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Assessing The Impact of Digitalisation on Future of Work
By Pranav Chandra, Head of Digital Intelligence & Advisory Digitalisation & New Services, Stora Enso [HEL: STERV
Most large organizations around the globe, and across all industries are either being disrupted or are transforming themselves to adapt to the new age of digitalisation. Broadly speaking, every organization is exploring and exploiting new digital technologies to either better defend their current market position and improve internal operational efficiency, or to support expansion strategies by establishing new business models, products or services. Being able to do so requires incumbent organizations to mobilize tremendous amounts of resources to make the right trade-offs and choices around which opportunities and challenges to pursue and to build the right level of competencies around these technologies. This is certainly the right first step in what many would consider an important journey in their organization’s transformation for the future.
However, what many organizations fail to identify and act upon, is that digitalisation will not only have an impact on the bottom line and business model, but also on the operating model, workforce, culture and wider society in the long term. Many digitalisation concepts such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Agents, Blockchain, and Computer Vision have highly financially valued applications, e.g. self-driving cars and predictive analytics, which also have a significant impact on an organization’s future workforce and way of working.
Take self-driving technology as an example. Despite its currently limited adoption, it is an application which is expected to have a tremendous impact on the future of work.
The task of attempting to understand the impact of a particular technology or project on the future of work is extremely complex to say the least
It is expected to not only impact the jobs surrounding truck drivers, but also impact forklift drivers and certain warehouse operations. Similarly, technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have already shown to impact a significant amount of jobs previously done by data entry and processor practitioners. Whether it is the application of machine learning for predicting machine part failure, or utilizing mixed reality to enable remote operations, their impact on future of work is one which must be given substantial attention and significance.
Generally speaking, the task of attempting to understand the impact of a particular technology or project on the future of work is extremely complex to say the least. In my humble opinion, organizations should aim to break down such an assessment by trying to understand their future impact in the following categories:
Roles and Responsibilities, is an area of imminent impact. Organizations should aim to understand and prepare for how the use of certain technologies will impact a given role, and to what extent. Such an assessment must be done at a “task” level as the use of technology will not impact the entire role, but a sub-set of the tasks that a given role is made up of. Certain “tasks” may disappear, new ones will be added, and others modified. In the end, a given role may be called the same, but will comprise of very different responsibilities.
Skills and Competencies, is an area tightly linked with the first. With evolving roles and responsibilities, organizations must address their associated evolution of the skills and competencies required to fulfill said roles. This is evident in the fact that more and more roles require less physical and basic cognitive skills, but increasingly higher cognitive, emotional and technological skills.
Organizational Structure and Way of Working are areas which will change subtly over time. As more and more roles adapt to new ways of working, and as new skills and competencies make old ways of working redundant and in-efficient, organizations will need to re-think how to organize themselves in a new optimal and efficient manner.
Organizational Culture is an area which will require constant attention. As incumbent companies venture into new areas and explore new ways of working, they will need to quickly adapt their culture to become more agile, less hierarchical and foster cross-organizational boundary culture.
Such a task would allow organizations to assess and identify the change and impact that digitalisation will have on their organization. It would further require organizations to strategically assess how to mitigate the changes and close the gap that will arise. By taking the early first steps and trying to strategically understand how an organization’s digital agenda will impact its future workforce and way of working, organizations can further strengthen their digital transformation. An evolution and not a revolution, the changes in one’s workforce due to digitalisation, must be managed strategically.