Jocelyn Macedo, Vice President, Human Resources, Asia Pacific Japan, Dell Technologies, reveals how HR leaders can help to define the new reality in the workplace and point out new paths to opportunity and business success.
The workplace of the future is going to be radically different to what it is today.
From the technology we use to complete our tasks, to how we collaborate, to how the very scope of our roles is defined – business leaders agree there is going to be a major shift. In Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), however, those leaders are divided on exactly how that impact will play out: how it will change training, alter desired skill-sets, and more.
Even at this relatively early stage, we are seeing how the lack of consensus on this aspect of transformation is driving uncertainty – and putting the onus on HR, among other business leaders, to step up and play a crucial role in putting some definition around that new reality.
A divided vision of the future
That lack of consensus manifests itself in a number of key areas. For example, in our Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future survey, 58% of APJ leaders said they believe automation will free up their time at work – yet 42% disagreed. A 50-50 split was apparent in leaders’ expectations of whether advances in technology will provide greater job satisfaction and an increase in productivity. On top of that, 63% of leaders in APJ admit they are struggling to cope with the pace of change brought about by technological progress.
Thus far, leaders cannot agree on how technology is going to shape our lives, our work and our businesses. Instead, they are focused on some parallel (while still essential) questions and concerns: How will humans work with machines in this dawning era of automation and artificial intelligence? How will technology drive a transformation of the definition of work? And fundamentally, how will these challenges best be managed?
As well as these broader questions, leaders are also faced with having to manage a certain level of apprehension within the workforce, as employees start to become concerned that their skill-set may be about to become obsolete. APJ is particularly advanced with the development and application of technologies like the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence – so people in this region are likely to start seeing the impact of these technologies around them sooner than in other parts of the world.
Leadership to the fore
The scenario itself may be new, but – in many ways – the challenge that it presents for leaders is a familiar one: Organisations still need to focus on strong company values and on a culture code that guides how people should lead and work together (and with their customers and partners) to best effect – exactly as before. Those values should provide a strong and stable rudder to an organisation, no matter what the specific working methods are on a day-to-day basis, and however those human-machine partnerships play out.
However, the fourth industrial revolution does put a greater emphasis on leadership strength than, perhaps, ever before.
For many years, organisations have experienced disruption around them as a result of technology and innovation. Companies and entire industries have been transformed – some have disappeared altogether. This atmosphere of uncertainty is, therefore, familiar to many. Navigating it successfully requires strong, decisive leadership that identifies and shares a clear direction, and prudently sticks with it. To bring team members along with them, leaders should encourage an optimistic view of change, championing opportunity and encouraging risk-taking in a way that goes beyond lip-service.
Change will happen
What will certainly change – and in fact, it already is – is the need to adapt current approaches to learning and acquiring skills. At a time when 63% of APJ decision makers note a lack of workforce readiness for the changes ahead, and when skill-sets are a major concern – addressing this must be a top priority and will be a significant factor in determining levels of preparedness for the future of human-machine partnerships.
A new reality that HR can help to define is one in which the perception of learning and skills is, also, transformed. We foresee a fundamental shift, away from today’s norm of singular competency or expertise and toward an emphasis on agility, creativity and adaptability as a means to developing broader expertise. Skills may soon be superseded in importance by the willingness to learn, to tread new territory, to take risks and make mistakes – even to become a virtual beginner again. Embracing and mastering this new approach to learning and developing has the power to become a competitive differentiator for organisations.
Structurally, organisations will also need to change in order to ensure they succeed in this new dynamic. Our research shows how this is already in the offing: more than 80% of companies in APJ plan on tasking senior leaders with spearheading digital change. Even more – 86% – want to empower lines of business to pursue their own digital strategies. 85% want to put policies and technology in place that would support and enable a fully remote, flexible workforce.
As organisations move towards digitisation, these factors will come together to define a new reality in the workplace and enable organisations not simply to survive, but to thrive. Each requires strong and determined leadership, though, and some will necessitate fundamental changes to existing thinking and long-cherished received wisdom.
HR leaders will have an important role to play in helping to design, test and prove some of the core ingredients of this new reality – and, in doing so, define new paths to opportunity and business success.