Business ‘woefully’ unprepared for future of work

Published on the 02/07/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

Gliding On_Roger Hall_Future of Work

Forrester study outlines shockwaves and tips to be better prepared…

If you thought Covid-19’s impact on work was a shocker, brace yourself: A new report says Covid is just ‘an acute symptom’ of a larger set of factors already reshaping work – and that most organisations are ‘woefully’ unprepared for the accelerated change ahead.

The Executive’s Guide to the Future of Work, from Forrester, says the global pandemic and the economic downturn have accelerated the transformation of the future of work to weeks, not years – but it also warns that ‘this real and ongoing challenge is a manifestation of a long-term phenomenon – a type of shock – that businesses now face and will continue to face as they march into the territory loosely called the future of work’.

“The structure, process and culture tools needed to address the future of work are not new and exist today.”

While it might still be unclear how exactly the current pandemic will play out, Forrester has identified four key ‘shocks’ it says will define the future of work: Systemic risk, the employee data tsunami, the rise of employee power, and robots and automation:

Systemic risk Pre-early 2020 we might have read this to mean political issues and activism or climate change – the guide notes Microsoft’s commitment to become carbon-negative by 2030, the $1.2 billion economic cost of the Australian wildfires and Google’s workforce revolting. And indeed, while Covid has put health risk front and centre, Forrester says those ‘forces’ which were already accumulating before 2020, will accelerate.

Robots and automation Do we need to say more? Automation is forecast to ‘transform’ 80 percent of jobs by 2030, according to Forrester. “But we are only a few steps down the path to understanding what this means for your industry, your company and your job.”

The employee data tsunami It’s about to ‘drown you in possibilities and obligations, says Forrester. There’s a wealth of data being collected via human capital management technology that companies don’t know how to use effectively, and the potential for misuse is high.

Employee power Just like customer power, only closer to home, with employees gaining a greater voice. Today’s technology enables employees to ‘surveil the corporate world for companies that share their personal values’, upending the power to control narrative in the way HR and PR once did.

The research company says the four factors don’t exist in isolation and can trigger and compound each other.

But while change might be accelerating, Forrester says the tools required aren’t new at all.

Says Keith Johnston, Forrester vice president and group director, “While it’s odd to call anything good news right now, leaders should be relieved to know that the structure, process and culture tools needed to address the future of work are not new and exist today.

“It’s just that executives need to employ these tools immediately,” Johnston says.

Forrester is calling on organisations to assess their readiness across employee experience, human capital management technology, robotics quotient and human-centric leadership, in order to build an adaptive workforce. And it says, with one glaring exception – employee experience – most executives already intended to tackle and boost capacity for deploying the required tools.

Their tips:

Prioritise employee experience (EX) to build empathy and deepen engagement Employee engagement surveys aren’t enough, Forrester says. Instead, it says companies need a ‘comprehensive employee listening strategy’. “Done well, listening programs build empathy for what employees need to be fully engaged in their daily work and help align the organisation’s resources to better supply those needs.”

Invest in modern HCM technologies to improve results Ninety percent of employees are willing to let employees use data about them if they can also benefit in some way. That’s something Forrester says is worth the effort, with that ‘trust dividend’ leading to a six percent greater revenue growth on average.

Explore the robotics quotient (RQ) to guide your approach to automation Automation deployments fail because employees and organisations can’t effectively integrate the technology into business processes. The solution? According to Forrester it’s investing in people, leadership and organisational structures. Added bonus: Higher RQ, higher EX.

Build a human-centric culture to optimise how your organisation senses and responds to shocks Forrester says in the US in the first weeks of the pandemic, just 48 percent of workers had confidence their company leaders would handle the crisis in the best possible way. “Purpose driven leaders can create an environment where employees can rapidly adapt to any of the four shocks as they continue to combine and affect organisations… Now is the time to double down on leadership investments to optimise EX.”

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