Unlocking the Potential of Employees Using Technology

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The world around us has changed, and this is equally true of society and industry. This has also caused us to revisit and reimagine the nature of work, employee engagement, and workplace itself.

Understanding the Employee Potential

Harnath Babu

CIO & Partner, KPMG

In the Sixties, Arthur C Clarke, the science fiction writer, predicted that one day we would be able to do operation sitting remotely. He also said that the only magical thing that will happen to mankind is technology. The last one decade has seen a very fast paced change in our lives due to two years of covid and the subsequent changes that it has brought in. We have been pushed into the future by almost 7 to 10 years. The idea of adoption of online platforms to online health care and remote working have happened quickly only because of the availability of technology. This is a changing landscape that we are looking at. The environment that we saw in 2018 or 2019 has changed. The customer has changed; the employers have changed and the workforce has changed. We see a lot of gig economy. We hear of terms like the great resignation and moonlighting. The employee needs the flexibility to choose what they want to work on and where they want to work. That’s the biggest change. The next big challenge is the war for digital talent. Companies have realized that it’s not possible for them to sustain and stay resilient, if there is too much of human intervention in every process they are running. That is why digital transformation is on the agenda of most companies. There is a gap of 55% between the digital talent required and available in organizations.

Three Major Shifts & Challenges

Considering the newer dimensions, we must look at three things:

  • The nature of work and business models is changing.
  • People are becoming the most valuable assets in organizations.
  • The idea of workplace is changing.

A survey by Gallup has concluded that employees are truly productive only for a few hours in a day. 85% of employees are not engaged in work. According to other surveys, 90% of the workers spend their time, at least two days in a week, on administrative tasks; 50% employees struggle with documents and content scattered across disparate applications and storage locations. An average employee is productive only for 3 hours in a day. If the organization is small, the problem could be smaller but in an organization spread geographically in different countries, ineffective communication channels can disrupt the whole organization. Slowly, the cultural affinity towards the organization is coming down, as they start working morning to night from remote. There is job-related stress. In some cases, there is a hazardous working environment. So we can see that employees’ productivity is coming down because of administrative tasks; unavailability of trusted information; ineffective communication and lack of employee engagement. If we analyze workplace productivity and put it as an equation, we can see that the employee potential is the sum of a) their current ability b) future aspirations c) adaptability to the changing environment and d) collaboration. Digital enablement results in productivity goals.

Anatomy of a Productive Workforce

  • Employees need the right resources to deliver.
  • Both employees and employers must have a culture of learning and development. It is not limited to technical skill sets but includes soft skills like emotional quotient.
  • There must be a collaborative work culture. It must be in the DNA of the organization.
  • Organisations must take care of employee wellness.
  • Employee engagement will continue to play a key role, because a disengaged employee can be highly unproductive.
  • The important aspect is the X Factor, which is nothing but technology. According to a survey (Ultimate Software), 92% employees say that having technology that helps them do their job efficiently affects their work satisfaction. 53% of respondents in a CITO Research survey have said that having mobile apps improves business processes and productivity. 46% of respondents in a Pew Research survey have said that they report increased productivity as a result of digital tool usage.

Technology Trends

The technology trends that shape the new workplace are:

  1. Smart and virtual office space
  2. Collaboration & knowledge sharing
  3. Automation & Internet of Things
  4. Learning and Development.

Technology providers have moved from being mere service providers to those that add value. They lead from the front. They were considered as cost centre in the past. Now they are revenue generators. Therefore, it is very important for every organization on the planet to go digital, to ensure that they become more efficient as an organization.

The Future of Everything

Mr Suresh Raman

Vice President & Regional Head, TCS Chennai

Our experience at TCS has been very different. We have 6 lakh employees across the globe and a lakh in Chennai. We added about 1.5 lakh employees in India, in the last two years because of the tremendous growth and digital transformation initiatives taken by the global corporates. We have to ensure that they get into the stream and make them learn, so we can leverage their potential.

I will touch upon four aspects:

  • Future of work
  • Future of workforce
  • Future of workplace
  • Future of work tech

The future of work: It glorifies machines than humans. We are slowly getting into Industry 5.0 where we will put humans back as in charge. Creative work and content will have to be done by humans. But Industry 4.0 will be the foundation on which Industry 5.0 will be constructed. Many companies are now in 4.0 where we provide them with the ‘machine first delivery model.’ Industry 5.0 will be about ‘humans first.’ The type of work will be very different. In healthcare industry, for instance, doctors do some work and nurses do some work. There is a missing middle. So the nurses will get upskilled. Doctors can focus on their core work. In between, automation will happen. This will happen across many sectors including judicial system. There is now talk of low-code, no-code for which many platforms are available. For doing this, mere degrees will not help. Computer science has to be a horizontal discipline across other degrees. To flip the coin in the other way, computer science will be the main degree, with some core engineering subjects as horizontals.

The future of workforce: There is a big demand for talent. At TCS, we look for talent that is fungible, available and more importantly, meeting the Gen Z expectations. That is why we see different models of hybrid working. There will be a mix of legacy technologies and emerging technologies. We will see digital revolutionaries as well as laggards. This is an area that schools and colleges need to address.

Apart from low-code, no code, there will be lot of gig work and optioning type of work. Flexi work contractors will come into play. ‘Dear sourcing’ may come in, where friends and relatives might be asked to join. There will be blanket hours working where people can work at any time of the day, as long as they complete eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. We need a set of people to ensure the business continues. Technology has embedded a culture of continuous and lifelong learning.

The future of workplace: At TCS, we have created secure, borderless workspaces, so people are able to work from anywhere. By 2025, our plan is to have 25% of the people in campus, at any point of time. But more importantly, everybody will have spent at least 20% of their time in the campus. Nevertheless, there will be projects and people who may work 100% in the office. We have a concept of ‘location independent agile.’ We have created a lot of open agile workspaces for collaborative working, where people can book a seat and work in any place where it’s available but it will take some time. We have virtual work spaces. In fact, with our ‘office on cloud,’ we work with 7 plus modes of secure access mechanisms. In all these, we must ensure blended and optimised social collaboration practices. In person sessions will be there for intense discussions, ideation and design sessions. We have moved away from AR, VR to metaverse. We have already conducted meetings on metaverse with some clients attending through their avatars.

The future of work tech: It is going to be about holistic well-being. Towards that, we have something called ‘Fit for Life.’ People register how many kilometers they run or walk. We also have the ‘circle for life,’ for contributing to sustainability. Knowledge Management systems and learning tools will play a major role. Collaboration tools will get better and better. Now we have platforms such as Cisco, WebEx, Google Meet and so on. Cloud and collaboration tools are helping us to achieve a lot. IOT, Robotics and 5G are coming up in a big way. 6G and 7G will also come up and the world is going to be more connected.

Across all these, we must always have people connect initiatives. Some of the areas that need consideration are:

  • Use of gamification to make people learn.
  • There is a shift from work-centric view to human-centric view.
  • We must ensure belongingness, create and foster a community of like-minded professionals more than managers of departments or locations.
  • Contributory ownership of talent will be the new norm and there will be no exclusive owner of talent by any individual or department. This will pose a challenge to measurement of performance.
  • Developing empathy and sensitivity to working with global and remote teams.
  • As more and more of digital happens, we must also ensure Cyber security.

Today’s business world is being shaped by digitally savvy employees at all levels. There may even be no mobiles. People will use metaverse through the glasses. Workplace technology is no longer a simply plug-in enablement. The expectation is that employers will not just provide computing and communication tools and a dumb physical workspace but a digitally powered workspace that is increasingly going to be smart, interactive, personalized and automated.