measure and account for. When we say account for, we mean those that enable a company to track the development of an employee in a steady manner, and through a well-defined business structure.
The reasons for ‘ignoring’ this attribute, up to now, are that it is difficult to classify and describe, and tough to measure. Learning agility is on the same path as emotional intelligence – everyone knows it is important but very few cultivate it or value it as much as they should. Most leaders and managers prefer to go through their workdays ‘fighting battles and putting out fires’, without giving much thought about how they can keep crisis from happening and if they do occur, how they can use them as opportunities to grow and develop. The idea is to bring such attributes to the fore, and help companies and leaders to recognize and nurture learning agility that may exist across the workforce.
Understanding Learning Agility to Improve It
We have already discussed the mainstays of learning agility and its description. For ease of continuity, learning agility can be defined as an outlook or mind-set that supports certain practices. This in turn enables people to constantly develop, challenge status quo, and put new strategies in place to deal with increasingly complex problems within the organization. It is easy for people with high learning agility to discard irrelevant ideas and skills, and quickly learn new skills and gain more knowledge and a better perspective.Learning agility connects with emotional intelligence, say experts
Since people with high learning agility are better at recognizing and managing their own emotions and perspectives, they have an enhanced ability to listen with empathy to the thoughts and perspectives of other people. They are also better equipped to, therefore, understand the emotions of others, and respond in the most appropriate manner. Linking these attributes can help companies work better, and focus on improving learning agility in their personnel. The idea is to enable learning agility and remove any factors that may interfere with its sustenance and growth.Improving Learning Agility and Helping Others Build it too
As mentioned at the start, building and improving learning agility is possible and extremely beneficial. Ensuring its growth rides on several factors, according to experts, and we enlist and discuss these factors below:Innovating and Transforming
This is about challenging and questioning traditional beliefs, assumptions, perspectives and the status quo, with a clear vision of finding better and unique ways of approaching situations and people. People with high learning agility not only seek new ideas, but are able to generate them too, since they have the ability to view things from myriad angles and a growth mind-set.Better Performance Levels
When people challenge themselves and their shortcomings, their abilities, and knowledge are strengthened. They handle conflicts, stress, and difficult situations a lot better, thereby allowing them to learn faster, pick up new skills, and have better performance levels when compared with their co-workers.Seeking Feedback and Learning from it
People with high learning agility actively seek feedback and learn from it. They use feedback to understand their own behavior, and other people better, and as a result become more insightful, empathetic, and knowledgeable about others and their problems. Strong self and environmental awareness are among the top catalysts for success.Risk Taking
High learning agility prods people to seek challenges and venture into ‘unknown areas’, putting themselves in the midst of unfamiliar situations. They do this to learn something new, and grab ‘strange’ and exciting opportunities, not just for thrill of it. They consistently move out of their comfort zone, learning, building confidence, and developing mental strength and ability.Helping Others to Build Learning Agility
With so much instability and volatility in the business world today, a handful of people with gumption would not be enough to tide over challenges. Hence, people with high learning agility not only utilize their abilities to help themselves and the company, they also help their co-workers to discover their strengths and utilize them to the full.
They help others see the potential of learning agility thereby, encouraging them to build, grow, and use it to their advantage and for business success.Do Not Place Blame or Become Defensive
People with high learning agility grow this skill by remaining answerable if something were to go amiss. They are willing to accept their failure or fault in case of a blunder, and then use their mistakes to become better next time.Intuition to be Trusted
One of the best ways to build learning agility is to trust one’s intuition. This means recalling and thinking through the similarities and differences between situations and projects, rather than behaving aggressively or reacting without thinking.Reflect and Explore
Enhancing learning agility is completely about learning, and learning only happens when people reflect on what may have gone by, and explore better ways of managing similar and new circumstances. Their mind is always open, such that they learn from anyone and any situation. They also remain mindful to reflect consistently on their own behavior and attitude.Experimentation
The underlying premise of learning agility is constant learning and growth. People ‘high’ on this ability, make time to experiment – searching for new ways to address a problem or demolish a challenge.
A setback is never a failure for such people, but rather acts an accelerator to reduce the possibilities of failing and a stepping-stone for advancement in a person’s career.
