Digital Disruption and Your Workforce

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Being anticipatory can mean many things. In some cases, it’s about identifying opportunities for major disruptions that you yourself can introduce (think Uber, Kickstarter and other innovations that set entire industries on their ear.)

But being anticipatory also means being aware of outside disruptions that may impact you—and how to prepare accordingly. To that end, let’s consider the relationship between digital disruption and the people in your organization.

The Continuing Digital Disruption

Research by Accenture Strategy found that 82 percent of business leaders anticipate that their organizations will be digital businesses within the next three years. On one hand, leaders see that as a decidedly positive trend, boosting productivity, innovation and other workplace attributes.

But there is a perceived disconnect as well. Acknowledging the expected benefits of being digital is by no means the same thing as being digital. It is also not the same as having a workforce that is adequately prepared to learn new digital tools to drive innovation and uncover opportunities.

That, said the Accenture report, begins at the top. Strong leadership should encourage a positive, constructive future outlook (a solid “Futureview,” one of the cornerstones of my Anticipatory Organization model) and actively support that through collaborative technologies and widespread employee engagement and education.

6 Realities about a Digitally Driven Workforce

The Accenture study also identified a number of other positive aspects having to do with increased use of digital applications. If you’re not yet prepared for a digital transformation, here are six reminders why it’s time to advance.

  • Employees are excited about the possibilities. They already anticipate the possible advancements from greater use of digital technology, particularly innovation. Even more traditional attributes such as agility were cited as benefitting from greater use of digital tools.
  • Employees expect significant digital transformation. By a wide margin (82 percent), employees said they expect digital technology to transform the way they work over the next several years. Forty-four percent said they anticipated that level of change to be significant.
  • Employees want a digitally driven workplace. The desire for digital technology isn’t personal; it’s a professional expectation, especially of younger employees and millennials. They expect their organizations and leadership to commit to—and embrace—the different work environment that digital technology can introduce.
  • Employees don’t really ever disconnect. Younger employees, and even some from generation Y, see a less distinct separation between their personal and professional lives. Given the connectivity of the internet and other tools, they’re used to being in touch and available. In the workforce, there are now at least two generations of workers who are comfortable with indistinct lines between home and work.
  • Employees expect digital tools to be available . Today’s workers believe digital advancement shouldn’t be a solitary effort. They expect access to the best digital tools to enable them to do their job. They will look askance at any organization that fails to recognize the value of sufficiently adopting and investing in digital systems.
  • Employees are preparing for digital change. Not only are younger employees inherently more comfortable with digital technology, they are taking it upon themselves to prepare for digital change.

And it’s not just millennials. According to the Accenture study, more than 70 percent of all employees said they are proactively learning new digital tools and skills to better adapt to digital change.

A Changing Mind-set

These and other factors are also building a very different mindset regarding the workplace, one that leaders need to anticipate and prepare for. As many commentators have pointed out, younger employees often value their working environment as much as their salary.

To me, this comes down to a different expectation of leadership. Since technology can make work more independent and flexible by nature, younger employees expect a new level of autonomy and freedom from their leaders. They value control of where and when they work and a reasonable amount of freedom in what they do.

In my consultations with organizations of all sorts, it’s evident that digital disruption is driving pervasive change. What are you doing to anticipate those changes and prepare accordingly?


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Author: Daniel Burrus

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