“No-one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected” – Julius Caesar
If you were entering the world of work a generation ago, everything felt relatively stable. You could expect a career to be for life, work was carried out on-site within your contracted hours and hierarchies and career paths were well-defined.
Flash forward to today, and it’s all very different. The world of work is characterised by change. Portfolio careers are becoming the norm, remote and flexible working is commonplace and even C-suite positions are evolving at speed.
On top of that, new technology is being introduced into the workplace almost constantly – and it’s set to transform not only how we work, but what work means.
This is disconcerting to say the least, especially if your business predates the last decade of digital disruption. There’s a temptation for leaders, and even employees, to ignore change or even obstruct it in favour of what they’ve always known.
However, by understanding the developments ahead and making plans to utilise them, business leaders can create a brave culture that uses, rather than fears, change. So what are the biggest drivers of change in the new world of work – and how can businesses turn them to their benefit?
1. Make it count: The quantifiable workforce
From smartphones to wearables and even implants, connected technologies are everywhere. This has big implications for the workforce; by drawing on data, businesses can access a range of new insights about their employees.
In essence, we’re seeing the rise of the quantifiable workforce – and businesses can use it to the advantage of employees and the enterprise alike.
With data insights, management teams can proactively design strategies to deliver a better employee experience, improve safety and minimise unnecessary overtimes. Haulage and logistics firms, for example, are already using wearables to monitor driver fatigue and prevent accidents.
However, there’s a careful line for businesses to tread. The workforce may naturally be wary of being monitored, so it’s vital that employees feel the data will work in their interests. This means that businesses must be clear about the objectives, and returns, of monitoring right from the start.
To begin to utilise the quantifiable workforce, data should be collected on the areas where it will be the most valuable – such as safety, wellbeing and productivity. Management can then extract insights and critically act on them to improve employees’ working lives.
By focusing on both communication and data privacy throughout, businesses can build employee trust and ensure the process makes it a better place to work.
2. Spring into action: Pop-up teams
Today relationships between businesses and their workforces are increasingly complex. Keeping up with changing customer expectations means that businesses’ talent needs are more unpredictable and time-sensitive.
Organisations frequently need access to specialist skills, but don’t want to invest in resources that might only be needed on occasion. Meanwhile, employees want the best work/life balance possible, and often prefer to eschew set career paths in favour of greater choice.
Pop-up teams, where businesses supplement their core team with short term hires and freelancers, can meet the needs of employees and enterprises alike. Legacy businesses can gain the agility to keep up with their customers, while workers can gain the freedom and variety they’re looking for.
Nonetheless, this model can create challenges. Businesses need to combat competition for talent and face the real risk that the skills required won’t be available when needed. Meanwhile it can be tricky to coordinate and engage a disparate workforce.
To be successful, businesses must underpin pop-up teams with digital technology, to enable agile working and attract the right talent. Businesses should unify their communications platforms across cultural and geographic boundaries, to enable easy collaboration with talent worldwide.
Using analytics within workforce planning will help teams to see where freelancers will be needed and can add the most value. And in the future, blockchain can support efficient relationships with temporary workers through easy contract sharing and payments. Through digital technology, businesses can fully embrace the agility of pop-up teams and meet their evolving needs.
3. Get smart with AI: The intelligent executive
Artificial intelligence is a powerful emerging tool for businesses. The technology can automate repeatable processes, deliver insight from data and strengthen customer engagement through chatbots.
However, with many employees concerned about redundancies, enterprises must strike a careful balance between human and robot – and this is where the leadership team, or ‘intelligent executive’, comes in.
Business leaders should focus on using AI in ways that replace the menial with the valuable. For example, in healthcare AI is being used to identify anomalies and patterns in scans, leaving doctors to the more valuable task of treating patients.
Both humans and AI should be able to play to their respective strengths. But to do so, leaders must ensure that they keep track of developments in AI and introduce the right technology at the right time.
By developing a comprehensive people strategy, that encompasses upskilling, recruitment and communications, businesses can make informed decisions about how AI is introduced and ensure that it benefits everyone.
Winning in the new world of work
The workplace is changing at speed – and it’s almost impossible to predict what it will look like for the next generation.
But with these changes comes the opportunity to gain greater value: both in what employees bring and what they gain from the business.
Although it can be intimidating, the goal should be to create a brave culture that looks to leverage current developments. This will deliver greater agility, satisfaction and value: ensuring that everyone wins in the new world of work.
Read more about how these three areas – workforce, pop-up teams and AI – can change the way you work:
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