Companies and businesses today are using the latest technology and tools, attempting to reinvent and simplify their processes and operations. In order to keep pace with these evolving techniques, companies need smart people – people who would learn quickly, put their learning to good use, think on their feet, and consistently keep up with changes. Companies that can move faster than their competitors, are more likely to find success, and maintain their front-runner status for a long time.
In order to reap the benefits of learning agility, a company, and its people must be willing to improve this skill over time, and this would require consistent effort and robust commitment. Learning agility is most definitely an asset, which must exist in every company today.
To improve this ability over time, a company must proactively identify the individuals with this ability, and create career paths within the organization to nurture their skill and gain the maximum out of their efforts. Companies need to change as well, becoming more adaptable, flexible, and build high responsiveness to change and duress. Both companies and individuals must practice learning agility, such that success would be guaranteed even in the most difficult times, and despite the fiercest of competitors.
If you’ve ever accidentally let a colored sock slip into a load of whites, then you know about . The occur when colors run in the wash or during drying, or when an overdyed item rubs against another. Unfortunately, are a major offender. Pay attention to those tags that say — they’re there for a reason.
dye transferstainsnew denim jeans”wash before wearing”
But if your sofa cushion already has an indigo tint, it’s not too late. , Director of the Cleaning Lab at the , has got you covered with the best methods for removing dye stains from white and colored clothing, plus carpeting and upholstery.
Carolyn ForteGood Housekeeping Institute
How to Remove Dye Stains From Fabric
Color Run Remover
This solution works for both colorfast and white washable fabrics, Forte says. Start by mixing four gallons of the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric with one packet of . Make sure the remover is fully dissolved. If the whole load has turned pink, you can use multiple packets depending on the amount of clothes.
Carbona Color Run Remover
Add the dye-stained items to the mix and soak, stirring occasionally, until the unwanted color lifts. Rinse thoroughly in warm water. For stubborn dyes, you can repeat that process as necessary. Follow up by laundering.
How to Remove Dye Stains From Upholstery
White Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
$15.48 (23% off)
To save your sofa or chair, mix one tablespoon of , and one tablespoon of with two cups of cool water.
dishwashing liquid, like Dawnwhite vinegar
Using a , sponge the stain with the . Leave it on the stain for at least 30 minutes, blotting every five minutes with the cloth and more solution. You can use your phone timer to keep track. Then sponge with cool water and blot until the liquid is absorbed.
clean, white clothdetergent-vinegar solution
Next, sponge the mark with and blot to remove the stain. Sponge with more cold water and keep blotting.
If the stain remains, mix one teaspoon of and one tablespoon of with two cups of cool water. Sponge the stain with the detergent-ammonia solution. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes, blotting every five minutes with a clean, white cloth and more solution. Finally, sponge with cold water and blot dry.
Still not working? Dab the stain with a cotton swab dipped in . “Hydrogen peroxide acts like an all-fabric, color-safe bleach, so it’s worth a try,” Forte says. “Just be sure to test it for safety on a hidden part of the fabric or carpet before applying it to the stain.”
⚠️ Never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia. The resulting fumes are hazardous. ⚠️How to Remove Dye Stains From Carpet
First, mix one tablespoon of and one tablespoon of with two cups of warm water. Using a , sponge the stain with the detergent-vinegar solution, blotting frequently. Flush with clear water and blot until the liquid is absorbed.
dishwashing liquid, like Dawn, white vinegarclean, white cloth
Then, sponge with and blot some more to lift the stain. Finish up by sponging with plain, cold water and blotting until the liquid is absorbed.
If the spot is stubborn, use the same detergent-ammonia solution that you would for upholstery, letting it sit on the stain for at least 30 minutes and blotting every five minutes with a clean, white cloth and more solution. Then sponge with cold water and blot dry. A cotton swab dipped in can also help as a last resort.
