We often talk about the “Future of Work”.
If anything, 2020 has really drummed a few truths home when it comes to “being prepared for anything”.
The quick pivot to entirely work-from-home-models at least in part during 2020 taught us all valuable lessons as we navigated our way through this year.
Analyst firm Brandon Hall Group conducted a recent survey which revealed that 75% of leaders were either not prepared at all or did not have a plan for remote working at this scale.
Organisations found themselves forced to address a whole range of issues from safety to productivity to motivating staff during difficult times – all underlining the need for flexibility to endure unforeseeable circumstances.
As a result, 2021 will see a heightened corporate need for digital dexterity, agility and newfound energy around upskilling and reskilling the workforce.
Digital Dexterity: (No staff left behind)
Often when I speak to Councils and our Government clients across Australia, a resonating concern has always been around how to incorporate digital learning strategies amongst (often vast) mobile and outdoor staff due to poor digital literacy.
These days, there are an ever-increasing number of tools that are applied to workforce development from video conferencing services to digital e-Learning etc. Each day new solutions emerge to add context, relevance, and personalization to the learning experience. However, these tools don’t serve a function unless employees and employers engage with and learn to master them.
This speed of adoption needs to increase, or organisations risk the possibility of huge segments of their workforce being left behind during crucial and unprecedented times as witnessed during 2020.
Now more than ever, employees need digital dexterity. Staff with poor digital literacy skills need to become open to technology’s potential—which in turn will enable them to be more flexible and adaptable. In times of uncertainty, this work style will result in more productivity, particularly when it comes to new digital initiatives.
According to data collected from Skillsoft’s learning platform Percipio, the development areas that have boomed since March include Microsoft Teams mastery, and leadership training for remote environments. These trends suggest that employees are committed to honing in-demand skills that serve a functional purpose in unpredictable environments. By investing the time to truly become a master of tools like Microsoft Teams, workers streamline their path to success and open up new doors via improved communication and collaboration skills.
Leadership also plays a key role here. According to Gartner, leaders that champion and cultivate digital dexterity by reskilling teams by encouraging digital diversity across the workplace and working with outside partners to ensure learning sticks will see the most successful executions in the long run.
I spoke to multiple Councils this year who are planning to invest in rolling out mobile internet enabled devices next year to vast groups of outdoor staff and will be looking to train them in getting the best out of these devices when out in the field.
This was highly encouraging to hear!
Safe and Agile Practices:
2020 showed us a compounding speed of technological development in the wake of WFH cultures, and even when the workforce can return to work safely across the country, the trend is likely to carry on in 2021.
In light of this prediction, the need for workplace agility will become even more important next year.
Organisations will increasingly need to look into adopting an agile operations approach.
Silos will continue to get torn down and teams restructured with the guidance of data and analytics.
As decisions become increasingly tech-driven, there will be more energy dedicated to cyber resilience.
Not only will systems need to be continuously updated to meet emerging threats and breaches, but individual team members—beyond the IT department—will need to get basic training in the do’s and don’ts of maintaining a secure online presence. Forrester suggests that focusing on enabling frictionless security in the DevSecOps process allows leadership to ensure safety does not stand in the way of agility. Employees can now work anywhere, at any time, which requires the need for internal security that does not hinge on public or private networks.
Upskilling and Reskilling
Ok, now here’s a thought: The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by AI. At the same time, 97 million new roles may emerge that require entirely new skillsets to find balance in the new division of labour between humans, machines, and algorithms.
Like it or not… we are all pioneering new horizons and organisations left with their heads in the proverbial sand will become obsolete and left behind.
Virtual Collaboration, leading in remote settings, and also just as important, “self care”, will be essential development areas when it comes to maintaining effective and healthy workplaces.
I personally think organisations should approach “Upskilling” from a wider lens.
It’s not just about teaching people how to do new things.
Some will need to be deployed to roles they have never performed before.
Some will need to learn new ways of performing the same roles they always have due to an ever-evolving workplace terrain.
To accomplish these sorts of results at scale, organisations will need to identify skill gaps and areas of Opportunity.
Tailored learning paths and competency matrices will need to be utilised to equip people across the organisation with the tools and resources they require to meet emerging needs.
What the future holds:
2020 may have caused a permanent shift in the way organisation envision “the workplace” in a way the general public could have never anticipated.
These collective experiences have taught staff and leaders alike, the importance of digital adaptability and the spirit of embracing change.
Similar to all setbacks, COVID may have slowed us down in the short term, but I am confident that it will act as the catalyst we all needed to inspire new waves of innovation and entirely unique workplace ecosystems in the future.
Pre-established notions around work-life balance and productivity will evolve as well.
Executive teams within organisations will have to be ever vigilant when it comes to keeping their staff up to date with the latest tools and philosophies to keep up with the pace of an ever changing world.
And the leaders most likely to find lasting success in tumultuous work environments are those that have developed a defined culture of learning and are prepared to flexible and agile.