In the 21st century, technology and digitization will continue to disrupt the way work gets done. CEOs must prepare and invest in their existing workforce to manage as well as stay ahead of this disruption, since it is this existing workforce that is their most reliable repository of productivity and innovation. Here are certain tactics CEOs can apply to help their workforce transition more effectively to future changes:
START THE CONVERSATION
In the current climate of disruption employees are facing acute job fears, and are worriedly looking for signals from the top bosses that may suggest a possible threat to their job.
CEOs can soothe these fears by having an open and mature conversation that addresses these fears instead of denying them, or distracting from them. It is important for leaders to exude optimism about future workplace opportunities, because how workers feel effects business today.
While it is obvious that automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect every level of the business and its people, leaders must be able to communicate that the importance of people in the workplace will not diminish, even if its paradigm does change.
To carry forth a conversation like this, CEOs must hone their insights and understanding about the changing technological landscape. Digital change efforts require a culture open to change and a workforce willing and able to adopt new technologies.
BE READY TO CONSTANTLY RE-TRAIN AND RE-CALIBRATE
The fear within the workforce ranks, and even the apprehension faced by CEOs is a very real skill gap that develops as a result of rapidly evolving technologies. However, a 2019 PwC survey finds that CEOs are shifting how they fill talent gaps.
Almost half of CEOs globally say significant retraining and upskilling is the most important initiative to close a potential skills gap, against just 18% who say it’s hiring from outside their industry. This is a hopeful metric for existing workers, to whom this re-assurance must be realistically communicated.
In the coming times, human skills like problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity, innovation and empathy will be most in demand. Leaders must identify the skills they need and start to concentrate on how to build them – and how to use them alongside technology. While they must look into automating every task that can be automated, they also need to train managers and workers for the multitude of new jobs that technology can’t automate.
To do this, leaders must communicate to their team that as they are creating these opportunities for increased learning in the workplace, they should proactively steer their own ongoing skills development. In other words, workers must recognize their specific need for ongoing training in order to improve their marketability and effectively work with the organisation in order to achieve that.
FOCUS ON OUTPUT, NOT HOURS
Aside from the fear of displacement, both automation and technology are also heralding opportunity for the workforce- by contributing to the emergence of more flexible, self-directed, inspiring forms of work.
Leaders must keep in mind that work has transformed into a fluid concept and a regimented 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working week is rare; the borders between home and work are blurred, as a cohort of professionals comes together to work from remote locations and collaborate virtually. In the most advanced companies, teams are learning to be more agile, to work with distributed and remote teams, and to scale up and down to adapt to ever-changing conditions.
Leaders must also accept the presence of different generations and ethnic groups within the workplace, and see that as an opportunity to create a diverse, open and considerate work culture.
CREATING THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE
Leaders need to value that creating an office that reflects a warm, collaborative and innovative culture will influence recruitment and retention efforts. Both the location and physical setting speak volumes about how organizations value employees. Constant evolution is fast becoming a new organizational mandate that must flow directly into workplace strategies and design.
CEOs and CXOs need to step outside of the confines of their exclusive cabins, and adopt an office design that makes the leadership more visible. Visible leadership gives the sense that collaboration and empowerment are the norms of the new age, where technology is effectively used to amplify workers’ voices.
STAY ALERT AND ADAPTIVE
The most important lesson to deal with disruption is to constantly stay adaptive in order to navigate the changes that lie ahead. It’s impossible to predict accurately and with exactness, the skills that will be needed even five years from now, so workers and organisations need to be ready to adapt – in each of the worlds that may materialise.
Highly adaptable CEOs research voraciously and plug into broad information flows. They scan wide networks and diverse sources of data, finding relevance in information that may at first seem unrelated to their businesses. As a result, they sense change earlier and make strategic moves to take advantage of it, showing their flexible and adaptive attitude as the kingpin to surviving change.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)
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