Changing Work, Workforce and Workplace: Dissonance at Work Becomes the Norm
The fourth reality of human capital leadership concerns the dissonance brought by the changing nature of work, workforce, and workplace. While many factors contribute to these changes, the dynamism of them can be captured primarily by looking at how digital disruption, shifting diversity and business-related discontinuation manifest themselves in the workplace.
According to a Global Talent Trends Study (Mercer, 2017) "One of the key findings across all countries is how the technology-driven disruption is re-shaping value chains, making people and information more accessible, and re-defining how work gets done. At the same time, the changing demographic profile of employees, ageing workforce in some large markets coupled with a young educated workforce in others, is challenging the traditional model of what it means to “go to work”.[i]
The changing nature of work due to digital is often the starkest of all the changes. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) promise to revolutionise the working process by abstracting out repetitive or menial tasks that require little creativity. As the cost of these technologies is expected to decrease, we need to prepare for their ubiquity or pervasiveness.
Such preparations include the redesigning of work, so there is more emphasis on creative processes in the workplace. For example, financial media organisations, including Reuters and Bloomberg, have made use of “robot reporters” using artificial intelligence. The good thing is that automated journalism routinely abstracts out the need for mundane tasks allowing the firms to increase their focus on areas like investigative journalism. The bad thing is that with such disruption, structural unemployment and the resulting job insecurity of employees is a growing concern.
Training programmes and reskilling initiatives will help with this eventually, but human capital leaders need to recognise the psychological impact that digital disruption has on an employee’s work.
As organisations and those who lead them react to the need to become more digitally-savvy, they will also need to ensure that their human capital practices evolve too to enable the creation of more human, indeed more humane, workplaces. The signs are that this dual-track approach – digital + human(e) – is where differential and competitive advantage are to be gained. Organisations that fail to embrace this will be disadvantaged when it comes to attracting top talent.
People across the world are increasingly looking to find meaning in their work. Coupled with the uncertainty prevalent in society today, we can expect to see a resurgence in the importance of Purpose in people’s lives. (Not seen with such intensity, since the global financial crisis in the post-2008 period, when people sought reassurance about the ethical and moral qualities of the organisation for which they were working). In a previous article in this series, we noted the increasing impact on employer brand of apps such as Glassdoor: so, the signs are that we will see more of this as demands and expectations from employees increase.
The changing nature of the workforce is primarily driven not only by demographic shifts but also by the variety of worldviews. Such different worldviews not only exist in culturally diverse workplaces but also emerge in workplaces in which age, gender and neuro-diversity of the workforce exist.
Effectively promoting these initiatives allows for the introduction and integration of increasingly relevant knowledge and experience afforded by a diverse workforce. While the mixing of knowledge and different worldviews allows for business strategies to be more effectively assessed (through multi-perspective evaluation for example), thereby increasing the chances of business success, this has seldom been leveraged by organisations.
While there are some great examples of organisations achieving success in accommodating workers who see the world differently, such as people with autism or Asperger’s, there is still a lot more that could and should be done to help these members of society achieve their potential and to increase their sense of belonging.
While there are organisations achieving success in accommodating workers who see the world differently, there is still a lot more that could and should be done. We could look, for instance, to assist member's of society with autism, ADHD, OCD, or Asperger's, to achieve their potential and to increase their sense of belonging.
Due to the increased frequency of leadership and business model changes, employees face excessive uncertainty and ambiguity in their jobs, thereby leading to their psychological insecurity. This negatively affects their mental health, which is not helped by increasing stress levels due to increased competitiveness in the job market.
Though business-related discontinuations such as job reassignment may be the right thing to do for a particular organisation, those affected employees may feel undervalued or perceive there to be a lack of meaning in their new work. This, in turn, may lead to a deterioration in mental wellbeing. The “less than rosy” state of mental health in all corners of the changing global workplace suggests a persistent disregard for employee health.[ii] Companies and organisations must acknowledge the impact of the changing work and workplace on the psychological wellbeing of the workforce and do a lot more to mitigate its negative effects.
This article is 10 of 12 in our Human Capital Prisms series.