In an already rapidly digitizing world, the year 2020 has propelled the ways we engage with technology into overdrive. The abrupt need for the global workforce to turn virtual has had a profound impact on how companies think about future ways of working and the HR practices set in place to support these changes.
According to the European Business Review, a survey conducted by Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) predicts that the global percentage of those permanently working remote will double in 2021, “as productivity has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.” Similar sentiments have been echoed in the findings of other research.
In a report on future work analysis, McKinsey stated that under certain conditions, more than 20% of employees “could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office.” Boston Consulting Group surveyed 12,000 professionals across a variety of industries and found that the majority of employees “perceive that their productivity has predominantly stayed the same or even improved,” despite the fact around 40% of employees switched to remote working and the remainder needed to comply with social-distancing measures at work. Both studies predict that many employers will opt for a hybrid working model in the future.
Digitalization in the workplace is certainly not new, especially in HR. This is evident in long-term trends in Learning and Development such as digital learning. Organizations have been shifting away from the traditional face-to-face style of learning and putting more emphasis on digital approaches. Long gone are the days that employees must attend real-life classroom sessions. Companies today do not have the time nor the luxury. In an age of social media, applications, and streaming platforms it makes sense that our ideas around learning keep up with technological trends. AI, gamification, and virtual reality have become ingrained into our learning vocabulary. For example, companies are opting for the AI-generated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) over the more traditional Learning Management System (LMS), because they offer a more efficient, tailor-made learning journey.
However, the virtual is no longer one approach among many but now the primary. The present situation has accelerated these digital trends to encompass all facets of our personal and professional lives. Although these concepts are not new, the circumstances in which we must engage with them certainly are. As we enter a new paradigm of working, it is critical that companies do not view the digital future through the same lens as before. Harvard Business Review’s article “Digital Transformation is About Talent, Not Technology” offers some interesting insight on the matter. They argue that the focus should not be on technology per se, but rather on the way companies use technology to better develop and prepare their workforce for a more digital world. It is important to remember that a “digital transformation is less about technology and more about people.”
Moving forward, companies must embrace technology not as a means in itself but as the key transformative condition when planning for the future. Digital decisions should therefore be grounded in the employees’ experience. In PwC’s “Workforce of the Future” report, which surveyed 10,000 participants, “73% think technology can never replace the human mind.”
As the Harvard Business Review indicates, it will come down to “reskilling and upskilling people so that they are better equipped to adjust to change” and a more digital future. Proper educational practices and a strong learning culture, and Learning and Development in particular, will be critical to accomplishing this. To train employees with the relevant competencies and skills for this new work paradigm, companies will need to find new, innovative ways to facilitate core learning topics, such as leadership development and team building. It will be interesting to see how almost a year of virtual working will have advanced the already progressing digital shift in Learning and Development.
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Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology (hbr.org)
The number of permanent remote workers is set to double in 2021 – Business – EBR (europeanbusinessreview.eu)
What 12,000 Employees Have to Say About the Future of Remote Work (bcg.com)
The future of remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and 9 countries | McKinsey
Workforce of the future – The competing forces shaping 2030: PwC