The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years and is poised for even more drastic disruption over the next five to seven years as technology continues to blur the line between digital and physical.
This will shape both the workplace of the future, as well as the workforce itself. To grasp these future societal and economic shifts, there needs to be an understanding of the expected transformation in the lives of consumers, businesses, and society as a whole.
“The biggest task is to understand what role businesses play in this ‘future of work’ paradigm and how to address emerging opportunities and challenges,” says Janine Nel, Deloitte SA Human Capital Organisation Transformation & Talent service leader.
“Our research has identified three forces that are collectively shaping the nature of the ‘future of work’, which need to be understood in order for businesses to thrive, and even survive. These are technology, demographics and the power of pull.”
When organisations understand how this complex work landscape is evolving, and the resulting effects on the workplace, they will be better placed to enable their workforces to anticipate and prepare for the coming challenges.
Technology is forcing organisations to redesign most jobs to leverage uniquely human skills such as empathy, social and emotional intelligence as well as the ability to set context and define business problems.
As a result, Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensors, and data have created entirely new ways of getting work done, in some cases even upending the way businesses think about tools and shifting how people and machines can complement and substitute each other.
Financial institutions for example, started experimenting with chatbots to assist customers with services such as the opening of a new account. This has provided efficiency and convenience of access wherever you are.
“Exponentially improved digital technology and infrastructure is reshaping the economics of work across the spectrum,” says Pam Maharaj, Deloitte Africa Human Capital Leader.
“Automation is dramatically lowering the cost of certain routine tasks and capabilities, increasing the ability for access to specialisation, wherever it is located.”
Digital technology infrastructure is giving rise to a new culture of work, allowing a growing number of these workers to be available as full-time or gig workers to developed economies that are confronting an ageing population.
“The world is changing at a rapid pace and employee needs are changing dramatically. Their working life needs to include different types of working arrangements to match flexible and dynamic working styles for the digital age.
Growing evidence suggests that more diverse workgroups and teams generate more creative and higher-impact results.
The likely net effect will be the workforce expanding to historically underrepresented populations, which will mean that organisations will need to change work practices to accommodate a more diverse employee base,” says Nel.
The power of pull
Market trends are also playing a role in shaping the future of work. As a result of access to information, customers are acquiring more power, bringing a ‘new’ ability to choose from an array of product and service options globally and giving rise to a ‘switching economy’ when product and service needs are not met.
Maharaj adds that, “in responding to the changing environment, the ‘power of pull’ will likely lead to much tighter alignment between work and customer needs.
This can spur growing demand for more creative work as customers shift away from mass-market products and services, as workers in smaller businesses gain greater access to the means of production, and as platforms help to connect niche product and service providers with smaller segments of customers globally”.
Businesses now have access to global talent markets enabled by networks and platforms, opening up new possibilities for connecting with customers. The trends described above are having significant effects on work, employees, and the workplace itself.
Organisations can ensure that they are best positioned to manage this change by developing the right cultural context and adapting workplace policies and processes. This will ensure that the business environment is set up appropriately to enable successful adoption of digital capabilities implemented, and that the right expectations are created by business leaders.