Keeping employees engaged
Globally, employees’ lack of engagement has been estimated to cost employers $7.8tr — equivalent to 11pc of the global gross domestic product. The root causes of disengagement and work stress often lie in how an organisation has designed people’s jobs. Decades of extensive research consistently link poor work design with negative employee outcomes, including mental strain, high turnover, job dissatisfaction, decreased productivity, and impaired learning. Many companies are now striving to do better. Unfortunately, our research indicates that many managers lack the necessary understanding to design high-quality jobs. This is where artificial intelligence technologies such as ChatGPT could play a key role, by bridging the manager knowledge gap and helping design high-quality work that benefits both employees and organisations. However, it is important for managers to first understand the pros and cons of using ChatGPT for work design.
(Adapted from “How ChatGPT Can And Can’t Help Managers Design Better Job Roles,” by Fangfang Zhang and Sharon K. Parker, published on August 31, 2023, by MIT Sloan Management Review)
At a workshop in central Ukraine, workers are busy making parts for howitzers, radar stations and mortars. They are all fakes. Ukrainian company Metinvest churns out high-quality replicas that serve as decoys, seeking to lure Russian fire. Made from rigid plastic foam, plumbing and scrap equipment, the gear is produced based on the logic that every Russian missile, shell or drone used to strike them is one fewer targeting real equipment and troops. Replicas likely account for at least some of the weapons Russia claims to have destroyed on the battlefield, which exceed the numbers in Ukraine’s arsenal. Decoys can help mislead an enemy about attack plans or fool an opponent into believing that an area is better defended than it really is, deterring an assault. Deception has been an important tool of warfare throughout history, however, advances in thermal imaging can reveal targets that are invisible to the naked eye or expose fakes as inert dummies. Inexpensive drones also offer armies pervasive real-time surveillance.
(Adapted from “How Ukraine Tricks Russia Into Wasting Ammunition,” by Isabel Coles, published on October 2, 2023, by The Wall Street Journal)
Climate change and zombie viruses
Zombie viruses — yet another risk that climate change poses to public health. Virologist Jean-Michel Claverie’s discoveries shine a light on a grim reality of global warming as it thaws ground that had been frozen for millenniums. Mr Claverie, 73, has spent over a decade studying “giant” viruses, including ones nearly 50,000 years old found deep within layers of Siberian permafrost. With the planet already 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial times, scientists are predicting the Arctic could be ice-free in summers by 2030s. Concerns that the hotter climate will release trapped greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere as the region’s permafrost melts have been well-documented, but dormant pathogens are a lesser explored danger. Last year, Claverie’s team published research showing they’d extracted multiple ancient viruses from the Siberian permafrost, all of which remained infectious.
(Adapted from “Zombie Viruses Are Waking Up After 50,000 Years As Planet Warms, by Liza Tetley and Bhuma Shrivastava, published on October 9, 2023, by Bloomberg)
People have splurged on their cats and dogs for ages, but now the pet high life is trickling down to tinier creatures. At Norm’s Piggy Pen in Rockford, Ill., a store devoted to pint-size pets, furry pets can get a bath, brush and blow dry for $40. Owner Amanda Norman throws in a massage, which they seem to enjoy. PetSmart hired married celebrity designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent to create furniture and décor for rodents, reptiles and fish. The pet store chain said it sought out the HGTV stars because customers told the company they hid their fish and gerbils in back hallways because their habitats weren’t nice to look at. American households had 12.7m gerbils, hamsters, lizards and other small pets this year, up nearly 7pc from the year before.
(Adapted from “America’s Pet-Pampering Obsession Hits Tiniest Critters: Guinea Pig Spa Days, Sofas For Lizards,” by Joseph Pisani, published on September 26, 2023, by The Wall Street Journal)
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, October 16th, 2023