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NORDIC PERSPECTIVES


A window of opportunity for Nordic: Getting ahead through the digital workforce

Even Neeb

For a solid decade now, (more or less) business has been digital. On the leading edge of development are companies like Spotify and Amazon that have upended the competitive landscapes of the music industry and retailing respectively. Yet many companies have only gone as far as offering a digital façade to the external world, using mobile apps and websites to reach out to customers. Too many are moving too slowly when it comes to being digital on the inside.

By digital on the inside we mean two things. First, using digital to improve all aspects of operations—from the front to the backend. And secondly, using it to boost the performance of individual employees. In the Nordics, a region known for being ahead of the game when it comes to IT infrastructure, culture and all areas surrounding digital adoption there’s a window of opportunity to embrace digital on the inside and gain real competitive advantage. But the time for action is now.

Employers playing “wait and see”
The conditions seem right for fully embracing digital. In fact, according to a new study by Accenture, 78 percent of business leaders expect their organizations to be a digital business in the next three years. And 73 percent of employees understand that digital technologies will transform their way of working.

So Nordic companies should be leading the charge when it comes to embracing digital inside, right? Wrong. The research shows that nearly half (43 percent) feel that their companies could do more to benefit from digital technologies. Yet many of these same companies are hesitating when it comes to fully embracing digital. What’s driving this “wait and see” strategy? It could be that employers don’t think their workforce is ready to go fully digital. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Workforce as digital enabler
Research results paint a picture of a workforce that is positive toward the impact of digital—and even more ready to embrace it in the workforce than top management. Far from being an obstacle, employees in the Nordic region can enable the acceleration of the uptake of digital.

In fact, the research showed that a scant amount (9 percent) of Nordic employees see their job prospects being limited by digital technologies. And even less think it will have a negative impact (7 percent.) When it comes to automation and robotics, the pop culture view can be filled with gloomy predictions: with machines taking over humans. The reality is that automation can augment workers— making them mentally more agile (with things like automated virtual assistants) and physically stronger (through wearables that improve bodily performance.)

And Nordic employees understand the potential of digital even more than their counterparts around the world. Less than half as many in the Nordic workforce survey vs the global sample (14 percent vs 35 percent) have concerns about robots taking over their jobs. What’s more, Nordic employees are proactively learning new digital tools and technical skills (70 percent.)

The Accenture research shows that leaders understand the digital horizon...partly…

A full 78 percent of leaders expect their organizations to be a digital business within the next three years.

A vast majority, 73% percent, of employees understand that digital technologies will transform their way of working.

Nearly half, 43 percent, of employees feel that their companies could do more to benefit from digital technologies.

Although their bosses may be hesitating, the workforce has embraced the concept of digital.

Only 9 percent of Nordic employees see their job prospects being limited by digital technologies.

Only 7 percent believe digital technologies will worsen their work experience.

Less than half as many in the Nordic workforce vs the global workforce (14 percent vs 35 percent) have concerns about automation and robots taking over their jobs.

A full 70 percent of Nordic employees are proactively learning new digital tools and technical skills.

Rising to the challenge of the digital workforce
Digital is changing the way employees work in two ways: as a tool for enhancing performance and as a means of transforming operations. If you look at Accenture as a case study example, we’re experimenting with something called the digital coach. It collects data from a variety of sensors to provide feedback on whether a manager is exhibiting effective social behaviors while coaching. On the operations side, Accenture Strategy has adopted the digital revolution into our operating model by merging our IT strategy and business strategy practices. And we’ve embedded digital into everything we do—from performance management to global collaboration.

Take action: what can you do to seize the digital workforce window of opportunity?

Align your workforce and talent strategy with the business: Coordinate your workforce approach with the overall digital business strategy to influence areas such as competency development and collaboration.

Define the digital skill gap within the workforce: Create a digital skills catalog by defining required skills and required level of competency by job.

Develop required digital competencies within the workforce: Use ubiquitous training and new ways to learn via social learning platforms and other online forums.

Start experimenting with more flexible and agile ways of organizing work. Engage the workforce to reinvent business processes and capabilities through digital technologies and tools like big data analytics, the Internet of Things, social collaboration tools and 3D/virtual reality interfaces.

Foster leadership behaviors that fuel a digital culture: Set clear direction, engage with the workforce using collaboration technologies, actively encourage feedback and innovative thinking, and push out decision-making to the edges of the organization.


Author

Even Neeb
Senior Manager, Accenture Strategy

Even Neeb is responsible for Accenture’s Talent & Organization Strategy practice in the Nordics. His experience has ranged from all aspects of workforce performance: from human capital strategy, leadership development and change management. As an organizational psychologist Even holds a Master of Psychology from the University of Oslo.

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