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June 24, 2016
Being digital II: Workforce of the future
By: Narry Singh

In part one we looked at how business leaders could mitigate digital disruption by pursuing ‘no-risk’ capabilities. In part 2 we will explore the effects digital may have on employees, and how employers can harness digital to create the workforce of the future.

Accenture research shows that 78% of business leaders are expecting to have digital organisations within three years, and there is no doubting the appetite for digital transformation at executive level. There is a common perception that employees are holding back that desire for change, either with a fear of artificial intelligence or concerns that they lack the required skills to master digital. Disputing that, Accenture’s report finds that employees are, if anything, even more positive about the possible impact of digital than their management. The question for leaders, then, is how to capitalise on that positivity in order to compete, innovate and grow.

There is a recognition among the majority of business leaders that digital is desirable, bringing with it cost efficiencies, innovation and more productive, agile and quality work. Leaders also understand where many of these boons are likely to come from – citing technologies such as 3D interfaces, cognitive assistants, robots and the Internet of Things. But recognising a goal is not the same as reaching it, and only one in five identify theirs as a digital business. To move forwards businesses must adopt a “test and learn” approach, innovating and experimenting in parts of the organisation. With that innovation-orientated mind-set in place business leaders should look to build the necessary skills and talent required to see it through. That means building a workforce that is comfortable with sophisticated technology, as well as looking to fill new roles that arise from a move towards digital – digital copywriters or digital product managers for instance. Currently, just over half of leaders have a strategy for managing and developing skills, and the rest must catch up.

Although almost all leaders identify digital transition as either important or critical, few are acting on that insight and only a third feel ready for the change. Businesses are unprepared both at a structural and a personal level: many practices and processes are inflexible, and less than a third of individual business leaders feel well prepared to make changes to management practices. Taking data from over 750,000 change journeys, Accenture have identified strong leadership – creating a culture of feedback and innovation across the business – as imperative in driving transformation. Making change a company-wide process involves tapping into employee positivity. Contrary to conventional wisdom, European employees are not only aware of the improvements offered by digital, but are actively seeking the skills to master it. Employees see digital as a force for good, with around 70% identifying the benefits of improved innovation, agility and productivity. 81% of those employees see digital changing their work in the next three years, and almost two-thirds are preparing already, by learning new technical skills. Far from their image as resistors of change, the major concern of employees is that their leaders are not ready for the digital future.

With business leaders attuned to the benefits of digital, and employees embracing them with even more vigour, there is an opportunity for businesses to reinvent their strategies and truly capitalize on digital. To do so, they should focus on 5 key areas:

  1. Using proven digital technologies – like the Internet of Things or big data – to create more flexible and agile business processes

  2. Identifying the digital skills that are missing in the organisation, and recruiting accordingly

  3. Developing training programmes to improve the digital competency of the workfor

  4. Creating leadership behaviours that fuel a digital culture, and collaborating across the organisation to push that culture through

  5. Ensuring the workforce approach aligns with the overall digital business strategy

Success in these areas will see businesses become the pioneers in a bright digital future.

Find out more in our ‘Being Digital‘ report

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