The future of work

We are living in an era of fundamental transformation in the way we work. Organisations and business leaders need to plan for disruption now.

Technology is changing the face of business

The disruption caused by the advance of technology in the workplace is a source of both opportunity and concern for organisations and their people.

Emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and automation offer the ability to increase productivity and improve customer experience by learning from the data that can be captured. The cost savings and insights available from technology should inform businesses on how to evolve.

That evolution needs to include consideration of staff. Employers need to have mature conversations with their employees now and bring them into their technology plans. Workers need to be comfortable with technology, and prepare and upskill for any changes that technology may have on their job in the future.

Forward-thinking organisations can gain competitive advantage and build their business for the years ahead by:

  • Developing strategies to stay ahead of the change curve
  • Considering how artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance their business
  • Thinking about how to prepare their people for the future

Developing a strategy to stay ahead of technology change

Business leaders need to understand how the changing technology landscape will impact their business and develop an appropriate strategy to manage their business and their people through technological uncertainty.

The starting point for business is to realise that they need to plan for a future which is not set in stone and which is continually changing. There is not going to be one clear outcome from technological change, and multiple evolving scenarios need to be planned for.

Begin by performing a strategic evaluation of the technology developments in your sector and the corresponding competitive pressures they will cause. How fast will they arrive? How will you respond? How are your competitors responding?

You can then identify the operational pain points that automation and other technologies could address, what disruptive opportunities are created by AI, and what is coming up on the horizon.

loading-player

Playback of this video is not currently available

Consider how AI can enhance business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already revolutionising the workplace, and its influence is set to expand in the years ahead. It will use data to assist us with the tasks that we do and will enable us to do things that we’ve never thought possible before.

AI systems take information from their environment, think, learn and take action. This ability to respond sets AI apart from automation, the replacement of repetitive manual and cognitive tasks by machines.

According to PwC analysis, Irish GDP will be up to 11.6% higher in 2030 as a result of the accelerating adoption of AI.

The economic impact of AI will be driven by:

Productivity gains from automating processes

The automation of routine tasks, augmenting employees’ capabilities and freeing them up to focus on more stimulating and higher value-added work.

Capital-intensive sectors such as manufacturing and transport are likely to see the largest productivity gains from AI, given that many of their processes are open to automation.

The impact of AI on productivity could be competitively transformative. Businesses that fail to adapt and adopt could quickly find themselves losing market share and undercut on turnaround times as well as costs.

Productivity gains from augmenting the labour force

The way in which AI augments the capability of staff – how it helps them find new solutions based on data insights and machine learning – will create opportunities for increased productivity as well as new solutions to existing problems.

How organisations use, manage and inspire their people now will make a difference as they adapt to the enhanced, technologically enhanced workplace of the future. New skills such as innovation, creativity, adaptablilty, problem solving and leadership will be in high demand.

Increased consumer demand

AI front-runners will have the advantage of superior customer insight. The immediate competitive benefits include an improved ability to tap into consumer preferences, tailor their output to match these individual demands and, in doing so, capture an ever bigger slice of the market.

The front-runners’ ability to shape product developments around this rich supply of customer data will make it harder and harder for slower moving competitors to keep pace and could eventually make their advantage unassailable.

We can already see this data-driven innovation and differentiation in the way books, music, video and entertainment are produced, distributed and consumed, resulting in new business models, new market leaders and the elimination of traditional players that fail to adapt quickly enough.

Preparing the workforce of the future

The future of work is here today. It is going to be built upon collaboration between man and machine - one will not supplant or replace the other. Jobs in their current state will be replaced and new roles created, skills will need to be enhanced, people will need to be adaptable and ready to add to their skills.

We have seen that over a third of workers worldwide are anxious about the future of their roles due to the influence of AI and automation. Anxiety kills a willingness to innovate.

How organisations use, manage and inspire their people now will make a difference as they adapt to an enhanced, technologically enabled workplace of the future.

One clear lesson arises from our analysis: adaptability – in organisations, individuals and society – is essential for navigating the changes ahead.

It’s impossible to predict exactly the skills that will be needed even five years from now, so organisations and workers need to be ready to adapt.

Inevitably, much of the responsibility will be on the individual. They will need not only to adapt to organisational change, but be willing to acquire new skills and even rethink their direction and retrain mid-career. Organisations should do all they can to ease the routes to training and retraining, and encourage and incentivise adaptability.

Workers with critical skills that organisations need will become highly sought because of the value they will bring in the workplace of the future. They will be hard to find and difficult to keep. Organisations will need to pay careful attention to their employee value proposition on an ongoing basis.

Organisations need to decide how they are going to adapt and support their people through the changes that are happening now.  How is your business going to stay ahead?

loading-player

Playback of this video is not currently available

What do businesses need to do to prepare?

Organisations are faced with an array of choices when looking at the future. This requires an understanding of the possibilities – both desired and undesired – to plan accordingly.

No matter what the future holds, we believe there are some ‘no regrets’ moves that apply universally:

Make decisions based on purpose and values

  • Build a future-looking understanding of how humans and machines might collaborate to deliver your corporate purpose.
  • Clarify your values and behaviours that underpin your policies, processes, decision-making and priorities.
  • Identify and engage with internal and external stakeholders to manage their expectations and co-create the future of work.
  • Create an open and transparent narrative on how you are influencing, planning and delivering on the future of work – for your organization, society and individuals.

Embrace technology as a force for good

  • Clarify how robotics and artificial intelligence can enable the redesign of work, enhance productivity and customer experience, and enable a focus on more value-added tasks.
  • Use sophisticated workforce planning and predictive analytics to ensure the right talent is available depending on the direction that technology takes your business.
  • Look for ways technology can enhance your people offering for potential and existing employees.

Focus on the humans and the humane

  • Understand the skills you have in your workforce now (not just the roles your workers currently do) and the gaps to the skills you will need in the future.
  • Strengthen innovation, creativity, empathy and leadership capabilities in your business alongside critical technology skills.
  • Build and nurture adaptability in your workforce by harnessing a flexible talent mix. New ways of working and learning, and radically different career paths.
  • Redesign traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ HR programmes and policies to deliver on new learning and development models, career paths and capability models.

Contact us

Ronan Fitzpatrick

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8287

Follow PwC Ireland