Vision defines the dream destination (What and Where) of your organization whereas, a north-star statement that creates the focus and direction, whereas mission defines the purpose of your organization (why) and ensures alignment of action (How) with its Vision. Vision statement should essentially have 3 qualities, Aspiration, Inspiration and Direction. Vision helps you to visualize growth possibility of an organization for 8 to 10 years of timeframe. Mission helps organization to create alignment of actions and behaviors of people. Behaviors of people are expected to be based on strong Values of the organization. Values are like roots of the tree; they provide solid foundation and act like a lighthouse for the organization in turbulent times. For example, in an organization with a value about Customer Focus, employees ooze empathy to their customers. Their thoughts and actions are configured around personal commitment to customers win all the time.Now we appreciate importance of Vision, Mission and Values to create alignment in action within organization and move towards closing growth possibility with defined timeline. Leadership team has further responsibility to speak about Vision and Mission all the time, every day and at every opportunity, thereby helping people to realize their purpose of engagement with the organization. Leadership team should also demonstrate the Values through their behaviors all the time. It is non-negotiable. The pyramid below shows how alignment of action should permeate within the organization. Leadership team needs to create system to support actions and behaviors expected out of this strategic alignment. Do you think something similar happens with your organization? Let us categorize organizations in 3 types: Type A, Type B and Type CMore than 60% of the organizations don’t know where they are going, they just keep on continuing. They are moving without any Vision. This doesn’t mean they are not growing or not making profits, but their growth is directionless and “Numbers” are centric, their efforts are not focused or concentrated towards their long term goals and above all they are scattered. These are organizations.Many organizations do have great Vision & Mission, Well defined! We can see it on their official websites. But if you ask any of these employees, what is your Vision and Mission? Hardly anybody can recall it. In such organizations Vision and Mission are just one of the rituals of communication defined by the management. They are namesake. In these cases organization’s Vision demands certain efforts in certain directions, but in reality efforts and actions are not aligned with its Vision and Mission. There is a huge gap between vision and reality. These are organizations.In organizations it’s a rear combination where their Vision is well defined, well communicated and employee’s thoughts and actions are well aligned with the Vision and driven by Mission with a clear road map.Where is your organization at present and where you want to be,
Business without Vision is an illusion:
Relationship between Vision,Mission and Values :
Structuring it with the help of a pyramid :
Type A, Type B or Type C? Analyze yourself and work towards it.
Carolyn ForteGood Housekeeping Institute
Clorox 2 Stain Remover and Color Booster
Everybody sweats, but no one likes to slip on a favorite shirt to discover those telltale yellowing underarm . Sweat marks accumulate not only because you’re working hard (kudos!), but also the you’re using can also contribute to the build-up — not fair, we know.
To help save your perspiration-soaked clothes from the trash, , Director of the Cleaning Products and Textiles Labs at the , shared her go-to removal methods. Here’s the best way to get sweat stains out of white and colored shirts, plus your favorite hats:
Start by checking the tag. Dry-clean only stuff should go straight to the pros. If it’s safe to tackle at home, first sponge the area with , especially if you see white salt lines or the fabric feels stiff. Then pretreat with an enzyme prewash stain remover like or rub liquid enzyme detergent like into the stain. Wash right away using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.Carbona Stain WizardGH Seal Star
After the cycle, air dry the shirts to ensure the marks have disappeared. Putting them in the dryer before removing the stain completely can set it for good. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
For extra stubborn marks, you may also want to addto the wash cycle. It’s especially made for colored clothes and other items not safe to chlorine bleach.
You can also soak the clothes in a detergent and water solution before washing for additional stain-fighting power:
Fill a small tub with about one gallon of warmwater.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of liquid detergent and mix.
Let soak for 30 minutes to an hour before washing.
How to Remove Sweat Stains: Whites
MORE STAIN-BUSTING TIPS Do You Know How to Get Out These Common Stains? How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Everything
You’ll want to follow a similar method for getting your white shirts white once again as well. Sponge the sweat stains with white vinegar before pretreating with an enzyme prewash stain remover like or liquid enzyme detergent like . Then wash on the hottest cycle that’s safe for the fabric, adding regular for especially stubborn marks. Soaking the tees in a detergent and water solution before washing can also help remove yellowing areas. Air dry until you’re sure they’re gone, as the heat of the dryer can make those pit stains permanent.
