How To Adapt For the Future of Work

Across the business world, big changes are underway—from the way people run their companies, to the technologies we invest in, to the way we work in general. The writing is on the wall. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have announced that they’re allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, if they want. Acquisitions like that by Microsoft of RPA platform Softomotive, meanwhile, signal what many expect to be a boon for automation software.

More changes are coming, to be sure, but there’s one thing we already know: the status quo is no more. Now it’s time to adapt. And a question on the minds of many is how, exactly, do we do that?

The answer, I think, centers around people—investing in them properly, so they have what they need to thrive—along with the need to optimize our operations departments so that our companies remain agile, efficient, and adaptive.

The future of work will be people-first.

For a long time, too many companies have taken employees for granted. When business leaders have worked to solve process challenges, or achieve specific business outcomes, they’ve asked themselves not, “What do my people need to do these things?” but rather, “What technology can we buy?” As a result, employees have been forced to conduct lots of manual, menial work in order to make internal processes work end-to-end. This makes employees unhappy, and makes companies suffer an endemic “Last Mile” problem, which burdens bottom lines.

This is changing fast. The companies who win the future—who compete most seriously for both the best talent and the most market share—will be the ones who lend credence to the needs, unique abilities, and operational importance of people.

This makes sense from both a moral and economic vantage.  We should want a future that appreciates people. Employees shouldn’t be forced to spend such meaningful amounts of time completing mind-numbing clerical work. Rather, they should feel empowered to do what they do best—the high-level knowledge work they were hired to do. Research shows that supported employees are happy employees.

At the same time, of course, ensuring your employees feel happy and engaged really is economically prudent. Technology alone cannot improve efficiency or effect change inside your organization. Instead, technology must be used to empower people. People facilitate growth.

More companies are starting to realize this, and as a trend it will only continue. In the future, companies will increasingly come to rely on employees with irreplaceable soft skills, as they’ll come to more meaningfully appreciate them. And employees, meanwhile, will increasingly demand opportunities that promise them the kind of respect and appreciation that many companies are now beginning to promise—whether that comes in the freedom to work remotely if they want, or the fact that they’ll be equipped to drive real progress and strategy internally. Business leaders are recognizing they have to adjust their practices accordingly.

The future of work will be designed by operations teams.

Of course, it’s easier to say you empower, appreciate, and support your people than it is to actually do those things systematically, sustainably and at scale.

And that is precisely what you’ll need to do in order to ensure you remain competitive and agile in the months and years to come.

So how, exactly, do you do that? Well, it starts with your operations department—or, the people, processes, and systems that propel your company forward and  drive production internally. Operations is the sole business function capable of effectively governing how people spend their time inside a given organization. Accordingly, empowering operations teams with the technology and agency they need to do that work effectively is a necessary structural step in ensuring your company really does think “people-first.”

At the same time, operations is also the only business function capable of ensuring our companies remain adaptive and agile. As we’re seeing every day, things like inundated support queues, spooked customers, and newly decentralized personnel are pressure testing the processes and systems companies today have in place. And because many companies’ processes and systems have traditionally been designed only to work under specific, static conditions, they’re breaking.

But operations teams have the chance to protect businesses from such a fate. In fact, in the future, they’ll be the department charged with that task. But, again, they’ll need technology commensurate with the task, capable of enabling them to create processes that are adaptive as well as empathetic. One such piece of technology is an Adaptive Business Operations platform: a platform that empowers operations leaders to create processes and systems that adapt to the unpredictability of their business, and solve inefficiencies without complicating or encumbering employees’ lives. Investment in this new category of technology will, among other things, prove crucial in equipping operations teams and departments with everything they need to prepare our companies for tomorrow.

The truth is, these are not the only adaptations business leaders are going to make.

In the months and years ahead, the way we work and grow companies will continue to change even in ways we can’t really imagine today. That’s a good thing! What that also means, though, is the first and most important adaptation business leaders have to make is ensuring their companies are generally adaptive..

My work at Tonkean and with operations leaders from some of the world’s most powerful organizations has absolutely convinced me that the best way to do that is, first, to invest more meaningfully in people, our only truly irreplaceable asset, and, second, to empower operations teams with the tools and agency they need to do that holistically.

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