Reshaping the World of Work In the Digital Age

December 19, 2016 – Business and human resource leaders should rethink almost all of their management and HR practices as the proliferation of digital technologies transform the way organizations work, according to predictions for 2017 from Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

This year’s report includes 11 predictions about rapid technological, structural and cultural changes that will reshape the world of work, including management, human resources, and the markets for HR and workplace technology.

In ‘Predictions for 2017: Everything is Becoming Digital,’ Bersin by Deloitte observes that the need to ‘be digital’ is forcing organizations to completely rethink ways to manage, engage, lead and develop people. As outlined in the ‘Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016‘ report, 92 percent of companies see a need to redesign the organization itself as the world moves from a top-down hierarchical model to one of a network of teams in which people iterate and solve problems in a dynamic, agile way.

A Change In How to Lead

In ‘Predictions for 2017,’ Bersin by Deloitte anticipates that business and HR leaders will be challenged to improve the employee experience, ensure workers remain engaged and that their skills are regularly updated. HR also will be challenged to help business leaders redesign organizations, jobs and work itself around digital solutions to optimize business performance.

“This shift in structure changes the way we lead, manage and move people throughout the company,” said principal and founder Josh Bersin. It also pushes us to continuously learn – faster than ever, he noted.

“Companies must try new things, such as crowdsourcing in which you can obtain ideas, content and services through an online community, rapidly deploy new products and services, iterate, and quickly learn what fails and what works,” Mr. Bersin said. “This customer-centric way of doing business has shifted decision-making to the edges of the company, and requires a new way of thinking about management and HR.”

Here is a closer look at this year’s predictions.

  1. Organizational design will be challenged everywhere.

To thrive in the digital age organizations should focus on breaking functional groups into smaller teams, customer-centric learning, experimentation and time-to-market. Organizations should examine the way work gets done and then provide support mechanisms to facilitate cross-functional success.

  1. Culture and engagement will remain top priorities.

In 2017, organizations should carefully define their organizational culture – defined as the reward systems and implicit behavior that happens when nobody is looking. They should also measure it, and find where and how it may be misaligned. 

  1. Real-time feedback and analytics will boom.

Driven by the need to understand and improve engagement, and the continuous need to measure and improve employee productivity, real-time feedback and analytics will explode.

  1. A new generation of performance management tools will emerge.

This development already is underway, as dozens of new companies respond to a huge gap in the market. Specifically, they are responding to a shift from a very top-down, process-driven approach to employee performance management – to a more agile, continuous, feedback-based approach.

  1. A focus on human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. 

Despite all of the new tools and technologies available at work, U.S. productivity has slowed in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. One of HR’s emerging roles in 2017 will be to focus on how to help individuals and teams perform through initiatives including employee wellness, employee engagement, culture and work-life balance. 

  1. A focus on employee experience will overcome process design in HR.

Using the idea of design thinking, HR teams in 2017 will stop designing “programs” for onboarding, learning, collaboration or other purpose, and instead study and design integrated, high-value “experiences” that excite, engage and inspire employees.

  1. Digital HR and learning will help us to reinvent learning and development and HR systems. 

Digital solutions in HR will mean new approaches, such as embracing hackathons; taking a minimal viable products approach to get new solutions out the door quickly; and increasing transparency by sharing information more freely at work and letting people comment on it or rate it.

  1. The leadership market will start a process of reinvention.

The ‘Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016’ research shows that Millennials do not aspire to mimic the styles of older senior leaders. At the same time, our new high-impact leadership research indicates that companies should shift away from traditional leadership training programs to focus on culture, learning through interactions and relationships, and continuous feedback and coaching.

  1. Diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias will become a top priority. 

Our high-impact talent management research found that building a culture of inclusion is a top driver of financial performance. HR organizations should make sure they capture the right information, share it formally and develop a holistic inclusion and diversity program that touches all talent practices.

  1. The learning and development function will continue to struggle.

Learning and development organizations should embrace self-directed learning and build a learning experience that helps individuals at all levels learn all the time.

  1. The future of work is here and HR is in the hot seat. 

As the rapid commoditization of artificial intelligence (speech recognition, natural language processing, sensors and robotics) could impact almost every job, the real job of HR leaders will be to figure out what all of this means and to redesign jobs, work and organizations so the “people side” of work has more importance and focus than ever.

New Approaches for a New Century

After struggling to drive employee engagement & retention, improve leadership pipelines, and build a meaningful culture, executives now see a need to redesign the organization itself, according to the Deloitte Consulting ‘Global Human Capital Trends’ report. Ninety two percent of survey participants rated this as a critical priority.

To lead the shift toward a new organization, the study found that CEOs and HR leaders are focused on understanding and creating a shared culture (86 percent), designing a work environment that engages people (85 percent), and constructing a new model of leadership (89 percent) and career development. In competition for skilled people, organizations are vying for top talent in a highly transparent job market and becoming laser-focused on their external employment brand. Executives are embracing digital technologies to reinvent the workplace, focusing on diversity and inclusion as a business strategy, and realizing that, without a strong learning culture, they will not succeed.

A New Role for HR

According to the Deloitte report, the HR function is taking on a new role as the steward and designer of these new people processes. The mission of the HR leader is evolving from that of ‘chief talent executive’ to ‘chief employee experience officer.’ HR is being asked to simplify its processes, help employees manage the flood of information at work, and build a culture of collaboration, empowerment, and innovation. This means that HR is redesigning almost everything it does—from recruiting to performance management to onboarding to rewards systems. To do this, Deloitte’s research suggests that HR must upgrade its skills to include the areas of design thinking, people analytics, and behavioral economics.

New Disruptive Drivers of Change 

The ‘Global Human Capital Trends’ report reveals a series of drivers coming together to create disruptive change in the talent landscape: First, demographic upheavals have made the workforce both younger and older, as well as more diverse. Second, digital technology is now everywhere, disrupting business models and radically changing the workplace and the way work is done. Third, the rate of change has accelerated. The axiom that computing power doubles every two years has not only propelled technology innovation forward but also significantly increased the pace of change in business as a whole, requiring organizations to be more agile. Fourth, a new social contract is developing between companies and workers, driving major changes in the employer / employee relationship.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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