Has the future of work arrived early?

updates + insights » Has the future of work arrived early?

We’ve been talking about the future of work for some time now. The impact that advances in technology (artificial intelligence, automation and robotics), digitisation and globalisation will have on how we work – some roles may be lost while many others will be created and almost all will change in some way. Like any good crisis, the global COVID-19 pandemic has given us a glimpse as to what that future may look like. 

In describing the potential impacts of the future of work, professional services firm Deloitte identified three interconnected dimensions: work (the what), the workforce (the who) and the workplace (the where), applying theories around the technological implications on each dimension. 

As we inch closer to the one-year anniversary of our first lockdown in New Zealand, where we made significant shifts to working from home and for some, loosing the security of employment – how has COVID reshaped work, both the ‘what’, the ‘who’ and the ‘where’? 

The workplace

For the majority of us, remote working has been normalised. Organisations, typically being led by those with a digital/tech focus, have successfully implemented more permanent hybrid ways of working with employees given the option to work from home with mandatory ‘collaboration days’ to maintain connectiveness. We quickly created the ‘rules’ around flexible working which at its heart is about trust between an employer and employee. 

Many questions have been raised, for example what does that mean for physical office spaces if we are predominately virtual, how will we continue to communicate and connect with one another in a meaningful way, and what inequality will exist between remote and on-site employees? Even for those businesses where remote working is not practical, there are still changes to deal with in terms of the safety of employees, including for example communal work areas and touch free amenities. 

The workforce

Business processes have had to adapt at a rapid pace. In our sector, executive, management and governance recruitment has traditionally had a strong element of face-to-face interaction with both the client organisation and candidates. Over the past twelve months, Decipher Group has continued at pace and proven that the search, recruitment and hiring process can work just as effectively in the absence of in-person interaction. A fully remote recruitment process and flexible working environment has resulted in measurable benefit in terms of gender equality and diversity – location and personal circumstance will no longer limit employment. 

Given recent events, employers are also rethinking the skills and capabilities of employees – leaders in particular will need to demonstrate even stronger soft skills as they maintain engagement and connection between teams in virtual environments. Roles are changing and there is the rise of previously unheard-of concepts like dual CEOs and on-demand executives.

The work

The pandemic has put the spotlight on HR/people functions within organisations, highlighting the absolute fundamental importance of human resource management. This is expected to continue as HR teams rethink workplace planning and its impact on organisational strategy and operations. Because teams are more geographically dispersed, there is a rise in technologies to monitor employee productivity. Which also extends to questioning what exactly are desirable outcomes and expectations of employees - are you paid to be physically present at a desk in an office for 8 hours as set out in most employment agreements? This raises further questions on performance and related remuneration and reward strategies. Global research consultancy Gartner suggests that to build a more responsive organisation, roles and structures should be designed around outcomes, to increase agility and flexibility and formalise how processes can flex. 

Every sector and business is facing unique challenges and circumstances however what seems to be universal is that the future of work, post-COVID, is more virtual, flexible and people focussed. Businesses will need to adapt, adjust and prioritise to manage in both the short and long term. 

If you are uncertain about how change will impact your people resource, get in touch with us today. 

The Decipher Team       

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