Posted: 16 Feb. 2018 15 min. read

No Collar Workforce: the human edge

Andrew Hill, Human Capital Consulting partner shares insights into the ‘No Collar Workforce’ trend. As it continues at pace in the Australian market, the concerns about ‘robots taking our jobs’ are moderating into a broader constructive, more curiosity-oriented dialogue around the impact on the future of work, the evolving workplace, and indeed workers themselves.

How can we tell? Because our clients are not only asking, they are actively embracing the opportunity to explore technology and the human edge with augmenting technology. And they have been doing so for some time.

Back in 2013, Deloitte published a report jointly with AMP Capital entitled ‘It’s (almost) all about me: Workplace 2030 – Built for us.’ AMP wanted to synthesise the already voluminous writing and trend material around the future of work, into something succinct that just might shape theirs, and their clients’ thinking, with regards strategic investments.

What emerged was one of the most complete frameworks for considering the impact of emerging cognitive and automation technologies in an organisation. In short, the impact on work itself, the workplaces where work is performed, and the workers who do the work and how to harness their full creative and productive potential. The report concluded that:

Workers will be:

  • More diverse and individually empowered
  • Highly valued for their connections across businesses, industries and the globe

Work will be:

  • Less about time and more about insight through data and collaboration
  • More virtual and global

Workplaces will:

  • Enable people to work in the cloud and have their feet on the ground
  • Be adapted to multiple needs and purposes
  • Be in multiple places, including vibrant precincts

Fast forward several years, and these insights are both playing out and continuing to evolve, and accelerate. As demographic shifts this usher in younger, more agile and digitally savvy workers, and as clients embrace the future of work for their organisations, the momentum continues to grow.

While in the process of unlocking the potential benefits of the future of work, while responding to new organisational objectives, clients are beginning to redesign work, and shift low and medium level cognitive work to Ai assistants. They are starting to improve process efficiency and increase the productivity of small teams with highly skilled engineers.

By deconstructing several complex engineering tasks, the work, often performed in very remote locations, the workplace, and growing a new team of Ai assistants, the worker to interpret vast amounts of both structured and unstructured data. The Ai assistants were able to reduce the elapsed process time from six weeks to just two hours, and reduce traditional team structures from a manager with seven direct reports, to a manager with four direct reports and three Ai assistants. In One team the manager of the Ai assistant is responsible for training, performance management and quality control. Impressive stuff.

Also other local organisations are reviewing the impact of cognitive technology has on their total workforce. In this case, one of the approaches was to use a cognitive assistant to review every role in the organisation to assess the impact of automation on those roles. The analysis allows the organisation to invest in building the capabilities it will need in the future through targeted re-skilling and mobility programs, talent acquisition and strategic partnerships. This means the organisation now has the choice to either bank those savings or consider how to harness the new latent capacity to create more value for their customers.

Transitioning to a future workforce that is augmented by cognitive technologies is by no means an overnight exercise. The increased leverage of technology, combined with a focus on learning, leadership and culture, has uncovered potential new capabilities that hadn’t been contemplated and will position such organisations to manage their transition on their own terms.

To find out more about our augmenting technology tech trend for 2018 click here

More about the author

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill

Partner, Consulting

Andrew leads the HR Transformation advisory team in Australia and consults widely to many of Australia's leading organisations on projects ranging from HR strategy, workforce solutions and digital transformation. He is a member of Deloitte’s global Future of HR program and is currently leading several local initiatives planning cloud based HR services and productivity improvement.