5 Ways Digital Technologies Will Change the Way We Work

By Erin Binney Dec 14, 2015
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BOSTON—Resumes and status meetings will soon become workplace relics, said Andy Jankowski, founder and managing director at Enterprise Strategies, during a Dec. 7 presentation at The Future of Work conference. New ways of making hiring decisions, conducting meetings and generally getting work done are emerging, thanks to digital technologies.

The term “digital” covers everything from social and mobile technologies to the cloud, analytics and security, explained Jankowski, whose company consults on digital strategies in the workplace. Advances in digital technologies have already brought about significant changes at work and are expected to bring about even more.

According to Jankowski, digital technologies will alter:

  • How we conduct meetings. Today, if someone wants the CEO’s attention, he or she typically will schedule a meeting and prepare a presentation that focuses on two things: conveying some point of information and not offending the CEO. “If the objective is to get results, how effective is that, really?” Jankowski asked. In the future, he predicted, “pop-up” meetings will occur spontaneously and will involve solving problems rather than providing status reports. If a question or concern arises, employees will be able to videoconference the CEO in with no advance notice. Work won’t stop during the meeting: Employees will continue to access systems and real-time data to aid in the problem-solving process. The outcome will be more results-driven meetings.
  • How we make hiring decisions. We’re going to start looking at people not by their resume but by their brand,” Jankowski said. A person’s brand exists online and includes his or her social networks, social profiles, publications and so on, he explained. For certain roles, such as a marketing position, companies will continue to value a person’s online influence—how many followers he or she has, the caliber of those followers, and which of those followers are engaging with the person’s posts, for example. Companies are also going to be looking for “disruptors,” or people who will respectfully challenge convention and find new ways of getting work done. Employers will realize that “ ‘the company man’ is not going to advance [their] company,” Jankowski said, “and may actually sink it.” And companies are going to want people who are comfortable using digital tools because those people are more effective and more productive, he said.
  • How we make promotion decisions. When considering which employees to move into higher positions, companies are going to start looking at emergent leaders—those who step forward without being appointed or elected to a role. One of the ways employers will be able to identify these individuals is through interactions on internal social networks. By examining discussions on online collaborative platforms, companies will be able to see who is being sought out for advice and who is speaking up and providing useful information when a question is posed. Another tool for identifying emergent leaders: video analysis. Facial recognition technology already exists to score the effectiveness of a conversation based on a person’s nonverbal communication, Jankowski said.
  • How we make other business decisions. Decisions will start with, rather than end with, analytics. Decision-makers will understand and access all available data types and sources. Crowdsourcing will emerge as a useful source of data. “That’s starting to happen now with internal social networks,” Jankowski remarked. After amassing all the relevant data, decision-makers will turn to cognitive computing; “too much data” will no longer be an acceptable excuse for failing to make a decision, he predicted. Finally, decision-makers will craft an informed hypothesis based on what was found and will create a list of unanswered questions before holding a meeting with stakeholders.
  • How we work with clients. Jankowski said companies will begin “working out loud,” which means all information and reports about a project will exist on an internal network for everyone to see. There will be no need for in-person meetings or status reports.

Jankowski said companies can prepare for these types of changes by investing in change leadership, such as by developing executive mentoring and reverse mentoring programs. However, he noted, it’s crucial for participants to understand that reverse mentoring programs are designed to be mutually beneficial so that neither party acts arrogantly toward the other.

Other ways companies can prepare for this new world of work, Jankowski said, include placing a greater focus on end results over protocol and demanding technological know-how from everyone in the organization, not just IT staff.

Erin Binney is a staff writer for SHRM.

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