How to Remove Sweat Stains: Hats
If your favorite baseball cap is starting to look a little worse for wear, don’t throw it in the washing machine just yet. The cycle can distort the shape — no bueno. It’s best to hand wash (if it’s safe according to the label) and then scrub the stained area with a soft brush (like an old or dish brush) before rinsing. Once the stain is gone, blot the hat with a towel, re-shape, and air dry.
it’s a perennial debate. But the discussion is becoming more urgent as digital technology begins to penetrate the labor force.The best way to organize corporations—
Although consumers have largely gone digital, the digitization of jobs, and of the tasks and activities within them, is still in the early stages, according to a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). Even companies and industries at the forefront of digital spending and usage have yet to digitize the workforce fully (Exhibit 1).1Exhibit 1
Four fundamentals of workplace automation
Organizing for the future
Revisiting the matrix organization
Knowing when corporate headquarters adds rather than subtracts value
How Ericsson aligned its people with its transformation strategy: An interview with chief HR officer Bina Chaurasia
Agility: It rhymes with stability
Visit our Transformational Change page
How Ericsson aligned its people with its transformation strategy: An interview with chief HR officer Bina Chaurasia
The stage is set for sweeping change as artificial intelligence, after years of hype and debate, brings workplace automation not just to physically intensive roles and repetitive routines but also to a wide range of other tasks. MGI estimates that roughly up to 45 percent of the activities employees perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. (For more, see “.”)
This coming digitization of the workforce—and the powerful economics of automation—will require a sweeping rethink of organizational structures, influence, and control. The current premium on speed will continue, to be sure, even as a new organizational challenge arises: the destabilization of the way people work.Read more about Article – McKinsey Quarterly Article – McKinsey Quarterly Interview – McKinsey Quarterly
From bedrock to quicksand
The threat to organizational health is plain. As we argue in “,” the hallmark of an agile age is the ability to be stable and dynamic, allowing incumbents to make the most of their big-company advantages, while simultaneously keeping pace with quicker-moving disruptors. Like old masonry buildings—such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco—that have new glass and steel added to their existing structures, today’s leading companies must integrate the contrasting elements of stability and speed to create a more functional, modern whole.
McKinsey research shows that bedrock aspects of stability—workers’ roles and the processes that support them—are the first and fourth most important factors, respectively, differentiating agile companies from the rest. What happens when these roles and processes suddenly turn to quicksand? Most of the organizational ideas of the last half-century or more have taken for granted the underlying building blocks of jobs and the way people work, both individually and together.
Automation can devastate these assumptions by disaggregating jobs into their component tasks and subtasks and then hiving off those that can be automated. It will force companies to figure out how to reassemble the remaining tasks into something that makes a new kind of sense, even as it reconceptualizes the very idea of what a job is. The early stages of these efforts may already be visible as organizations free highly specialized knowledge workers from mundane tasks. The most talented surgeons at one cardiac hospital, for example, perform only the heart surgery itself, while more junior staffers handle pre- and post-op procedures; a similar redesign has helped lawyers on the partner track and school administrators make the most of their scarcest skills.2
Once roles and tasks are sorted out, the newly constructed jobs that result must be reaggregated into some greater whole, or “box,” on the org chart. Those boxes then need a new relation to each other. Will the destabilization of jobs prove powerfully liberating to organizations, making them far more agile, healthy, and high performing? Or will it initiate a collapse into internal dysfunction as people try to figure out what their jobs are, who is doing what, and where and why?
The answer may depend on the ability of corporate leaders to restabilize the workforce—and to reconceive organizational structures—by using the very same digital technologies that have destabilized it in the first place.
How can they do so? No doubt, at this early juncture, many possibilities exist. One intriguing approach might work as follows: first split multifaceted jobs into discrete tasks, automating some and determining what can be done more effectively by humans. Then match those needs with the employees who can meet them, where they are, and when they’re available. Finally, introduce a market-clearing mechanism to tie everything together.3
Executives have long dreamed of organizational market mechanisms that could mobilize talented people for their best opportunities. But these have proved difficult to achieve at scale. They may be more feasible now, though, thanks to digital workforce platforms—software layers that help executives allocate collections of workers’ skills against a wide array of projects and processes. Companies can deploy such a platform even as they lower overhead costs and improve their responsiveness and flexibility.4
These new platforms, as we will see, may provide a novel form of organizational structure, but they won’t restabilize the workforce in and of themselves. Companies must also be careful to account for the more permanent aspects of their employees’ working lives, such as the business segments they know best, their functional areas of expertise, and the geographies where they live. As digital workforce platforms remake organizational structures, these more enduring “homes” will provide a key aspect of stability. More important, a dynamic internal market, in which the most talented and sought-after workers receive the highest compensation, helps people find new and more meaningful ways to commit themselves to their roles, even as the organization finds new ways to assess, develop, and reward them.
