Changing the way we work through digital thinking

The time to start thinking about a digital workplace is now

​Emerging technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and cognitive chatbots will likely take over many tasks that have traditionally been handled by humans. This will change the shape of the traditional workplace and increase competition. In order for companies to thrive in this new model, they will likely need to balance these technologies and their human workforce to find an equilibrium. Employing digital strategies will help prepare organizations for tomorrow's changes, and the challenges and opportunities they will bring.

The workplace is changing

The workplace has undergone a massive shift in recent years, due to such factors as retiring baby boomers, the influx of tech-savvy millennials into the workforce, and new and emerging digital technologies that are disrupting business models and radically affecting the overall workplace experience.

As technologies become more advanced, and more accessible to the marketplace, RPA, chatbots, and artificial intelligence (AI) will likely become commonplace in the office. They may also start to take over tasks and jobs that have traditionally been filled by people—and this shift could happen sooner than many expect.

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What does this mean for businesses and the workforce?

These changes will certainly affect employers, employees, and the market in general. The elimination of tedious, time-consuming tasks may mean layoffs for some. However, organizations that are forward, digital thinkers will likely innovate to keep their workforces largely intact. They may redistribute and reskill employees in order to bring positive growth and innovation to the business and workforce. Learning, development, and investments in training will be key to reconfiguring this changing workforce and to realizing future success.

Those organizations that don't approach their strategy from a long-term perspective may find themselves in hot water down the line. Many organizations may get starry-eyed at the idea of fully automating their processes, but at some point, it becomes cost prohibitive to introduce robots and automation to every aspect of a business. Those that don't retain their workers will likely find themselves competing for the very talent they let go when they realize, too late, that robots can't—and shouldn't—run an entire organization.

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The upside: A new, more innovative way of doing business

Change brings opportunity, and the dynamic task market resulting from automation could put power back into the hands of the people. As people are laid off, productivity will continue to grow, creating new work opportunities that will increase the competition for talent.

Many of these findings and predictions may seem daunting, but there are upsides to the changing nature of work. The way some jobs and tasks are performed today will certainly change, so organizations and employees will need to change with it.

For forward-thinking, digitally minded organizations, that will mean reallocating their workforces through learning and development. Employees and leaders will need to be willing and able to redefine roles through this restructuring, which will be made easier by investments in new technologies and automation.

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What should organizations do to adapt and begin to think digitally?

It's important to acknowledge that digital means more than just implementing new tools and software. Technology alone does not translate to digital. Being digital is a mind-set shift that requires the raising of a collective "digital IQ"—where organizing, operating, and behaving in a culturally digital way becomes the real mark of a digital organization. This new organization is self-organizing, flexible, collaborative, innovative, and willing to experiment.

Technology is one enabler of digital. For companies to be digital, they should create a digital experience for the workforce by combining technology and other equally important factors, such as employee engagement and satisfaction, flexibility, development opportunity, agility, collaboration, and communication. And the list goes on.

Human resources (HR) has a unique opportunity to lead the way, ultimately helping ensure greater success in the future model. By applying what Deloitte calls "Digital DNA," an organization can identify where the business is successful and identify areas for improvement and where digital thinking can be applied.

Keeping employees engaged—and emphasizing opportunities to improve the overall experience—is important in driving loyalty and satisfaction, as well as results.

Smart organizations can be the leaders in this new world by shaping the marketplace and intervening with government and legislation as needed—and by employing digital thinking to master the employee experience every step of the way.

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A number of platforms incorporate robotics to engage the workforce in a high-quality way that hasn't been possible in the past.

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