Workplace software as an occupational hazard

The US Department of Labor has updated its Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Known as 2018 SOC, government agencies use the system to classify workers and, with a bit of interpretation, you can use it to focus the mind on meeting the specific workplace IT needs of the workforce. This is important, because employees often view workplace software as an occupational hazard.

Because employees are people too

Other countries have SOCs, and there’s even an international SOC, but the US version is the most useful as it’s the most recent and, well, because it’s the US.

The 2018 SOC system contains 867 detailed occupations which can be whittled down to 23 major groups. We’ve gone one step further by grouping occupations as either knowledge-first, service-first or labour-first. These distinctions may be coarse, but they help to get the conversation started.

Every occupation has a different set of duties and responsibilities, and some need specialist skills, education and training. Yet when it comes to business IT, we all use the same general sets of workplace software. How can this be ‘best’ for everyone? Indeed, I would argue that this lack of ‘business fit’ is one of the reasons we’ve seen a slowdown in productivity growth over the last decade.

Workplace software meets ‘Minimum Lovable Product’

I’m not suggesting your business adopts 23 different email apps, nor am I suggesting it needs 98 different interfaces for those line-of-business applications. But what I am advocating is something called ‘minimum lovable product’ (MLP).

MLP springs from the world of the modern start-up, where they celebrate every customer win. And unlike ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP), MLP leaves us in no doubt about what the metric is.

We’ve all had to use ‘less than lovable’ business applications in our time, and I’ll admit that I’ve avoided doing ‘business chores’ because they involve using these clunky systems. But I’ve also witnessed employees stressing-out over the use of corporate IT. Neither behaviour is what we want.

Remove the IT occupational hazards

Despite our love affair with consumer gizmos, most people would describe themselves as ‘technology ambivalent’ when it comes to using business IT systems. A large organisation may have a few Apple/Google/Linux/Microsoft fan-boys/girls on the payroll, but most employees will see IT as a means-to-an-end…of the working day.

So, spare a thought for your employees by recognising the distinctive contributions of their occupations to the organisation. Consider their workplace software requirements a bit more and, dare I say it, even ask their opinion from time-to-time. The accelerating pace of change means we’re all going to need a bit of help sometime soon, so let’s remove the IT occupational hazards now before they get in the way.

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