What Will the Evolution of Work Mean for Managers and Leaders?

By Gemma Creagh - Last update

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The Evolution of Work: with technology continuing to transform the workplace, it is imperative that those in management prepare for new ways of working. 

Technology such as artificial intelligence are driving massive changes within all levels of business, from recruitment to workflow to delivery. These of course have an impact on how management and employees relate to one another and work together. Looking ahead, let’s try and look at how five key changes could impact how those in leadership and management positions run their organisations.

 Technology is Part of Your Team

As the workplace continues to run on increasingly autonomous tech systems it is important that leaders consider these systems as part of their team. Working smartly with automation, AI and robotics can free up human capital to take on more advanced and people-centric tasks but managers and leaders need to have an awareness of the implications, at all levels, of the use of technology. This ranges from the ethical, such as data handling, to the practical, in terms of how implementing a piece of technology can impact on the functioning of an entire team. “Leaders and managers have the responsibility when it comes to putting the right controls and governance in place to ensure that the AI and other types of technology are carrying out tasks without bias in decision-making or without compromising privacy, safety or security. They will also need to set clear parameters around how people interact with machines: where does technological intelligence end and human judgement begin?” says Niamh O’Beirne of EY Ireland.

The Next Phase: Evolution of Work

Taking tech to a whole new level, the whole issue of wearable technology, and possibly even biometric or implant based technology is one that is currently being heavily discussed. “It’s an ethical minefield, but this technology is already being trialled. Setting aside the Big Brother connotations, microchips could be hugely convenient for workers, removing the need for them to carry ID passes, keys, credit cards and train tickets. They may also allow us to log into our work computer systems without having to remember a password. While the prospect of getting such an implant for work might sound unappealing today, we will probably be far more accepting of the concept once we start to see the benefits,” adds EY’s Niamh O’Beirne. She adds that health monitoring would be an added benefit, but for leaders and managers the entire area is one that requires significant ethical investment to ensure that the technology is not used for monitoring or any other purpose that it was not originally intended for.

Always be Learning

Continuous professional development, upskilling, reskilling and training needs to be part of any successful business ecosystem. With the world of business, and partner and consumer demands, changing so quickly, any business that does not invest in the continuous development of its people is in for a challenging future. Of course, the need to deliver the right skills for business goes far deeper than just professional learning and businesses have long called for STEM to be embedded in the education system from a very early stage. The challenge for managers and leaders is to help develop both technical skills and human skills, such as critical thinking and collaboration, both with machine and human partners. The need to develop resilience and the ability to change direction should also be a priority for organisations.

Transactional Work

Short term projects for different clients will increasingly form part of the average workers life, with the World Development Report pointing to a massive surge in the so called ‘gig economy’. As this trend continues to gather pace, it will impact on the way that leaders and managers communicate a sense of common purpose and vision when presented with the challenge of retaining people in an increasingly fluid working environment. However it also presents opportunities for companies to tap into a more diverse talent pool for one-off projects without considerable HR investment and onboarding. The prevalence of platforms such as UpWork, FlexJobs and many more have made the ‘gig economy’ more accessible than ever.

Work is Something You Do, Not Somewhere You Go

Remote working, virtual offices and digital environments offer an amazing scope of opportunities to harness talent from anywhere to work together for a common goal. Of course, remote working is already here and growing exponentially, with entire operations existing and thriving without a single physical office. Of course the practicalities of this arrangement differ greatly depending on the nature of the work that you do. The human element, the connection, is still of massive importance and there is likely to be a pushback in the coming years against a sense that we may be relying too heavily on the digital world. For sure, a growing number of jobs can be done from anywhere, but considering the importance of culture to many organisations, it will be a challenge to harness and foster an organisational culture without that critical human element.

The future is already here in terms of the evolution of work, how we harness technology is one question, but for leaders and managers it must be remembered that it is how they harness the all important ‘human capital’ within a business that will be the driving factor towards business growth, whatever the technological and workplace advancements that continue to develop, ideally in parallel, to a happy and healthy working organisation.

Gemma Creagh

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