Digital natives are actively in the process of reshaping the workforce according to their needs, which are driven by the emergence of new technologies. Research last year from the Mckinsey Global Institute, for example, identified automation and artificial intelligence (AI) as key drivers in changing the nature of work. It also identified a number of trends that would be key in shaping the future digital workplace. Among them are the following:
- Automation will accelerate the shift in required workforce skills, technological skills will be in highest demand.
- Some skill categories will be less in demand. As tasks change, jobs will need to be redefined and companies say they will need to become more agile. Independent work will likely grow.
- Competition for high-skill workers will increase, while displacement will be concentrated mainly on low-skill workers.
- Companies will need to make significant organizational changes at the same time as addressing these skill shifts to stay competitive.
- Almost half of the companies surveyed say they expect to take the lead in building the workforce of the future. These companies expect to offer the most attractive workplace for the most skilled digital workers.
The bottom line is that the digital workplace of the future will be shaped by both technology and human resources. So, what do the experts think the digital workplace will look like in 10 years’ time?
1. Automation in Service Work
Angelina Ebeling, the founder of Acework.io, a remote work matchmaking platform, said the big discussion of AI in recruiting deals with eliminating bias in the recruiting process. HRTech companies promise that AI-based screening, tests and interviews take human bias out of the equation when finding the best fit for a specific role.
In a radical sense, this means that we could completely eliminate recruiters, because machines are better suited at finding the right fit. But who will they even recruit for, when all jobs are done by machines? The reality is that at most AI startups a lot more is done manually than they would like to let on.
2. Aggravated Skill Shortages Will Make Work Location Neutral
With employees focusing more on decision-making and strategic tasks in 10 years’ time, it will become harder for companies to find highly specialized and skilled people in the direct surroundings of their offices. Enterprises are already facing a massive skills shortage, which gives more power to employees. Currently the workforce demands more flexibility, and in order to stay competitive in the war for talent, companies have to adapt. One way is to increase your talent pool from local to global by allowing fully remote/location independent working. Added benefits of remote work include less commutes, lower office costs in overcrowded urban areas, higher productivity and employee retention.
The result is that work will become location neutral. Mark Perna, an author and CEO of TFS, a full-service strategic marketing and consulting firm, believes that things are changing more rapidly than ever with automation, AI and globalization affecting an increasing number of professions. The skills gap is a significant concern, as the mismatch between the skills employers need and the skills that prospective workers actually possess is expanding in a much different way than what older generations have experienced.
He also argues that one prominent feature of the future workplace will be its locational fluidity. Before the Industrial Revolution, most people’s place of work was in the home. They practiced their craft in their living space or in a section of their living space dedicated to that purpose. That all changed with the advent of factories and offices designed solely for work. Home and work became separated; you left your home and went somewhere else to earn your living. “I see the pendulum swinging back the other way, as 24/7 connectedness, enabled by advancing technology, becomes the new norm. The home will once again become a worksite, as people expect to access from anywhere the same systems and applications that used to be available only in a formal workplace setting,” he said.
3. Symbiotic Man and Machines
Or Shani, CEO and founder of Albert Technologies, said that over the next decade, it will become clear that the relationship between machines and humans is not either-or, but rather symbiotic. “It will become clear how important it is to marry human insight with AI in order to reach both AI’s and humans’ potential. This is already starting to happen at both the department- and enterprise-level. Solutions that are built to capitalize on this give-and-take between man and machine will produce the best outcomes and experience rapid adoption, as a result.”
4. Right Data, Right Systems
Everything, though, will depend on data and the right data, just as it doess now. More of our day-to-day jobs will be ensuring that the right data is available for the systems that support us, said Aaron McKee, CTO at Blis. The result is that more decision-making will be supported by smart systems. “I don’t see a future where we are digital slaves to AI — rather, these systems will allow us to make effective decisions over many and more nuanced, business signals,” he said.
5. Contextual and Conversational Tools
That said, the everyday knowledge worker is already overloaded with information, decisions and the number of people they need to collaborate with to get things done, said Praerit Garg, CTO at Smartsheet. This dynamic is only going to intensify in the coming years. Technology has an important role to play in helping them navigate this increasingly complex world, and systems that take advantage of natural language processing, machine learning and AI are starting to live up to that promise.
“Over the next decade, you’ll see the tools we use every day become more contextual and conversational and fit more naturally into existing workflows,” he said. “You’ll see systems learn from past behavior and decisions to tailor an experience to the individual by surfacing the most relevant information first. These are not ethereal, abstract concepts; they’re about tangible impact on people looking for a better way to work. That is how we should be thinking about this 10-year evolution,” he added.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Here
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already here,” Laserfiche President Karl Chan said. “We’re currently at a crossroads where organizations must consider how they bring their operations into the future. The question we should be asking is not ‘What will the digital workplace look like?’ but ‘How fast can we get there?’”
Most organizations follow infrastructure refresh cycles, which don’t keep pace with new technology development and updates. Companies that have moved operations to the cloud no longer have to wait to get the latest features or capabilities. They’re updated automatically, without having to invest their own time and resources.
“This revolution — driven by new technology like AI, automation and machine learning — will continue to negatively affect companies that haven’t moved to the cloud. Meanwhile, companies that are operating in the cloud will continue to move and grow faster, and be more agile and innovative using the latest platforms and technology,” he said.
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