Latest digital technologies trends shaping the future of work

Amit_Das Director HR & CHRO on Digital Transformation
Artificial Intelligence-based smart tools have improved Workplace automation & led to the rise of Smart Virtual Assistants & Chatbots that improve productivity, efficiency & engagement.

Rendezvous with Amit Das, Director- HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd, (The Times Group)

Amit is a senior HR professional having over 30 years of experience working in Senior leadership roles at various professionally managed large MNCs & reputed Indian organizations across diverse business sectors, like Tata Motors, CESC Ltd, ITW Signode, Britannia Industries Ltd, Taj group of hotels, Vodafone, RPG group, and Reliance group. Currently he is working as Director HR & CHRO at Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd (The Times Group).

Q- What are the current trends that are driving the digital transformation of the future of work?

At times I feel that we are all part of a science fiction movie, where transformations all around us are happening at a far quicker pace than we ever expected. Although the COVID disruption has definitely accelerated the pace of transformation, the digital transformation had started well before this crisis. The Business landscape today is highly dynamic with VUCA being the new normal for some time now. We have already seen the emergence of the 4th Business Model called the Network Orchestrator, the Business lifecycle has been shrinking rapidly and at the same time, the World of Business is becoming Interconnected & Boundaryless.

“Customer expectation today is driven by Choice, Convenience, and Cost, which needs to be catered in a hyper-personalized manner. The other critical component of this dynamic business ecosystem is the fast-changing mix of Multi-generational Talent, with varying learning & engagement needs, career aspirations & workplace priorities.”

The human brain has been conditioned for thousands of years, to process past data & trends to predict the future. But as the business ecosystem elements are becoming more complex, the future business outcomes are no longer predictable by applying the law of probability. This is compelling Organizations to embrace the right technology to manage both scale & complexity. In a knowledge-driven network organization, Technology has been leveraged as a Force Multiplier to scale up both Human intelligence & also to drive Productivity through the right collaboration of man & machine.  We are witnessing an interesting world of business where the Big no longer eats up the small, but the fast & agile eats up the slow.

In such a Dynamic & Disruptive ecosystem, we are witnessing a trend where organizations are focusing on the simultaneous transformation of the 3 W’s – Work, Workforce & Workplace, to be Future-Ready. Digital transformation of Work cannot happen unless your workplace does not allow the ideation & implementation of the transformation and your Workforce has the necessary future-ready skills & competencies to lead the transformation agenda. These future skills being Creativity & Innovation, Critical Thinking, Learning Agility, Cognitive Diversity & Design Thinking. As a virtual replacement of the physical office, a digital workplace platform should be completely customizable so that the user can compute the processes, break them into small tasks, and collaborate in a seamless manner for ideation & execution. However, organizations are at different stages of their digital maturity curve, depending on how well they have been able to integrate the SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, & Cloud) model with their business ecosystem.

Q- What latest technologies are shaping the future of work?

The current COVID crisis accelerated the pace of digital adoption across organizations. It not only acted as a catalyst thereby forcing businesses to find efficient and effective ways to work but more importantly, has led to a long term mindset shift across the entire spectrum of Stakeholders: Businesses, Consumers & Employees, ensuring that these changes are here to stay. Technology has been an integral part of the Work, Workplace & Workforce for a long time, but this mindset shift has ensured that certain Technologies have moved from a “Nice to Have” status to a “Must Have” status leading to the early adopters having an advantage in overcoming and adapting to this shift.

Through the journey from Computers to Laptops to Handheld devices, technology has made 3C’s prominent – Convenience, Choice & Change thereby increasing Workforce Mobility. This essentially means that you have convenience to work from anywhere & anytime in a “Plug & Play” model. Collaborative technology tools have helped in staying “Socially Connected” in a “Social Distancing” era which has led to a mindset shift from ”We should do this is a person” to “Do we need to do this in person”. The adoption of collaborative technology in the workplace will continue to lay the foundation of the future of work. Also, analytics on usage pattern of end-users through collaboration technology can provide insights for further Business benefits. Artificial Intelligence-based smart tools have improved Workplace automation & led to the rise of Smart Virtual Assistants & Chatbots that improve productivity, efficiency & engagement. Having said this, it is important that organizations understand that use of technology is not the goal but the means of reaching the goal of Value Creation for all Stakeholders.

Q- How can the solutions providers in the technology space function in an advisory role and help organizations to incorporate digital transformation towards the future of work?

Organizations are increasingly focusing on the entire continuum of Talent whether they be Permanent, Contractual, Gig or members of external Solution provider as part of the Talent ecosystem. Any solution provider that partners with the Organizations today has to focus on two critical things, creating disproportionate value for the enterprise and building resilience & anti-fragility in the organization. For this, the solution providers should not limit themselves to only their area of expertise or implementation but should look at the larger purpose behind their engagement with the organization. Only then can the organization and solution provider goes beyond the Legal Contract that binds them to the successful delivery of a small piece in a much larger puzzle that the organization is trying to solve. This would require the Solution Provider to work closely with the organization by developing a design thinking approach that keeps the customer at the center of any solution that they are creating by observing and developing deep empathy with the target user. the Solution provider needs to work closely with the organization in understanding the development needs in their workforce & continuously invest in their capability building that would lead to a successful delivery outcome.

Q- What are some of the key challenges organizations may face while implementing their transformational changes?

An enterprise-wide transformation only works in an organization when leaders focus first on the fundamentals. This would entail changing the mindset of the stakeholders as well as the organizational culture and processes before focusing purely on the transformation agenda. The North Star that the organization envisions for itself should drive the transformation and not the other way around. It is important that the Workforce does not perceive that transformation could threaten their jobs, since they may consciously or unconsciously resist the changes. It is critical for leaders to recognize those fears and to emphasize that such a transformation process is an opportunity for employees to upgrade their expertise to suit the marketplace of the future.

Traditional processes governing the erstwhile Business models would no longer be relevant in the future. The traditional best practices whether it be in Business processes or Human Capital Management needs to evolve. Organizations need to increasingly follow the Design thinking approach by keeping the customer at the center of any solution that is created by observing and developing deep empathy with the target user.

While this is a period of resilience & recovery for organizations, this is also a period of anxiety for the employees. Research shows that anxiety makes people more risk-averse in a crisis; as a result, they are less likely to seek out differing perspectives. They tend to fall back on actions and solutions that have worked in the past — what is called “threat rigidity.” The desire to try to bring things under control can also lead to a go-it-alone mentality. And as resources dry up during a crisis, people often focus on self-preservation. As a result, collaboration across an organization can break down. 

In such a scenario, Organizations need to proactively build communication channels that focus on transparent and authentic communication, invest in collaborative technology tools and inculcate a capability building mindset in the organization to ensure that despite this radical shift in our way of working, we can future proof the organization.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

The Business World today has to focus not just on Recovery but also on building Anti-fragility. Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book on Antifragility wrote that some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility and uncertainty. He said that Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same, but the antifragile gets better. Being Agile is no longer an option, but today it has become an organization necessity.

Thank You, Amit!

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