Angela Salmeron
Angela Salmeron (Research Director, EMEA Sustainable Strategies and Technologies)

The world has changed beyond recognition and, according to the IMF, we are witnessing the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Millions of people are in job retention schemes (known as “furlough schemes” in the U.K.) that come to an end in September or December, but will their jobs still exist upon their return? Besides unemployment, the nature and shape of their jobs are radically changing. In this blog, we explore the Future of Work and the transformative changes in the workplace.

We are witnessing an important inflection point in history and current economies are evolving very rapidly to meet the demands of a new reality, which IDC refers to as the Next Normal. No one knows what this emerging new era will look like, but it will be undoubtedly marked by fast change and constant disruption.

Many industries, including those slaughtered by the current crisis, are transforming to survive and becoming digitally agile for resilience. However, to thrive in the Next Normal, changing business models and supporting technologies are not enough, the way we work needs to be redefined too as a prerequisite for digital success. In other words, the Future of Work is imperative, it’s present and here.

As companies are designing their Return to Work programs, IDC has spoken to a number of business leaders and identified the top 5 Future of Work initiatives to thrive in the Next Normal.

Top 5 Future of Work Initiatives to Thrive in the Next Normal

  1. A Hybrid working model that is financially sound, employee-centric, and ethically sustainable.

According to a recent IDC survey, 2/3 of European companies plan to introduce remote working policies post-pandemic. This doesn’t mean 100% of remote working, but a flexible model that can help employees with work-life balance.

Remote working policies will be supported by productivity gains. To this end, employees might be required to have their own home office space, be childcare free and a good and secure Internet connection, for example.

The office environment will evolve and be re-designed for greater team collaboration and co-creation whilst employees are on-site. Real estate in city centers might be rationalized as smaller offices might spring up in the suburbs. An ambitious green agenda will be rolled out, involving an efficient use of energy resources and waste reduction.

Employee wellbeing – both physical and mental – will be monitored regardless of their workplace and tailored programs will be put in place.

  1. Automation technologies for operational efficiencies and business value generation.

According to a recent IDC survey, 54% of companies plan to increase investments in automating business processes. However, unlike the previous crisis, automation will not be a synonym of unemployment but a lever to create business differentiation.

Employees will be freed up from manual and repetitive tasks and move to higher-value tasks and to more critical and complex jobs. This shift will unlikely happen overnight and require substantial reskilling and internal mobility, re-allocating employees where they can best perform.

Similarly, companies will use cognitive computing to harvest new insights from data analysis and improve performance on jobs (in medical screening, customer profiling, insurance modeling, etc.). This will redefine business workflows, and the division of machine and human tasks, ensuring they collaborate and augment each other.

  1. A “reconfigurable” workforce, with the right talent in the right team and at the right time, for market relevance.

Life-time roles and titles will be a thing of the past. In the Next Normal, employers will shift talent (based on their skills) to where they’re needed the most, meeting evolving customer needs.

This new organisational setting, which follows agile working principles, will not monitor employee activity but team performance, albeit limited supervision is needed. High-performance teams are end-to-end accountable and outcome-focused. They have full transparent communication that clearly defines roles and responsibilities, as well as their status and goals, strengthening employee engagement.

  1. A culture of lifelong learning and trust for business innovation

According to recent IDC surveys, more than half of European organizations are increasing investments in training in 2020 to build intellectual capital for innovation and competitive differentiation. Learning won’t be conducted the way we know it but applied to the flow of work as and when needed. Delivered through a multi-channel approach (face-to-face, online web, mobile, etc.), training will be business outcome-based and measured accordingly.

By making learning a part of everyday work, employees will become more digital-savvy and explore innovative ways to resolve new and complex problems. “Team psychological safety” will be required, whereby speaking up is enabled and respected.

A culture of trust is equally important to foster innovation, not only amongst employees but also, and most importantly, with 3rd party partners. Co-creation with strategic partnerships will represent an increasing share of new revenue streams in the Next Normal.

  1. Companies will anchor business change and strategy into a firm sense of purpose.

In a digital world in which adaptability defines our chances of survival, companies will anchor a changing business strategy into a strong sense of purpose for resilience. Maintaining a central purpose despite the many twists and turns in a journey will build employee cohesion and engagement.

In the next normal, the purpose of a company will go beyond financial gains and include social, humanitarian, and ecological impact. As part of this, companies will create a new set of KPIs to measure long-term business value for all stakeholders.


How to prepare for the future of work

The Future of Work cannot be attained overnight. These strategic and cultural changes require strong leadership from the C-Suite (the same Digital Dream team that responded to the crisis), and employee engagement from the bottom.

Act now to thrive tomorrow. Get ready for a new paradigm in which your agility, ability to innovate, and a strong sense of purpose will define your success in the face of adversity.

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