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Digital is More About Humans Than Machines

Euan Davis, Senior Director, Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant | Aug. 1, 2016
The digital era will rely on machines, but winning will require — perhaps more than ever — talent pools that can thrive across an increasingly digitised economy.

Leading companies are increasingly adopting sophisticated methods of analysing employee data to enhance their productivity and well-being. Google and Best Buy are starting to map out how to ensure the highest productivity, engagement and retention of their top talent through analytics. Using metrics to evaluate the effects of a health and wellness programme on employee engagement, for example, has allowed a U.S. healthcare company to measure ROI; preventative care visits to its onsite clinics have increased, reducing urgent care costs by millions of dollars in one year alone. By understanding the relationship between employee engagement and online revenue, it can now evaluate the programme in terms of revenue contribution.

  • Synthesise what talent likes (and doesn't like)

The true detail of what employees jointly dislike about the job is mostly hidden and unanalysed. For example, what does LinkedIn really say about where people work if you were prepared to pay for it? Employees will increasingly use their mobile devices or wearables to monitor the applets in the workplace in order for employers to better understand their productive behavioral patterns. For example, Bank of America uses sensory data to better understand employee performance dynamics and learned that call-centre performance increased when staff had "hang time" with others in their social circle during lunch breaks. It then deliberately overlapped these lunch breaks, leading to a 23 percent increase in performance.

  • Build an intelligent workplace

Watch for the rise of the intelligent workplace that can monitor its workers' environment, moods, wants and needs, to create an all-encompassing, intelligent and unobtrusive working environment. Expect to see workplaces increasingly adopting IoT (the Internet of Things) technologies where sensors and data start to anticipate the everyday lives of people, informing, guiding and enhancing professional work relationships. Office environments will become increasingly reactive to the people that inhabit them.

  • Enable new human-to-machine workflows

Adding software "robots" will allow talent to work smarter as software begins to automate rote process work and enable new human-to-machine workflows. Process hand-offs and connection points will emerge between people and machines with greater accuracy in decision-making as automation pumps process data rich with meaning around the business.  The new digital architecture should augment older sourcing models with new breed options, such as business process-as-a-service, mobile or cyber security services. Rethinking the architecture of work allows organisations to focus on the tasks that drive the most human value.

The upshot for leaders is to carefully calibrate the speed of change as digital transformations accelerate. Tackle the transition too fast and leaders risk breaking the company and its culture; take the shift too slow and the organisation risks being left behind as customer expectations shift or a competitive threat blindsides. Digital technologies and what they enable - new business models, new revenue flows and radical new cost structures - are redrawing industry structures and the talents firms need to thrive.

It's time to get serious about your organisation's most important asset - its people - and about giving them the power they need to succeed in this exciting digital age of newer opportunities.


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