Future of Workplaces and the Role of Digital The future; something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is – C.S.Lewis
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While C.S. Lewis may have been right about everyone reaching the future, when it comes to organizations and workplaces, transformation is happening exponentially, be it of visions, processes, practices, technology or culture. Rapid, and often, radical changes have meant that most traditional, hierarchy-bound workplaces have become obsolete, been left behind or replaced by swank, lean, technology-driven enterprises racing to transform into futuristic workplaces.
What are these futuristic workplaces? What do they imply for the management and the workforce? And what role would digital play therein? The concept of a fully automated workplace, controlled by voice-commands and sensors no longer seems alien, though we may still be years away from the fictional avatars shown on screens. A peek into the future of workplace would, perhaps, reveal something like this:
Lean, agile, dynamic, perhaps often virtual places, populated by a diverse, tech-adept digitally native workforce
24/7 connected location-neutral, decentralized businesses that work independent of constraints of time, geographical location and physical presence
Innovations and disruptions are the norms. A new type of skills and jobs, new ways of doing business, backed by data analytics and the latest technology
Changing the nature of employment, with traditional full-time long-term employment being replaced by freelancers and the gig economy, and mobility no longer being frowned-upon. Collaborative, need-based, shared workspaces which can be adapted for diverse use
Transformation of jobs and job skills. Replacement of work or repetitive nature by automated processes. Emphasis on learning, training and development, with existing skills being continuously augmented with newer ones
Focus on real-time solutions and on goals, not on practices and processes. With the increasing availability of and reliance on information and data, enterprises will be run on secure, fully integrated digital platforms, with optimized processes to facilitate decisions on real-time insights and alignment of goals
"Any kind of job is going to have a digital component. It doesn't mean everyone's got to be a computer scientist – Satya Nadella.
Digital has moved centre-stage, playing the lead role in the workplaces of the future. The impact of digital technology and tools in the transformation of businesses, including their how, why, when and where, is already tremendous with far-reaching consequences. The ubiquitous influence and pervasiveness of digital tech have encompassed every aspect of the business, from customer experience to talent acquisition to business strategy. With the workplaces of the future being dominated by digital natives, management vision, policies, procedures, and structures need to undergo a paradigm shift to ensure the continued relevance of the business and its sustained growth in the future. Not only is it incumbent on the management to facilitate the smooth transition, it is also imperative that fears of redundancy etc do not hinder the desired progress. Changing mindsets and behaviour, providing the workforce with the right environment of trust, encouraging and ensuring learning and skilling, empowering employees with the requisite tools and the training to use them, implementing transparency - the management needs to be proactive to visualize and create an adaptive, agile workplace, with cross-functional, collaborative teams for creativity and innovation to thrive. Employee experience then becomes pivotal, driving success.
The Role of Digital in Future Workplaces
The benefits of digital technology on speed, accuracy, productivity, efficiency etc are well-known. The synergy and integration of technology with human efforts not only optimizes work but also makes for a complete experience. Evolution of future workplaces is unthinkable in the absence of digital. Be it in the use of advanced cognitive tools, greater and better integration of AI in all aspects of the business from strategy to talent management to HR to customer experience, automation of work, or enhanced security measures, use of digital technology is imperative. The future of workplaces is digital.
Yet, we need to remember, investment in people needs to be in tandem with investment in technology for the symbiotic relationship to work. Without the infrastructure, access, skills, training or freedom to embrace the digital, the future workplace can easily shift into a disaster.
So, let's embrace digital thinking and working and all it promises, without losing sight of the greatest assets, our workforce, as we transport to the workplace of the future.