Digital technology is having a profound effect on the human side of the enterprise, affecting where, when, and how employees get work done. The results of Deloitte’s recent Future of Work survey confirm that C-level executives view the ways in which new technologies will shape their organizations and their own roles as a topic of critical importance. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed say it is a strategic objective to transform their organization’s culture with a focus on increasing connectivity, communication, and collaboration.
Even as more business functions are augmented by new technology capabilities, people remain the most critical asset of an organization. Going forward, those people will be working in a more networked, distributed, mobile, collaborative, and real-time fluid manner. Such significant shifts will demand not only increased adaptability on the part of employees, but deliberate forethought from CIOs and other executives introducing new systems and processes to make sure the transition goes smoothly. Forward-thinking CIOs will ensure that work, increasingly done by human and machine in concert, is coordinated to create maximum value for the company and its employees.
When approached with consideration to the impact on work and workers, digital technologies offer the opportunity to create a more engaging environment for employees and a more adaptive organization for the future. The survey offers a glimpse of what executives expect this future to look like as well as six lessons for CIOs who will usher in the technologies to enable new ways of working and also manage the changes within their own talent organizations.
Pay attention to culture. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of those surveyed believe company culture will be critically important to their organization’s ability to realize its vision in the future. The larger the company, the more important this issue becomes. Just 14 percent of those who responded say that culture has no, little, or neutral impact on their ability to realize their vision and mission—and the majority of respondents were from smaller companies.
Developing a common mission and a sense of belonging in a workforce that is increasingly dispersed will grow ever more important. Just 14 percent of leaders say they are completely satisfied with their organization’s current ability to communicate and collaborate. CIOs and other executives who want to achieve the full value of digital transformations will pay close attention to the development and dissemination of communication around workplace changes. Putting in place more efficient decision-making structures and tools (42 percent) and allocating more employee time and resources to innovation by making current processes more efficient (41 percent) are the two most important changes respondents expect to make within the next two years.
Increase transparency. About three in five (59 percent) corporate leaders say transparency in communications is a critical priority for achieving their organization’s goals. Involving employees in technology-enabled changes will be more challenging than in the past. After all, 37 percent of the global workforce is mobile, 30 percent of full-time employees now do most of their work outside of their employers’ location, and 20 percent of the workforce comprises temporary workers, contractors, and freelancers, according to another Deloitte report. More clarity and openness around the exploration and introduction of digital technologies will help employees adapt to significant and more frequent shifts in their roles.
Manage generational expectations. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the workforce. However, individuals are also more commonly working into their 70s and 80s. As leaders manage a workforce comprising up to four different cohorts, managing across generations will be more important than ever. Nearly four in five (78 percent) executives say generational differences in employees’ expectations will drive an increased emphasis on devolved collaboration, whereby ownership of decisions is delegated down through the organization. The key will be building an environment that supports flexibility and tools that enable all employees to collaborate and exchange ideas easily and transparently.
Measure the business impact. The strategic importance of transforming collaboration and communication is based on the assumption that such advances will yield hard business results in an increasingly competitive, interconnected, and fast-moving world. The biggest benefits executives expect to derive from improved collaboration and communication include identifying and exploiting new business opportunities and increasing rates of innovation (see figure below).
CIOs and others spearheading the digital transformation of work can identify the specific business benefits their organizations are targeting and regularly measure. They can then report on key indicators associated with those goals, making adjustments to strategy as required based on performance.
Create context. The way we work in five years may look little like it does today. For example, 76 percent of executives surveyed predict their organizations will move away from email and toward more sophisticated collaboration tools. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) expect a significant increase in cross-cultural virtual teaming technologies. And around 8 in 10 (78 percent) think mobile will be the dominant technology environment within five years.
But new tools alone are not enough. The time that workers spend today answering email (an average of 25 percent of the day) or checking their mobile phones (around 150 times a day) is not necessarily increasing productivity. As leaders sit on the cusp of potentially more sweeping technology-enabled changes, they can take this time to develop the right cultural context for these new tools and adapt their workplace processes and policies to make the most of digital capabilities on the way.
Build networks, not hierarchies. More than 40 percent of respondents expect to place more focus on facilitating the exchange of ideas, enabling the flow of conversations across the organization, and providing greater autonomy at team and individual levels going forward. This shift from a “top-down” to “side-by-side” organizational construct will be a critical component to the future of work. CIOs will play an important role, enabling an empowered network of employees capable of acting autonomously rather than waiting for direction.
This story originally appeared on the Deloitte/WSJ website.
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