BusinessDay
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The future of work: Organisations should prepare to adapt

From the manufacturing industry, financial services and the audit sector to the hospitality, agriculture, health care and telecommunications sectors…businesses in these sectors previously depended substantially on manual processes to drive operations. We can compare the time frame within which financial auditors (for instance) concluded audit exercises in previous times as against now, as these professionals had limited work tools to help simplify tasks.

We have benefited from the transition from an outdated paper-based system to digitisation of records as is traversal across all sectors. As a consumer in this present age, we can reminisce about the old days of long queues in the banking halls when we waited for countless hours to process basic transactions. As business owners, who now have access to a wider pool of human capital, information, techniques, partners, finance options including an expanded market, we can agree that the continuous revolutions, in particular this fourth one, the technological revolution (which is predicted to raise the bar like never before!) have made life easier and better. So, when I binge-watch movies about aliens and technology, somehow, I am thankful for these disruptions which has changed every aspect of our lives, especially how we perceive and approach the concept of work.

As innovations ranging from Automation, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud computing, Data Analytics, etc. are becoming popular, there are concerns about how these breakthroughs will affect the world of work. According to the Mckinsey Global Institute, as much as these technologies improve operational efficiency, their deployment may displace the need for human effort in most repetitive tasks people are paid to perform thereby leading to labour substitution. These realities are not far from us. Banks are launching their own Automation and Artificial Intelligence technology: UBA’s chat bots LEO; Zenith Bank’s Qwerty Banking; Stanbic Banks’s Blue Bot; Diamond bank’s (Now Access Diamond) Ada and Union Bank’s Robotics Process Automation (RPA).

As more and more organisations employ these technologies, it appears indeed that there would be a displacement of human effort especially in this part of the world hence people would lose their source of livelihood. However, many reports on this subject highlight an emergence of new tasks in existing roles or recreation of new sources of employment. On the flip side, these forms of innovation will benefit these institutions in many ways. For one, they will be better well positioned to enhance customer experience; will achieve savings in time and costs, improve efficiency, prevent fraudulent activities and be empowered to provide personalised services in real time.

As workers settle with this new idea of telecommuting, the idea of going to a place of work may no longer be desirable. Managers would need to create (where there is none) or review existing policies on remote work and tighten information technology governance to protect access to company data

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

Meanwhile, as technology sets the new rules for work and business operations, shifting demographics patterns, migration, and changes in economic growth are other factors which will impact significantly on the new world of work. Interestingly, the COVID 19 pandemic scare may just accelerate the advancement of work. To ensure business continuity, most organisations have been forced to implement work from home while devising new ways of maintaining employee engagement and redefining deliverables. Managers may now need to redefine work vs work place. Does presence in the work place translate to productivity? Will it matter the location where work occurs if employees have the tools, they need to deliver on set objectives?

As workers settle with this new idea of telecommuting, the idea of going to a place of work may no longer be desirable. Managers would need to create (where there is none) or review existing policies on remote work and tighten information technology governance to protect access to company data. Furthermore, in terms of learning and development, it is paramount for workers to pursue a live long process of training to remain relevant. Organisations should also commit to reskilling or upskilling in ways that support employees to adapt to these changes and enhance their performance.

Organisations would have to proactively engage these trends. More importantly, managers should look internally and examine how these changes apply to the company. More so, they may need to rethink the assumptions behind policies, products, services and business models.

 

OSAYI ALILE

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