The combination of platforms, markets, and deeper engagement with digitally enabled workers holds appealing implications for managing human capital. That means not just allocating talented people effectively and efficiently, which is alluring enough in itself, but also freeing employees to focus on the more meaningful parts of their roles, as machines take over those that can be automated. Managers can benefit as well, by getting out from under the burden of appraisals, which will be redefined and multisourced on the workforce platform, so they can focus more on the development and professional growth of their direct reports. All this, to be sure, must carefully sidestep an obvious pitfall reflected in the current anxiety about a new kind of “digital Taylorism,” which, rather than freeing employees to pursue greater meaning and purpose, would chain them to more highly controlled—and controlling—approaches to work.5
Done right, however, platform-based talent markets can help put the emphasis in human-capital management back where it always belonged—on humans.
Think ‘platform,’ not ‘structure’
Workforce platforms are therefore likely to provide considerable stability in changeable environments. Agile companies tend to have more fluid structures, in which day-to-day work is organized in smaller teams that often cut across business lines and market segments. Platform-based talent markets might provide a solid structure to help supplement and even replace traditional hierarchies. They could also greatly alter how matrix organizations work.
As the old view of hard and dotted lines begins to fade, companies might choose to group employees by their strongest activities and skills. From this functional home, they could be “rented,” via a talent market, by business-line and project leaders. The result would be at once more stable, since employees would be associated with familiar homes, yet more dynamic, as platform-based talent markets would help companies to reallocate their labor resources quickly when priorities and directions shift. Would you like to learn more about our ?
What is a platform?
“Platform” is one of those loosely used words that often lack a specific definition. Broadly speaking, digital platforms are software layers that gather and synthesize large volumes of data to make digital services available and accessible on various devices. They help define the rules and the way work gets done, while better coordinating activities and lowering interaction costs. The best kind of platform invites the involvement of diverse participants, some of whom build their own offerings, tools, and applications on top of it. In practice, platforms typically take the form of a website, app, or other digital tool that connects different types of users.6
Most of us are familiar with the impact of digital platforms on business and consumer markets. Think, for example, of Google’s AdSense, connecting advertisers, websites, and customers. Newer industrial platforms, such as GE’s Predix or the German manufacturer Trumpf’s Axoom platform, use the Internet of Things to connect machines and organize production.
Like digital technology in general, digital platforms have been slow to penetrate the world of work. But after transforming consumer and industrial markets, these platforms—publicly accessible ones like LinkedIn or Monster.com, as well as those inside companies—are now poised to do the same thing across the full spectrum of human-capital management. External platforms are already well established, but it’s a different story behind the corporate firewall: companies must themselves fashion digital workforce platforms using customized mash-ups of tools from solutions providers. HireIQ, for instance, provides software to digitize the interview process and apply predictive analytics to the results. More comprehensive solutions offer further unity and integration. In either case, they usually require extensive customization.
The investment required to put together digital workforce platforms is not small. They also call for superior technical capabilities, including sophisticated data management, advanced-analytics skills, and adaptable application development. Perhaps more important, they require a far more robust understanding of each employee’s skills, experiences, attitudes, performance, potential, and, if you will, desires or dreams for the future. Even though many of the tools used in platforms are available from third-party solutions providers, integrating them into a smoothly functioning whole is no trivial endeavor.
At least the utility of workforce platforms isn’t trivial, either. MGI modeled sample organizations in a range of industries with a diversity of workforce mixes, operating models, and financial characteristics. In this way, it estimated that companies using a combination of publicly available and behind-the-firewall platforms could realize an increase of 275 basis points in profit margins, on average, by 2025. These increases come about through productivity gains among front- and middle-office workers (which can translate into revenue or other increased output opportunities) and through savings in recruiting, interviewing time, training, onboarding, and attrition costs. The upsides, we suspect, may be far greater for companies that actually succeed in making markets for talented workers inside their organizations.7
What follows is a more detailed look at how workforce platforms can resolidify the way work gets done, even as they improve collaboration, retention, succession planning, and decision making.
Matching individuals, teams, and projects
Companies have long had difficulty maximizing the visibility and mobility of their best people. Managers can struggle to find the right person for a specific project, and talented workers can’t always see opportunities that might help them grow professionally and develop their expertise. Staffing coordinators have tried to step into the breach, but their efforts, even when effective, are necessarily limited in scale. These traditional shortcomings will soon increase as the exigencies of automation drive companies to break up jobs into their component parts.
