From where we stand now – which is literally at the doorstep of a new year – allow me to highlight a few probable cross-industry change opportunities we’ll be keeping an eye on. So that we’re in the know. Of course.
Here’s how the following nine evolving trends may likely produce opportunities and events that organisations would be expected to deal with in the workplace:
1. The evolution of talent development
I am following a major evolution unfolding in the way that talent and skills are traded in a technology-first workplace. Talent is becoming increasingly gig-based and often traded on a contract or project basis. We see hiring strategies evolving. Permanent employment as we know it is becoming less and less appealing for those who seek professional and personal fulfilment.
Retaining talent, especially those with essential technology skills, is an opportunity for organisations to plug into one hundred percent. Authors of a recent Harvard Business Review piece agree that organisations can’t rely on hiring strategies alone to fight the ‘big resignation trend’. Instead, they suggest that organisations must find the skills they need within their existing workforces – or develop critical skills from within.
2. The evolution of business resilience
Let’s keep in mind that business continuity provides a framework for planning ahead. A plan addressing all probable risk, ready for when organisations need to activate. But of late, the term ‘business resilience’, or the ability to follow through during a challenging situation – has become a quantifiable quality that no organisation can do without when faced with constant ambiguity.
I see business continuity and business resilience to interlace hands and mature even more. Continue to plan for the eventuality of an event, but also hone skills in organisational resilience. We have seen that continuity hinges on this skill and the deliberate intention that drives resilience. And organisations are certainly able to practice resilience in order to follow through with the plan. This is captured in a data-driven dashboard designed to navigate the future as opposed to the past.
3. The evolution of the relationship between personal health and the physical workplace
Providing a safe workplace to conduct business from has recently become part of larger discussions around, well, indeed having a place to work from. Organisations in the health and insurance industries such as Discovery, Sanlam, Old Mutual, Mediclinic and Life Healthcare were some of the early adopters of policies aimed at prioritising the health of their employees. On their heels followed the education industry, including Wits University, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape, the University of the Free State, Curro Holdings.
To know whether the company enforced health mandates will be successful, I believe that we can lean on the 2021 uptake data widely reported. Overwhelmingly, results have been positive and indicates that mandatory health policies in organisations can be effectively implemented to maintain the public health imperative, which offers organisations and the economy much needed certainty.
4. The evolution of the decoupling of work and place
Beyond providing a safe workspace, we also need to look at how the remote working trust culture has evolved even in organisations that previously had a low trust culture in hybrid work solutions. Time spent at a desk is no longer perceived as a metric of productivity. At last, more managers and executives are accepting that work is a thing you do (as opposed to a place that you go to).
Interestingly, in their September 2021 investor update report, commercial property giant Growthpoint indicated that many of the group’s office tenants plan on implementing a three- or four-day-a-week office-based remote work strategy.
In the long run, I am of the opinion that a hybrid-first strategy might only continue to work for some industries, such as financial and other professional financial services industries. Many organisations will settle on a hybrid solution that fits their needs.
Remote work solutions have changed the way the physical workplace is utilised to allow for more, and safer, collaboration between teams. For larger organisations, I am keeping my eye on the possibility of organisations adopting smaller satellite collaboration spaces dotted within decentralised property nodes closer to employees’ homes compared to the pre-pandemic tradition of employees congregating at one central location.
5. The evolution of the work we do
Technology professions remain in short supply and high demand. Although published in 2017, Bloomberg’s Automation Index Report remains relevant today. It provides a glimpse into the likely risk of certain professions to be eclipsed by automation and artificial intelligence.
The opportunity that it gives at risk employees is to not only up their technological capabilities to meet the rising demand, but also to consider how their professions are being augmented by technology. An opportunity I see developing further lies in developing more personal competencies. These competencies include creative capacity, problem solving and ways of thinking that artificial intelligent solutions may never be able to assume full ownership of.
We’re already seeing these changes unfold in the accounting and auditing profession if we consider the impact of cloud-based accounting and integrated systems essentially freeing humans to add their most value (as opposed to capturing data, for example).
6. The evolution of how we work
Technology and personal competencies continue to influence how we work, even more so for executives and decision-makers. Traditional roles of the C-Suite are changing. Older employees are often highly skilled in their respective technical roles, and they are often being managed by younger leaders who are great managers (without the technical depth). This means that leaders are not necessarily required to possess the same deep technical skills required to continue leading teams. Leadership should not fear the generational gap as each generation has valuable, complementary expertise to contribute.
Today, leading from an inclusive and collaborative leadership approach successfully enables and supports a multi-skilled organisation.
7. The evolution of privacy
Changes in privacy are fuelled by the evolving need to protect data as a valuable product. I have a keen interest in how this particular organisational responsibility will more naturally be accepted and understood by data subjects (people) as well as organisations.
Legacy data management systems perpetuate fragmented and decentralised (read ungoverned!) information. Organisations that are really trying to gear themselves for the future, implement pro-change principles and at the same time comply with current privacy legislation are switching over to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) driven way of working. One central data system is connected to other cross-organisational systems that house data.
But the biggest shift does not hinge on adopting the right centralised data management systems, but rather on whether people within the organisation are ready for this change. If this is not the case, an organisational change gap analysis early on will point out any hesitancy toward one, adopting the necessary transparency and two, the measure of trust put into these privacy-first systems.
This trend is a significant challenge for large or established companies, as smaller competitors or incumbents often design their systems and processes with privacy-by-design and cloud-based systems from the ground up.
8. The evolution of supply chains and productivity
Grounding the organisation’s way of working in a centralised data system ends up being a repeat foundational recommendation following nearly all our privacy impact assessments at Kriel & Co. This is a trend I have noticed while working across a variety of industries over the last year. Apart from the benefits of a privacy-first system, having a centralised data system simplifies the ease of safely collecting and processing supply chain data. This reduces complexity – a key objective for any manufacturing or retail-based operation.
I am also keeping my eye on the role that connected artificial intelligence (AI) could play when integrated into central data systems. It promises to be an effective and efficient value driver for organisations when AI is used alongside human intelligence to raise potential red flags such as privacy breaches or constraints within supply chains that may affect service or product delivery. The extent to which organisations set parameters and permissions for connected intelligence to manage supply chain systems and productivity will continue to be under the microscope as the value add of connected intelligence evolves.
9. The evolution of industry amalgamation
The pandemic has resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour that now favours contactless and digital banking. This has expanded into retail offerings. This means that industries such as technology, financial and retail have amalgamated to work together in new ways to meet customer demands.
This is an area I’m keenly following. Because as more and more amalgamation and integration of data take place, the risks grow exponentially for the entire value chain – if one party is compromised, the entire chain is at risk of collapsing its reputation and place in the market.
Grounding relationships in a privacy-by-design approach is recommended. Over the next few years, I’ll be advocating for all parties in a cross-industry relationship to deeply value a mutual commitment to privacy-first principles.
I recognise that our work at Kriel & Co as change facilitators of organisations navigating a changing landscape is never ending. Chances are these nine areas of opportunity are not the only areas deserving of a sharp eye and a ready plan to meet opportunities head on. New considerations continuously enter the playing field. In the spirit of a promising new year, we need to recognise that change is three-dimensional – ever perpetual, pervasive and exponential.