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Creating a digital workforce

28 May 2021

Where do your employees fit into your business’ digital transformation journey? Are they inspired by the new opportunities or concerned for the future?

The pandemic has meant most employees have experienced new ways of working. They’ve embraced new technologies – such as video calls. They’ve also been faced with a new business culture – one where people have to think differently about how to build and sustain relationships with colleagues and business contacts.

Here, we take a look at how digital technologies are changing your workforce, as well as the amazing possibilities they offer.

Digital is changing the employee experience

As companies accelerate their digital journeys, day-to-day jobs will change. For example, warehouse operatives’ schedules will adapt in real time in response to customer demand. Marketing teams will access real-time data to drive innovative campaigns. Product designers will collaborate with colleagues globally, using technologies such as low-cost 3D printing to increase the speed and quality of prototype iterations.

It’s exciting – but also a very different working environment from the past. Timescales are faster. Expectations are higher. And that will create new pressures that will need to be actively managed to ensure people remain effective without becoming overwhelmed.

A new culture for flexible working

Home, or at least some form of remote working, is here to stay. Companies have provided staff with an array of tools, from custom-built apps and high-speed connections to video conferencing and cloud access, to support this process. But there needs to be a change in corporate culture to ensure digitally enabled employees are happy and productive.

To enable people to work effectively, efficiently and collaboratively from home – or from any location in the future – trust is really important. Giving staff the responsibility and ownership to get the work done is an essential part of a successful digital culture. Reinforce this by measuring output and results – rather than hours at the desk.

It is also important to recognise that people work differently – and many want to work flexibly as well as remotely. Allowing people to set their own hours can be key to improving the new working experience. Companies will also need to explore how best to enable the collaboration and communication required, especially in creative work. It’s even worth rethinking how employees are managed in this digital model. What could be changed to make them more productive – and what changes do managers need to make to create a strong, productive team?

Empowering digital workers

Within the warehouse, on the production line or in the field, workers are increasingly used to the digital tools provided — smartphones, two-way radios and body-worn cameras for instance — to make them more efficient or to ensure their safety.      

From receiving the next job and planning the next route to communicating with base or taking a photo to confirm a job is complete, these tools have become essential for the “mobile” employee.

Workers are now capturing data, including video, on the job, with rapid communications allowing colleagues to chip in with ideas and advice. Body-worn cameras also give lone workers more confidence, improving their safety by live-streaming key moments.

The next stage of digital automation will make further changes to day-to-day jobs. Companies are using IoT to automate processes, freeing up people to focus on knowledge-based tasks – such as handling exceptions and dealing with problems. Virtual reality and augmented reality are being used to improve training; they even enable remote operations. There’s also the use of 5G and IoT in the car manufacturing industry — it’s completely transforming production and paving the way for autonomous operations, allowing workers to focus more on the quality of production. Lastly, 5G is unlocking the power of applications such as remote surgery and robotics – applications that will completely change the way employees interact with the business.

Embracing a digital mindset

It’s really important to consider how the business plans to manage this digital transition. From culture to training, support to career planning, digital businesses need to consider the new working experience. How are warehouse employees going to work alongside robots and automated vehicles? Where does the employee fit into a new automated workflow? What are their responsibilities? What are the rewards? And, of course, what are the skillsets required – and can the existing workforce be retrained to undertake the new, increasingly knowledge-based work?

Successful digital transformation will challenge many of the traditional employee cultural norms – and companies need to proactively explore and manage this change.

If you’re ready to learn more, our guide on the digital workforce is a must-read. Check it out.

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