Workforce platforms, which can sort information on employees’ skills, performance in previous assignments, working styles, personality traits, availability, and locations, can be particularly valuable matchmakers. Moreover, they can play the clearinghouse role in a neutral and nonbiased way, matching people and opportunities while improving the success of staffing efforts by expanding the known pool of candidates across a whole company. Workforce platforms can also streamline the way employees find colleagues with specific expertise—an important capability for large multinationals with operations spread around the world.
Consider the uses of workplace platforms in hospital systems. Nurses must constantly be matched to departments and cases, taking into consideration their specialized training, availability, doctors’ preferences, and technical requirements. Sophisticated software can better deploy the substantial float pool of nurses and per-diem physicians, and the platform’s real-time communication tools can help frontline medical personnel access specialists immediately.
Bringing science to talent management
Whom shall we hire? What should we pay them? How can we retain these employees and help them grow and develop as their careers progress? Such people decisions are at the crux of organizational health not only for executives but also for entry-level workers, administrative staff, sales teams, and customer-service representatives. In the absence of sufficient data, companies often fall back on time-consuming and bureaucratic review processes that attempt to look at a year’s performance and decide how to grade it for compensation purposes. These time sinks will probably become all the more difficult as companies break jobs into their component tasks, rendering previous role definitions and job descriptions less relevant for evaluating performance.
Ericsson, Google, 3M, Wells Fargo, Xerox, and other early adopters of digital workforce platforms are finding that they help ground people decisions in hard data rather than gut instinct. The software provider Symantec, for example, used a crowdsourced performance-evaluation process to gain a 16 percent increase in employee satisfaction and engagement. Xerox reduced new-hire attrition and made call-center agents 3 to 4 percent more productive by implementing Evolv’s HR analytics software, which sets up a 30-minute online-screening test for applicants and compares the results with a profile of top performers. An aging workforce gave 3M a reason to build an integrated workforce-technology platform to plan for succession management, thus increasing its employees’ internal mobility and boosting their annual productivity by 4 percent. Wells Fargo used Big Data analysis by Kiran Analytics to identify its most engaged and high-performing frontline employees; the company then designed its hiring processes to screen for candidates with similar traits, raising teller retention by 15 percent. Ericsson globalized its HR processes around an integrated platform designed to regather the tools and processes scattered by decentralization. (For more, see “.”)891011
Hard data can support more robust yet streamlined discussions that help companies to reach better-informed decisions. By making it possible to evaluate the performance of employees through multiple sources, digital platforms release managers from lengthy appraisal processes, freeing them to focus on coaching and professional development. They also bring to bear more data, such as the information generated when project teams bid for a particular employee with a specific set of skills, pushing up that person’s per diem, which in turn gets reflected in the evaluation cycle. Rather than further destabilizing the organization, digital platforms, the markets they enable, and the hard data those markets provide can help to solidify and stabilize it.
Engaging the digital workforce
In a digital world, where switching jobs is easier than ever and top performers are increasingly in demand, it’s no surprise that employees have become more mobile. This change might represent a positive dynamic in the broader economy. But many companies face increased rates of attrition, which is not only expensive but also destabilizing—particularly when strategic capabilities, institutional knowledge, and leadership skills walk out the door. Workplace platforms offer new ways to restabilize attrition rates by helping employees become more engaged with their work and flagging early warning signs, so that managers can intervene before high performers leave as a result of low morale or boredom.12
By allowing even the largest organizations to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to human resources and talent management, digital workforce platforms can help create the conditions in which employees feel energized by their work, valued by their organization, and happy in their environment. Such platforms can, for example, create a more personalized onboarding process that incorporates what companies know about new hires and their skills when they arrive. Appical, a Dutch start-up that uses digital games to transform the onboarding process, is among the companies creating tools to streamline orientation and training for new employees.
Workforce platforms also support the ongoing and self-directed virtual learning that’s crucial to professional development and growth. Digital training services like those provided by City & Guilds Kineo and LEO Learning enable companies to cut back on live training sessions and create more comprehensive, personalized, and effective online learning programs.
