News & Analysis

Future of Work: The Art of “Thriving” In the New Normal

Traditionally, the pace at which people, businesses and public policy have changed has generally been slower than the pace of technology evolution. With the current crisis forcing change, we asked CXOs across 42 reputed organizations, if they see the change being sustainable, and they answered in a strong affirmative.

The shift in the curve can be largely attributed to a breakdown of legacy mindsets, adoption of “digital” and new demands being placed on businesses and employees.

The current crisis has mandated organizations to show acceleration on critical dimensions of Future of Work. With movement of workforce restricted to their homes, enabling virtual working has been the biggest accelerator for most organizations, thereby letting them re-imagine the meaning of “workplace”.

Greater focus on managing employee experience and exploring alternative models of workforce has accelerated the journey towards workforce of the future.

Evolution of “work” related practices appears to be the logical next step most companies are likely to undertake to mitigate their risk of disruption, by focusing on identifying those roles within the organization which are most conducive for Work from Home, while simultaneously looking at exponential technologies for automation.

Organisations are likely to increasingly focus on ‘quick wins’ as they rethink their strategy and future preparedness

  • Work design: Designing workflows that minimize human involvement through cognitive technologies
  • Smart automation: Robotics for integrated automated operations
  • Process simplification: Simplification of transactional work to eliminate inefficiencies
  • New employment models: Organisations heavily reliant on full-time workers are expected to continue to do so while others are likely to be earmarking roles to leverage gig workers
  • New skills: Building future-ready skills using virtual learning platforms
  • Greater resilience: Educating the workforce on risk management and niche roles being designed for crisis management
  • Stronger focus on business continuity: Deploying IT and physical infrastructure, scenario planning and rethinking business models
  • Low touch, high engagement: Concerted effort on the part of leaders and managers to enhance employee experience while they work remotely
  • Digital ecosystem: Adoption of virtual tools for collaboration has significantly gone up, with new norms for meetings, hang-outs, etc.

A COVID-adjusted Future of Work strategy is expected to pave the way for future opportunities towards accelerated growth

As organizations gradually move from recovering from the immediate crisis to sustaining the momentum of acceleration, they would need to address key elements across all three levers of Future of Work, viz., Work, Workforce and Workplace.

Revisit Business Models: Businesses need to consider exploring alternative, cost effective, crisis-proof business models to serve the consumer, especially as the economic impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt in the coming months.

RPA & Automation: While technology and automation have already begun to reshape “work”, the future presents the opportunity to leverage automation and robotics to augment human involvement and reduce redundancies at work.

Employee Experience in the Digital Workplace: Ensuring employee experience is expected to remain the priority through ongoing focus on wellness, high-touch engagement and communication which is likely to determine success of digital working.

Building Digital Skills: Organizations will need to complement new business models with investment in employee skills to be able to work in the digital world.

Alternative Workforce Models: Organizations will need to consider alternative workforce models for greater flexibility in HR costs. Typically role to leverage gig workers include those that are time-bound, project-based or require a niche skill (think freelancers, contractors, retainers, etc.).

Network-based Teams: People working from anywhere, anytime provides an opportunity to leverage Network Based Teams (NBTs), which are empowered teams with diverse skillsets and roles, who work collectively towards a business outcome, not a functional one.

Investing in IT infrastructure: There will be need for greater investment in IT infrastructure (both at physical and remote workplaces) to enable the virtual workplace of the future.

WFH Policies & Governance: Organisations will need to define what virtual working would mean for productivity, collaboration, work-life balance and performance management.

Optimizing Infrastructure Investment: Businesses will need to re-evaluate investment in physical infrastructure and leverage variations of remote working models (for roles with sustained productivity in work from home arrangements.)

Digital Workplace Culture: There will be a need to focus towards driving a uniform culture across the physical and virtual workplace which is likely to go a long way in helping the workforce adapt to the new normal; establish norms for teaming, collaboration and overall engagement.

We have been talking about Future of Work for a few years now; the current situation presents organisations with the opportunity to both evaluate how they currently fare on Future of Work preparedness and the desired state. A fast paced assessment of FoW readiness is the need of the hour across the three levers. The time to act is now, as needless to say, the future is indeed here!

(The authors are Anandorup Ghose, Partner, Nikhil Kolur and Saurabh Dwivedi, both  Director, Deloitte India and the views expressed in this article are their own)

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