On Tuesday 21 November 2017 Deloitte hosted an event at its offices in Johannesburg, South Africa which looked to tackle how businesses and governments can approach the future of work.
Now this is an extremely loaded term, “future of work,” it can be looked at from a multitude of angles, but what the speakers at the event tried to unpack was how technology and innovation will impact the business of tomorrow.
Opening proceedings at the event was South African tech journalist, Toby Shapshak, who eloquently set the scene of the day’s discussions by showing the natural progression of the evolving workforce, which has happened numerous times over many of years.
“There has been an unprecedented shift over the last 10-15 years,” pointed out Shapshak. “Work has evolved to something you do rather than somewhere you go.”
This trend that he highlighted falls directly into what is being referred to as the remote workforce. The need for people to be in the office has been drastically reduced, in-fact some businesses will encourage their employees to work remotely as it saves them money on office space said Shapshak. “Everything is going mobile, there has been a shift in how we live in the world and how we consume things,” he added.
Shapshak, however, pointed out that this shift has been hit with a resistance which can only be described as natural. “As people, we are reluctant to accept change. Our brains are wired to make certain choices at certain times. We have a biological imperative to learn and remember things, so when we shift from one way of doing things to another there is a resistance.”
This resistance, which Shapshak mentioned, pointed at the shift in mindset that is needed for businesses and government to successfully navigate the future of work. Additionally, it also lead perfectly into the next speaker’s presentation.
That speaker was none other than Valter Adão who is the head of digital at Deloitte. “We live in a world where things are happening outside of our paradigm. We look at what can go wrong with these technological shifts instead of the opportunity that they provide. This means that many people are left on the sidelines and run the risk of being left behind,” said Adão.
He then pointed out 3 waves of disruption which have impacted the future of work:
1) Understanding of digital transformation: Many businesses, when first introduced to the idea of digital transformation, did not really understand what it meant. Some may have thought, “I have a social media page, I must be a digital company,” but no you are not. Adão says that it took a while for people to understand that digital transformation is to create a new (digital) way of operating.
2) Becoming digital at the core: After organisation got a grip on the meaning of digital transformation, they then had to look at making it digital at the core. This goes far beyond simply having a couple of digital processes, but instead making it function as a digital business where all processes are digitalised.
3) How do I get my organisation to shift?: It is one thing to change the processes of a company to digital ones, it is another thing altogether to ensure that the people within the organisations are digitally inclined. This shift will see organisations change mindsets, create and adapt jobs and change people. According to Adão this is the step where a lot of organisations are currently.
These waves were then met with an exponential rate of technological advancement, which again begs the question what is the future of work?
According to Adão, organisations need to stop taking a linear approach to exponential markets. He pointed out the three ways in which markets have changed:
1) Dematerialisation: This trend has seen companies like Uber and Airbnb come and disrupt markets which were previously very stable. This disruption was done without these companies owning any cars or property. This shift is seen as a trend which allows an organisation to maximise assets for maximum profit.
2) Demonetisation: This trend has seen digital business stop charging the actual customer and instead generate revenue elsewhere. Adão pointed out the GPS app Waze as an example. Instead of charging people to use the service it instead looks to charge clients for added value on the app such as advertising.
3) Democratisation: The last trend has seen the formation of a market which is accessible to anyone with a smartphone. No longer are the services only available for the privileged few, now it is open to the masses, allowing for a bigger revenue pool. Often companies leverage this openness to enhance their operations. Adão pointed out TripAdvisor as a classic example. TripAdvisor relies on average people contributing to the site to improve its service.
“If you are rigid and don’t adapt you will become irrelevant. Much has been made of how future tech will change work by replacing the humans. Instead, it should be looked at as an opportunity to create more jobs which leverage these new technologies,” concluded Adão.