Designing employee journeys
In product and service markets, digital technology has helped companies take a new view of interactions with customers by mapping and shaping their “journeys” from their first awareness of a product to its purchase and beyond. This new, technology-enabled approach helps companies answer an age-old question: Why should customers buy from us?13
There’s a similarly long-standing question for employers, of course: Why should top performers choose to work for us? In response, some companies have begun examining the design of their employee journeys with the same intensity they bring to designing the customer experience. Why does the employee experience matter? For one thing, because studies show that intrinsic factors—the meaningfulness and purpose of work, for example—can motivate employees more effectively than just traditional extrinsic ones (think: money) tend to do. Furthermore, inroads by automation will doubtless leave many employees feeling vulnerable, though it is more likely to redefine jobs than to eliminate them. Improving the employee experience can help balance that feeling of vulnerability.1415
Just as digital technologies help companies design the customer decision journey, workforce platforms help them design the experience of employees as they move through their career paths, from their initial consideration of a company until they become alumni. At each stage along the way, the platform provides greater visibility into what works and what doesn’t, by tracking the behavior of employees and enabling real-time, personalized responses to it.
Workforce platforms could, for example, roll up and provide access to the data gathered through the “sociometric badges” invented by MIT computer scientist Alex Pentland, who cofounded the social-technology firm Humanyze. These badges look closely at the interactions and social behavior of employees, even while raising new questions about confidentiality, ethics, and the use and sharing of information, among other things. The data they generate can help reveal, measure, and analyze organizational dynamics—and give companies a better understanding of how employees work and of how to make them more satisfied with their jobs (Exhibit 2).Exhibit 2
Will such devices bring the looming presence of Big Brother? Case studies conducted with them found that they can actually reinforce the more humanistic elements of high performance: a pharma company, for example, found ways to improve the way people communicate with each other across departmental lines, while a German bank used badge data in reconfiguring seating arrangements to encourage more face-to-face interactions and to control email overload.16
Of course, legitimate privacy concerns must be carefully tended to, though millennial workers, who have grown up with wearable technology, may be more comfortable with potential privacy trade-offs. Using aggregated and anonymized (rather than individual) data will help.
The leader as organizational architect
Recent McKinsey research into the health of organizations finds that the definition of great leadership varies according to context. (For more, see “Leadership in context,” forthcoming on mckinsey.com.) Certain kinds of baseline behavior that are required of leaders when organizational health is poor, for example, recede as it improves and other, higher-order forms of behavior come to the forefront. This idea bears a resemblance to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: people concerned with their own (and their families’) physiological health and safety have little or no time for higher-order needs, like self-actualization.
The coming digitization of the workforce and the automation of tasks will take a toll on organizational health by destabilizing the ways and means through which work is performed. As this happens, executives should carefully reassess the well-being of their organizations and, in many cases, adjust their leadership styles for the new context. That may involve the kinds of behavior required when companies trend toward dysfunction: effectiveness at facilitating group collaboration, demonstrating concern for people, championing desired changes, and offering critical perspectives.
CEOs must be alert to how machine learning and advanced analytics will automate some of their own tasks, as well. They will not only have to rethink their leadership behavior but also keep a sharp eye out for their own comparative advantage.17
In an age of automation, CEOs and their top teams will need to gain an almost architectural sense of how machines and people work together side by side, each making the other more productive and effective, while never losing sight of their employees’ humanity. They will have to look beyond the architecture of mechanical “hard” structures to include the orchestration of complex social systems as well.
Leaders must help to reconcile and interrelate the forces and mandates of digitization and automation, on the one hand, with the needs and tenets of organizational health, on the other. A virtuous circle could certainly arise, but so could a vicious one. If enthusiasm for technology makes executives lose sight of the human needs of the workforce—for example, by steering too far toward machine-based control of employees, especially lower-status, lower-paid employees—organizational health will surely suffer. (See sidebar, “Humanizing dynamic scheduling.”)
Humanizing dynamic scheduling
The broader view required will force CEOs to transcend their own functional or business-unit backgrounds. Former CFOs, for example, have always had to see beyond the numbers on becoming chief executives. Now top leaders will need an even deeper grasp of people, the roles and tasks they perform, and their fears about the future.
The approaching age of automation, together with the impending penetration of digital technology into the labor force, threatens to destabilize crucial aspects of how employees work, by undermining the stability companies depend on to be agile. Executives can resolidify their companies even while making the most of the coming transformation if they adjust their leadership behavior, embrace digital workforce platforms, and deepen their engagement with digitally enabled workers.