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Recently on the intelliHR insights blog, we covered some thoughts from our CEO, Rob Bromage on why it’s so vital for leaders to stay up to date with technology in order to successfully lead their organisations into the future.
Here we’ll dive deeper into the future of work in context, to help you establish where your organisation is sitting, and how you might consider making some changes going forward.
Can you imagine your business without email? Probably not.
The way we communicate with each other is rapidly evolving every day. There was a day when we used to send and receive letters in the mail, then came the fax machine, followed by email and then the text message and Facetime. Now chat, instant messaging and video calling is fast overtaking business communications internally and externally. Meanwhile, online collaboration tools are quickly being adopted in the workplace and enhancing productivity along the way.
Once upon a time, you might have picked up the phone to talk to someone or traveled to their office to meet them. Now you instant message them through an app, video call them or have an online screenshare meeting without having to leave your desk at work (or your couch at home). You probably collaborate with them simultaneously on a document using Google Docs or work together on a project using Realtime Board.
So it’s no wonder why the fastest growing SaaS business in the history of tech is a company that enables better real-time workplace communication and collaboration. This accolade goes to a tool called Slack (yeah, you might have heard of it). If you haven’t heard of it (really?) it is an instant messaging tool fast positioning itself as the key interface for all workplace communication. For its users, it has replaced email for internal communications and it now wants to be the heart of your business systems ecosystem.
This goes to show that today we are communicating very differently. Everything is more instant and typically happening in an application. What’s more, the volume of communication we are engaging in and the number of channels we are using is growing very fast. In general, we are so much more connected now which has it’s advantages – but we need to be swapping out older methods of communication as much as possible, not just adding to them.
With all our experiences in the online consumer world, we now all have radically different expectations compared to just five years ago. We have apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Snapchat; smart devices like phones, tablets, watches and fridges; and of course our voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Home, and Google Duplex coming soon.
These technologies have fundamentally changed us. We now think that everything should happen instantly, and everything we interact with should know who we are and what we like to provide a tailored experience.
In our personal time, we rarely switch off from our devices. On top of everything you have for yourself, everything you need to do your work is also in the palm of your hands, lives in your pocket or on your wrist and goes with you to work and back home again – it probably even goes to bed with you!
We are all in the cloud, we are all using the internet on multiple devices and we have blended work and personal time so much that it is sometimes hard to distinguish which is which.
If we consider the health and well-being of our employee communities – and we should be – this is a really big problem. Should staff be responding to messages at 9pm at night before they go to bed or even receiving an email to their mobile phone on the weekend?
We are all guilty of it, but consider this, would you pick up the phone and call a colleague about a work matter or give them an instruction for the next work day at 9pm at night? Hopefully not, that would be rude and inappropriate, but is it ok to email them, tag them on a document or update a collaboration space that sends them an alert? This is where the lines can become blurred.
So how do we solve this problem? Our technologies have advanced so fast, we have not thought about or revised any kind of acceptable etiquette or actually set any boundaries.
Let’s face it, we are already deep into the digital age and need to find a way to not forget the human element in all our communication – whether that be an email, comment or Slack message.
Back in 2012, the European Commission set out to make Europe ‘fit for the digital age’ and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018.
In their words: “The digital future of Europe can only be built on trust. With solid common standards for data protection, people can be sure they are in control of their personal information”
While these standards apply to the EU, no doubt there is more to come on a global level as other countries follow suit.
Every business needs to get on top of data; What format is it in? Are we allowed to have this information? Is it stored safely and backed up? What are our responsibilities? What third parties have our data?
These questions present many challenges and most businesses are simply not set-up to handle them. If you’re not, the time to act is now. Regulations will only tighten over time as governing bodies slowly but surely adjust to changes in technology.
A great way to think about the decisions you need to make as a leader about the future of work, can be best summed up by three letters – WWW.
No, not the world wide web.. but What, Who and Where.
Every business needs to add this to their strategic plan alongside their SWOT, PESTEL and Porter’s Five Forces analysis.
What work can be automated and what work should humans do? Think about robotics, chatbots and digital automation – remember the focus should be on complimenting and adding value to what we as humans can do alone – not simply replacing people altogether.
Permanent staff, casuals, gig workers, contractors, joint ventures, partnerships, outsourcing… there are massive trends coming here. Gig workers are on the rise and the idea of a career for life is no longer appealing to most of today’s talent.
Will your workplace be physical, virtual or some combination of the two? Think of the business models available to you and the enabling technologies that exist to help make these happen.
(WWW – Adapted from Deloitte’s HR Tech 2018 Presentation by Michael Stephan.)
If your business does not adapt to digital disruption, the consequence is this simple: first your staff will leave, then your customers…Nobody wants this.
Responding to advances in technology is not limited to your customer-facing tools, it means everything, including the tools you use for your people. Everything from how you organise them, how they know what to do and how they self-manage. Not only is this important for scaling businesses fast, it’s important to help foster a culture of innovation and performance too.
So are you adapting fast enough? If paper, printers or filing cabinets are still staples in your workplace, then the answer is probably ‘no’. Don’t worry though, in the next blog we’ll be sharing some key tips from Rob on how you can start making changes to prepare your organisation for the future of work.