Technology lies at the heart of the future of work and as we progress further into 2020, we shall evidently witness workplaces and workforces transform like we have never before. Gartner estimates that through 2021, digital transformation initiatives will take large traditional enterprises, on average, twice as long and cost twice as much as anticipated.
The opinion about the future of work seems to be divided between contrasting views. While some are of the firm belief that machines are here to take our jobs, the others feel that this digital revolution may just be what we have all been waiting for. The one thing that all agree upon is that technology is no longer relegated to traditionally tech led industries, but is universally applicable to most industries in diverse areas.
The effect of tech on work is real, and it is going to impact ‘organisational design’ in developed and developing countries. Fortunately, many enterprises have woken up to the fact that the correct question to be asked is ‘when should we take the digital leap’ as opposed to ‘should we take the digital leap?’. However, the solution to these corporate woes has mostly come in the form of ‘workforce upskilling’ sessions, and this definitely seems to be in the right direction but not fully there.
But with big transformations, come big adaptations and to be able to effectively understand the associated nuances, organisations will need to take a long term view. Any process that has been manually repeated, be it in any industry, now has the potential of getting automated for cost & time efficiency. As such, these situations will lead to a complete elimination of human interference at basic levels. The impact of tech will not be one faceted though, and there shall be surprises for many along the way. Broadly speaking, the influence of tech on talent will be defined by a few visible tropes.
Machine & Man make Magic: Although RPA may completely takeover certain professional tasks, the result will be the application of ‘deeper human capabilities’ to more strategic playing fields. This disruption will also enable detailed monitoring of any work being performed thus leading to an augmentation of proficiency both at a human and machines level. This means that both sets will increasingly be held to higher standards irrespective of their individual nature of work.
Workplaces become Portable: Many say that it is the people that make the place, and organizations around the world are definitely taking notice of this. Confining humans within traditional walls will be partly or completely done away with. Talent will become borderless and the best talent will be sourced from wherever it resides without needing to move people across locations. This trend will coincide and be greatly supported by the aspiration of people to be their own bosses – “the gig economy”. Given that most urban centers are already witnessing inconsistent commutation options, high cost of living and a lacuna of well-planned infrastructure driving workers to choose a home outside city limits.
Leadership without authority: With the advent of “the gig economy” and “truly diverse” workforces, organisation structures will become dynamic and adaptable. Leaders will need to influence without authority. Personal reputations at work and as subject matter experts will come to bear like never before and transcend the confines of a single organisation. There will be greater transparency and lesser information asymmetry leading to easier spotting of both talent as well as the lack of it. Personal brands will become as important as the organizational ones.
Skills with a short Shelf Life: The changing nature of roles and the increasing overtake of technology at workplaces is rendering many skills outdated very quickly. Industries that have been traditionally tech oriented are feeling the impact of this as much as the ones that have recently realised the importance of technology. At such a transformational junction, nurturing essential human capabilities has become a very important boardroom conversation for many. This, when combined with an increasing curiosity for new knowledge means that continuous learning will become a way of life for emerging leaders of the future workforce.
This year, we will see companies experiment with innovative ways of employer branding as the battle to attract future ready talent has just begun and is only going to get tougher with time. Human Resource teams will enjoy a more strategic position in their organisations as the lines between talent and business strategy become blurred. It is not possible for anyone to control the foray of technology into human lives, but a conducive environment for everyone to feel a sense of safety and prevent isolation can be created. We must proactively put efforts in the current run to shape workplaces of the future through technology, in a way that it enables people to be more productive, efficient and innovative; stay connected; and feel empowered to embrace this dynamic change in 2020.
Gaurav has extensive experience across Executive Search, Management Consulting and Corporate Strategy.
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