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Building an Adaptive and Collaborative Workforce for Succeeding in the Digital Economy

Building an Adaptive and Collaborative Workforce for Succeeding in the Digital Economy
Anand Birje - Corporate Vice President & Head- Digital & Analytics Practice | September 12, 2019
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Digital transformation is mainstream, and enterprises are no longer asking “why?” but “how?”. At the core of digital transformation is the ability to build adaptable organizations with a focus on continuous learning and process agility. Rapidly evolving digital technologies like cloud, IoT, and AI can be leveraged to create new business outcomes, but only if the enterprise is adaptive and composable at its core.

Organizational structures and cultures across industries are at the tipping point of change, as enterprises are challenged to create a technically savvy, culturally diverse, and agile workforce.

With businesses going digital, firms need to create a conducive learning culture to have their workforce ready for any challenge.

Organizational Structures are Constantly Evolving

The “born digital” leaders such as Google, Apple, and Amazon are built around an adaptive organizational core that’s difficult to replicate in legacy enterprises. However, such enterprises can commit to digital transformation by rebuilding organizational agility. Many digitally progressive enterprises have achieved this, including T-Mobile, Walmart, and Best Buy, by building collaborative cultures and delivering unique digital experiences to their customers.

To create organizational agility, enterprises need an adaptive workforce, strong technical and engineering talent, adoption of design/UX for business process restructuring, and multi-disciplinary teams. Business and IT teams can no longer afford to create silos and must work in constant collaboration.

With these opportunities come new challenges. Consider remote workers, who are leveraged to build on-demand teams from a global talent pool. A 2018 Forbes article stated that almost half of the U.S. workforce is remote, and this number is rising. The challenges associated with this shift not only include ensuring remote workers receive the required training, but also are well-versed in digital technologies and agile delivery processes. As a workforce solution, this strategy would enablethem to be integrated into multi-disciplinary teams.

Create a Workforce that Expects Disruption

Enterprises that thrive in the digital economy do so by hiring lean, agile teams of people who leverage technology as an extension of themselves and are ready for continuous learning. To achieve this, employers need to create a workforce solution wherein a conducive to learning culture exists at the workplace. Also, it should provide supplementary resources to help workers along this journey of continuous improvement.

By providing continuous learning opportunities, enterprises benefit from a workforce that is ready for constant changes in technology. A digitally adaptive workforce produces greater innovation, enterprise agility, and the capacity to predict, rather than react to market changes. Creating a culture of learning also helps enterprises hire and retain top talent. As studies have shown that for next-gen employees, the ability to learn while working is a top factor contributing to a company’s appeal as a potential workplace.

Below are some actions that business leaders can take to support a culture of continuous learning:

  • Evolve the Hiring Process

    Expertise is important than years of experience, and the ability to collaborate exceeds individual brilliance. Tim Brown, Founder of IDEO, established the term ‘T-shaped employees’, where depth, expertise and the ability to collaborate are the key attributes for employees. Hiring practices should change to reflect this transition; moving beyond scripted interview questions and testing candidates in simulated environments. Instead, an effective technique would be to employ the hack-to-hire initiative, which tests a candidates’ ability to innovate, collaborate, fail fast, and bounce back – all attributes that signal resilience and adaptability.

  • Combine Learning and Performance

    While the current generation of employees is typically more learning-focused than its predecessors, organizations need to incentivize continuous learning. This can be done through initiatives that link performance with a drive to learn. This is exemplified by companies that support temporary cross-functional roles for their employees. In doing so, would help build expertise beyond their function and gaining a more holistic view of enterprise operations.

  • Create Accessible Learning Paths

    Enterprises should create learning tracks tied to career progression both within and outside the organization. One approach is partnering with universities to launch credit-based programs that allow employees to upskill, upgrade their knowledge, and gain practical on-the-job experience by applying said skills.

    As a workforce solution, HR and IT should collaborate to make content easily accessible, ideally on consumer-grade technology platforms. It’s important to ensure that work and learning do not interfere with each other; for instance, instead of mandatory group sessions, enterprises could record webinars for on-demand access.

    Employees on a learning path should be able to gain experience by interacting with the teams working on projects that require the use of that skill. This promotes internal mobility while fostering cross-functional thinking.

  • Revitalize the Learning and Development Function

    The L&D function should shift focus from content creation and facilitation to a more complex role, leveraging technology leading the enterprise cultural transformation toward continuous learning. The objective of the L&D function should also include creating employee-centric learning experiences and promoting interdisciplinary thinking.

Investment in Continuous Learning Matters

Enterprises must rethink, restructure, and reinvent their approach to upskilling their workforce. While the outcomes are not instantaneous; investing in a culture of learning is no longer a matter of choice, but a necessity. Businesses that get it right will find themselves attracting and retaining the best talent, and in possession of a workforce that can keep up with the challenges presented by a dynamic world.Not only would businesses that get it right find themselves attracting and retaining great talent, but also have a workforce that can meet the challenges of a dynamic world.

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