Humanizing workplace transformation in a technology-driven market environment
The pandemic is the fastest accelerator of technology. We had to quickly embrace the change or risk not being able to get our needs during the lockdown. In a flash, digital platforms made everything and everyone reachable, rendering borders and distance superfluous.
To continue functioning, companies had to make the homes of their employees their remote offices during the lockdowns. Now, workplaces are fusions of physical and digital—and that will most likely become a way of life. The more obvious advantages for organizations are the opportunities to have more cost-effective operations—less overhead, wider market reach and improved efficiency and productivity as repetitive tasks become automated. All these help the bottom line.
But the digital space expanded the horizon of the workforce too. When every physical space becomes just a location point where digital transmissions are coming from, then the individuals become the center of everything. This opened opportunities and choices for people—where to go, who to join, what to get, even how they want to define their roles in the workplaces. Workforce mobility is a challenge for companies because in the end, having the right people is mission-critical. Technology is a tool that needs human intelligence, creativity and innovative spirit to animate it and put it to effective use.
Talent today is a business capital and it is getting scarce. That means we compete to acquire people who are essential to our business growth. What attributes will make it attractive for them to join and stay? Humans need humanized workplaces and that becomes more important in a tech-driven environment. There is a lot to change in our organizations and the way we do business, but three changes are essential to humanize the workplace:
- Mindset: Accept that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot use a work-from-home arrangement, for instance, yet still measure attendance via traditional time-based metrics. We are so compulsive about maximizing eight hours that we even encroach beyond that. Flexible work arrangements should accommodate personal needs and help employees achieve better work-life integration. Respect the boundaries. As they say, structure follows strategy. We cannot cherry-pick the changes we want to adapt and expect them to work using outdated systems and policies.
- Process: It is time to reconfigure processes so that systems and procedures are aligned with the technology changes taking place. The future of doing business is striking a balance between the human side and technology. Be clear about expectations, deliverables and outcomes rather than time. Deploy the tech but leverage this equally with the distinct qualities and skills that humans bring to the table— critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy and creativity. That fusion will foster better customer interaction, drive innovation and find unique solutions to complex problems.
- Skill set: We must invest in the development of our workforce, equipping them with skills or retooling them to be adaptive to the transformations. This is an area that is oftentimes overlooked; we seem to expect that when we throw people in the water, they will learn how to swim. What is wrong with teaching them first so that there is less risk, they can handle themselves better and we shorten the learning curve?
In these technology-driven, transformed workplaces, both the employers and employees are learning together. No one has the monopoly of knowledge. Collaboration is crucial and hence, it is important to maintain strong human connections.
While technology facilitates communication, it is the human touch that fosters trust, empathy and a sense of belonging. We must encourage regular and meaningful interactions, both in-person and virtually, so that no one feels isolated or disconnected. Building a strong sense of community within our organizations will enable us to weather the challenges of a technology-driven market together, emerging stronger and more resilient.
Today’s environment is in constant motion and where possible, leaders must always be ahead of the changes so that transitions are better managed. Staying static is not an option because eventually, the change will catch up. When it does, the options may already be limited or worse, the opportunity to act is no longer there.
Companies and their staff should work hand in hand to successfully navigate the transformations. The pandemic is an experience like no other—no one is a pioneer and we are all at the starting line. The contribution of everyone counts.
In a previous article, I wrote: “Today’s imperative is to morph the organizational DNA and emerge completely different. The discipline, foresight, and innovative spirit to transform mindsets and processes will give birth to stronger, agile organizations that can create and shape their markets, unhampered by geographies and technologies.”
That is how we can thrive in this tech world.
This summarizes the author’s June 28 presentation at the 44th National Conference of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines. She chairs the Management Association of the Philippines CEO Conference Committee and is vice chair of the MAP Tourism Committee, CEO of Health Solutions Corp. and a former tourism undersecretary. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected].