woman working remotely on a laptop and phone, plate glass window and high rise behind her
PHOTO: WoCintechchat // Christina Morillo

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, organizations have been pushed to stay nimble in the face of change. Those companies that support innovation and adjust quickly to new tools and processes will thrive and prosper in the marketplace. But technological advancements aren’t the only drivers behind the shifting business landscape: the workforce itself is evolving, and organizations must adapt or risk falling apart.

How Technology Is Changing the Workforce

The adoption of unified communication tools equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities is making virtual and global collaboration faster, cheaper and easier than ever before. However, to effectively leverage new technologies, companies need strategic plans for using process automation, AI and ML. When executed successfully, systems innovation can result in a more powerful and agile workforce.

Collaboration Solutions Make Remote Work Easy and Efficient

The growing robustness of technology and networks, combined with the increasing availability of mobile computing power has resulted in employees becoming more and more comfortable with working virtually. Successful companies understand that remote work is quickly transitioning from the exception to the norm, allowing them to expand their talent pool and achieve higher levels of productivity. Tools such as Skype, Teams, Slack, VoIP, email and more support teams across different time zones and countries while keeping them virtually connected with their colleagues. Companies no longer need to send workers on expensive airplane rides to visit clients or to collaborate with coworkers. Technical and social mobility decouples people and organizations from the constraints associated with physical geography and defined markets.

Remote Work Empowers the Creation of Digital On-Demand Teams

Through remote work capabilities, companies can create digitally integrated “on-demand” teams, tapping into an extensive networks of innovators, technical experts and seasoned professionals from all over the world to collaborate together. Remote work also makes it easy to hire a mix of employees — full-time workers, contractors and contingents — to scale labor forces up and down as needed. Researchers estimate that as much as 30% to 40% of all US workers today are contingent. Contingent employees and “on demand” teams create a level of agility for enterprises of all sizes.

Related Article: How 5G Will Better Enable Remote Work

How the Workforce Itself Is Changing

As generations age in and out of the labor force, the demands of workers continually change. But the desire for change is not limited to young people. Many people are working past the traditional retirement age of 65, which is creating a much larger generational gap than had been the norm. Companies are facing a shortage of competent, skilled workers, while struggling to train adaptable people. By the time many students are entering the labor force, the technology and techniques they’ve studied are outdated, or obsolete. This inevitably creates tension, which adds to the challenges in hiring and retaining talent.

Learn to Adapt to Stay Competitive

Adapting to a changing workforce and learning how to leverage the latest technological capabilities is challenging — but the C-suite and executive managers can do three things to make change management an easier process.

Build a Digital Culture

A company's continued success relies on the creation of a digital culture and buy-in of this culture by upper management. Part of building a digital culture is raising awareness of how digital technologies can improve productivity by fostering things like:

  • Innovation and collaboration.
  • Knowledge capture and retention.
  • Openness and transparent communication.

However, there is one caveat with digital collaboration — don’t underestimate the power of human interaction. Leadership must make time for employees to have in-person meetings, participate in team-building events, and the like.

Related Article: Key Skills Every Digital Workplace Practitioner Needs

Be Employee-Centric, Not Just Customer-Centric

When creating a digital experience for your customers, make sure to create one for your employees as well. Companies are going to be successful when they invest in innovative technology that provides opportunities for workers to feel connected, even when they’re out of the office. Being employee-centric also means supporting the concept of a “digital vacation” — making it possible for workers to truly disconnect when taking time off.

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People Centric Culture

Support the Grassroots Innovation

So, how can organizations become more flexible to adopting new digital platforms and technologies? Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Support quick change and rapid pivoting. Not everything has to be a five-year plan — try something, fail or succeed, quickly move on.
  2. Don’t kill innovation with processes and policies. Think freedom with governance.
  3. Let your employees make time for innovation. One of Google’s most reported management philosophies was the concept of “20% time.” Employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google, in addition to their regular projects — with little oversight.
  4. Break down barriers to innovation by empowering employees to venture out and explore their interests and evolving skill sets. Provide a continuous learning work environment with transparency and trust.
  5. Be open to creative and out-of-the box solutions. For example, my company established an Innovation Council that changes every year, whose purpose is to push innovation and get things moving quickly.

Darwin Had it Right

Adapt to stay alive. This simple yet enduring concept has ensured the survival of millions of species — and corporations — for over a millennia, and it still holds true today. Organizations that embrace technological evolutions, encourage innovation and remain open to a changing workforce will see themselves succeed and prosper for years to come.