As an advocate of how technology can positively change and enhance our lives, I always look forward to reading the annual Fjord Trends report. For those of you unfamiliar with the report, Fjord is the design and innovation consulting arm of Accenture Interactive and its mission, “to design the world we want to live in,” is at the heart of this research and insights paper.
After the last couple of years, most leading global companies will be familiar with the themes—we’ve all experienced how work has become more transactional and thanks to the rise of tech tools, none of us are talking about task productivity anymore—it’s all about transforming employee experiences, as my role as Global Digital Experiences Lead can testify!
Tracking the trends
I’m sure you’ll want to read the report for yourselves, but I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some of this year’s trends and how they relate to our own work in Accenture global IT.
- The next frontier: Highlighting that the world is buzzing with metaverse fever, the report notes how this new convergence of physical and digital worlds embodies the next stage of how physical interacts with digital. It’s a place where people can meet and interact and where digital assets—land, buildings, items, avatars and even names—can be created, bought and sold. The metaverse is less about a world of unicorns and dragons and more about escaping the limits of physical walls to spend time in a virtual space—which will shift culture and digital behavior expectations. I believe the metaverse offers an opportunity for us to create a smoother connection between personal and work activities and personas. The concept of earning and using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in a work environment that can be used in your personal life is just one example of where these experiences start to merge.
A Fjord focus group found that around 75% of those asked were excited rather than concerned about the future of their digital experiences, citing things like improved communications between people, better access to information and a more convenient life as the reasons. I was explaining how Accenture is bringing immersive experiences to life in a recent article—which included some avatars and a “show and tell” of how and where our people can collaborate and learn in new ways. And I’ve written before about how extended reality is helping us to discover new worlds, so I feel like we’re a long way toward reaching that new frontier already.
One of the key things on my mind is designing inclusivity into the metaverse. How can we make sure that we don’t exclude our colleagues, friends and family from fully participating in the next frontier? We have learned a great deal about how to design for accessibility over the last decade and we should apply that understanding to the technologies, platforms and devices of tomorrow.
- This much is true: Asking questions and having them answered at the touch of a button (or brief exchange with a chat or voice assistant) has become part of everyday life. The fact that it’s so easy and immediate means they’re asking more questions with higher and higher expectations on the precision and sophistication of the responses. Most recently, people’s emotional and moral concerns have been making the process more complex, with a particular focus on ethical and sustainability values. The report found that nine out of 10 online focus group participants said they often or sometimes need more information about products before making a purchase. Delivering on customer demands for information is a way to show transparency, which builds credibility. We do this for our own people by putting data and analytics in their hands, providing business insights that empower them and enable data-driven decision-making.
Hybrid interfaces will play an important role. They could augment physical objects with a digital layer of information, delivered as a sensory experience through smart devices (such as smart glasses) and customized according to customer mode. Our global IT team has had plenty of experience in building a digital workplace where our people can use the latest technologies to collaborate and innovate. We know that creating digital workers means empowering our people to do their best work by providing the right tools, technologies and support. And, by applying an integrated, user-centric change management approach, we help them to make an impact, wherever they are.
- Handle with care: How companies design for all aspects of care will likely set them apart and be a key component for future success. In all its forms, care became more prominent this past year: self-care, care for others, the service of care and the channels to deliver care (both digital and physical). Like many other businesses in 2021, Accenture hired a Chief Health Officer, Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee, to focus specifically on employee well-being and investment.
Taking care of employees is a moral imperative, of course, but their well-being also has a direct impact on business performance, operational resiliency and sustainability. This reinforces the importance of nurturing a culture of care in the workplace. Technology has played a key role in helping people take care of themselves. From multisensory design to social audio—audio streaming has increased 32% year-on-year—to streamlining internal processes to reduce employees’ mental load, there are many subtle ways to show care. Accenture leads with a human-first approach to inspire our people to embrace change, adopt new behaviors and use technology to the full to deliver value. As change leaders we have a strong change and adoption strategy that means we don’t just teach people how to use something; we explain why they’re using it and the value it delivers. We look at the neuroscience of change to create new behaviors and habits—how the brain processes new things—and we use a persona-based perspective to address how tech change will impact specific individuals and how they might feel about it.
I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here on the discussion threads and fascinating facts from the Fjord trends report. I hope we can all look forward to managing these new frontiers, enjoying transparency and trust and handling our teams with care.