Disruption caused by technology is no longer a thing of the future. It is already here, and most of us experience it in our everyday life. Whether it is with the advent of Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, ApplePay, 3-D printing or experiencing human-less interactions at our bank or hotels, the world around is rapidly changing. One thing common to most of these disruptors is that they have originated or evolved to keep up with the changing customer needs, a key ingredient to their success. In the fourth industrial revolution, digital transformation has created an environment where organizations have become tethered to their customers and made almost every company a service company.
Similarly, in the workplace, automation, artificial intelligence, digitalization and consumerization are changing the landscape of how work gets done. To compound the situation, the sociodemographic changes are escalating the scale of change in the workplace. Nearly three-quarters of C-suite respondents from Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Study predict significant industry disruption in the next three years – up from 26% in 2018 – a dramatic shift in perception about the future business environment.
Another layer of complexity is around the shifting shape of the workforce. On the one hand, with automation and digitalization aimed at increasing productivities and efficiencies, the ‘experienced’ workforce is getting overlooked, and on the other hand, there is a continual rise in the contingent/gig workforce. According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Study, 79% of executives expect that contingent and freelance workers will substantially replace full-time employees in the coming years. All this is leading to the emergence of a new model around what it means to “go to work.”
With pressure mounting on multiple fronts for companies, what can you do to keep up, let alone thrive amidst fierce competition and emerging socioeconomic forces?
- Shift to an Employee Experience Mindset
Employee experience is more than the latest HR catchphrase. Simply put, it is the “user experience” of your company — it’s the intersection of employees’ expectations, their environment and the events that shape their journey within an organization. HR needs to shift its mindset away from optimizing “things” for employees (for example, programs and processes) to instead designing an end-to-end experience that employees long to be a part of. Companies are realizing that employees have the same wants, needs and desires as customers so they need to start treating their biggest asset – employees – as customers. Human-led design techniques, rooted in design thinking, have revolutionized the customer experience and can be used to transform employee experiences.
Research indicates that companies leading in employee experience race have four times the average profitability and twice the average revenue of companies that lag.
- Redefine Jobs and Reskill Your Workforce
Embracing the future of work means using technology as an enabler of productivity to complement the work done by humans rather than a mechanism to replace them. Organizations should be deconstructing jobs into individual tasks to better understand which tasks within the role are repetitive, strategic, necessary year-round or project-based? Accordingly, they can use automation and AI to deliver the more routine, time and data intensive tasks while freeing up the talent to deliver on the jobs that are less labor intensive and require cognitive maturity.
This new and practical approach of working will require different skillsets that are uniquely human skills. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study, workers will need skill sets involving technological, social, emotional and higher-cognitive thinking to retain an edge. Therefore, a commitment to continual upskilling/reskilling is critical for all forward thinking organizations who want to build a competitive advantage through their employees.
- Build an Agile Rewards Program
As the world of work shifts, organizations are coming under immense pressure to keep up with the diverse employee pay expectations and market values. What motivates one employee may not motivate the other, especially as work often happens outside the traditional work model. Agile rewards have to flex according to what the individual is doing, where they are based, and how they fit in a fluid talent ecosystem (like gig or contingent worker). In agile workplaces, projects are typically shorter in duration and delivered through a diverse team, hence rewards programs need to adapt based on the scope of work. Agility therefore needs to consider who gets rewarded (different employee and worker segments), what they are rewarded for (the nature of work in an agile organization), as well as how and when they are rewarded (the programs used and the frequency of use).
While implementing agile rewards, one of the challenges could be that individuals are measured more frequently which could in turn make them defensive, afraid to take risks, and unintentionally discourage experimentation, if they fear failure will result in a pay hit. The trick is to design agile rewards so they don’t inadvertently crimp innovation.
In a world defined by the intersection of artificial and human intelligence, it is vital that we invest in both – our people and our technology – to achieve sustainable growth. For this, leaders, managers and individual contributors are increasingly counting on HR to design and deliver outstanding experiences throughout the employee lifecycle. Companies that are further along in their digitalization journey have invested in areas such as changing the company culture to allow trial-and-error approaches and defining needed competencies for the digital future to build and attract these competencies and offer a new workplace environment. HR is expected to become the catalyst for digital transformation, but according to Mercer’s Benchmarking HR Digital Study, HR is not taking the lead in areas that are naturally very close to the HR responsibility, thereby missing the opportunity to position itself as strategic partner in driving the company to digitalization maturity.
While digital transformation helps a business to grow, it only does so when deployed in the service of solving people’s problems. If done in isolation, it can jeopardize the business success.