Digital Workplace Trends You Can't Ignore

October 27, 2020

Contributor: Susan Moore

The future of work is here. CIOs must pay attention to three key trends: Hyperautomation, digital dexterity and the on-demand workforce.

Around the world, corporate offices sit empty. In 2019, Gartner predicted that by 2023, fewer than one-third of digital workers would select the corporate office as their preferred place to work. Now, surveys show that 48% of employees will work remotely some or all the time post-COVID-19.

“ We will not return to pre-COVID ways of working”

Empty office space is a stark example of the long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on workplaces globally, said Gavin Tay, Gartner VP, Analyst during his presentation at virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo® 2020.

“We will not return to pre-COVID ways of working,” said Tay. “CIOs need to decide what the future digital workplace will look like and ensure that their organization has the technology foundation to support it.”

The future of work demands our attention in three interconnected areas.

Read more: 6 Trends on the Gartner Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace, 2020 

The hyperautomation of routine work

Hyperautomation is the idea that any processes that can be automated should be automated. 

COVID-19 has accelerated the notion of using algorithms or "robobosses" to automate management activities including task assignment, collecting feedback determining performance ratings. Gartner predicts that 69% of what a manager currently does will be fully automated by 2024.

Ride-sharing platforms like Uber, Grab and DiDi already allocate tasks to drivers and collect customer ratings to measure performance, automatically determining rewards or sanctions if required.

“In the future only two sets of tasks will remain for managers: Strategy setting, which requires creativity; and advanced team management, which requires social skills,” said Tay.

Unilever has been hiring entry-level employees using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze responses to preset interview questions using keywords and body language, saving more than 100,000 hours of interviewing time and roughly $1 million in recruitment costs. 

Digital dexterity becomes critical

Many employees prefer to use familiar tools like email. They know how to create documents using an office suite of tools and store them on their local drive. New systems cause them stress, so they often end up using old tools to solve new problems. 

Continuous technology change leaves workers no time to learn new systems. AI can help to bridge the digital dexterity gap with just-in-time learning on the job.

In 2015, Hitachi introduced AI in its warehouse operations to guide workers and aid continuous personal improvement, a concept known as "kaizen" in Japan.

“If you understand how employees like to learn, you can reduce stress and increase productivity, which has a direct impact on corporate revenue,” said Tay.

Read more: 4 Ways CIOs Can Foster Digital Dexterity

The on-demand workforce becomes the norm

Circumstances have made remote work a basic requirement for almost all organizations, whether they planned to embrace it or not. In the future of work, CIOs will need to consider how technology can sustain a distributed workforce model that reaches beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment and may be dispersed across geographies.

“ Leaders must be prepared to change hard-wired processes”

Instead of taking weeks or months to find the right skills, organizations will need the ability to dynamically assemble teams at short notice, matching tasks with the required knowledge, experience, skills and competencies. Samsung, for example, piloted the use of online freelancing platforms to assemble project teams in as little as two days.

“An on-demand workforce will become the norm,” said Tay. “Leaders must be prepared to change hard-wired processes to derive maximum value.”

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