According to a recent OECD Employment Outlook report, the sales of robots increased by over 200% (estimated) during the period of 2011-20 while it had increased by 50% during 2001-10. What has become increasingly evident is using complimentary capabilities of both humans and technologies can result in better outcomes—even newer and otherwise unimaginable outcomes. As countries deal with the pandemic and ease lockdown restrictions, this presents organisations with an opportunity: to lead the way and accelerate transformation through virtualisation of their operating models driven by increased digitisation of operations.

When we refer to virtualisation, we are not limiting this concept to any particular function, industry, or location. For example, virtualisation can play a key role in core manufacturing and supply chain operations through setting up an integrated command centre, leveraging principles of Industry 4.0, or enablement of employee onboarding and engagement in a virtual environment. However, as organisations traverse through this transformation journey and adopt Future of Work principles, they will need to take a 360-degree view across the following dimensions: work (what), workforce (who), and workplace (where).

What will work look like in the future?

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, machines will conduct 62% of information and data processing tasks. However, the report also highlights while this transformation may lead to a loss of nearly 1 million jobs, it will also see a gain of around 1.74 million new roles. Hence, while we increasingly see organisations leverage technologies to automate transactional tasks, we are also increasingly seeing the marketplace value of emerging skillsets to perform highly complex, customised, and unpredictable tasks also rising at the same time. We are increasingly seeing successful organisations—referred to as exponential organisations—being those that have been able to, among other things, complement their workforce capabilities with machine intelligence to scale impact and accelerate growth for their businesses. A leading medical device company was able to effectively integrate cloud technologies and IoT on testing devices to complement human capabilities, thereby increasing testing productivity and enhancing the experience of patient care.

How will workforce models change?

Given that work is transforming, there is a need for the workforce to adapt to the changing scenario as well. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 53% organisations believe that greater than half of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years. With the advent of Future of Work, organisations are expected to move away from the traditional “Attract, Develop, and Retain” model to the new “Access, Curate, and Engage” model. This new model will enable them to build a multi-channel workforce strategy to tap into capabilities from the broader talent continuum that leverages a mix of traditional full-time employees, joint ventures, contractors, freelancers, crowds, and robots. In addition, organisations would need to invest in not only workforce re-skilling but also long-term workforce curation by developing capabilities in conjunction with addressing near-term skill requirements to foster holistic organisational resilience.

How does this affect the workplace?

The transformation also disrupts the definition of a workplace. Given the experience over the last few months, organisations are evaluating the need for physical proximity and co-location to get work done. The advent of digital collaboration solutions is seen to have successfully allowed for more distributed teams. Organisations are re-examining their processes and work through a virtual environment lens across key dimensions—proximity, regulatory, complexity, and disruption risk. Another key trend in the context of virtualisation has been the emergence of agile organisations that are able to move beyond hierarchy-based models to drive faster team-based decision-making. For example, a global banking organisation was able to reduce their time-to-market, increase employee engagement and productivity by forming cross-functional teams that were empowered to operate and make decisions than to go through the traditional hierarchy driven decision-making process.

With the onset of virtualisation, an increasing number of organisations are accelerating their transition towards the Future of Work operating model. As they traverse this journey, it is imperative for them to leverage a range of strategies, which holistically address dimensions of work, workforce, and workplace in order to maintain a competitive advantage and stay ahead of the curve.

Views are personal. The author is partner, Deloitte India

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