Three mega trends that will shape the future of the digital workplace

author Brett Dixon, April 6, 2017

The digital workplace has snowballed in recent years to become the vital life blood powering the corporate world. It can be tricky to navigate, with unpredictable seas, fickle winds of change, and the constant threat of drowning. Achieving success in the digital workplace is essential for all employees who want to retain their hire appeal, climb the business ladder, and excel at their jobs.

Speaking at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, during a recent Leadership Speaking Series, Dr Claudy Jules highlighted several top trends relating to the digital workplace. Jules is the managing director of Accenture Strategy, a global leader in consulting, talent, and organisation practices.

Knowing how important it is to be able to successfully sail through those treacherous waters, we’re taking a look at the three mega trends that will shape the future of the digital workplace.

Networking and leadership

Whatever your industry, surviving the digital workplace in the future is going to require a keen, agile mind, a range of new skills, and a highly adaptable outlook.

While this is true for employees, it is equally vital for leaders in digital enterprises and corporations. Whether you’re running a multinational that’s rapidly evolving and expanding, or a digital-native startup, adaptability is the name of the game. The digital workplace of your future is going to depend on a whole new brand of leadership. Effective company leaders are increasingly going to need to devote their time and focus on the empowerment of their workers. This will apply to all workers, on all levels. It will encourage more equality in the workforce and a far less hierarchical structure to the workplace. Savvy leaders will ensure they are cultivating a shared culture of core values and building positive energy among the workforce.

One of the things Jules highlighted was the shift in leadership, or rather, the constantly shifting nature of the backdrop leadership works against. The classic outlook revolving around guiding, motivating, and rewarding workers is set to continue. The context in which this will be done, however, is constantly evolving. New technology, including artificial intelligence, is going to continue to cause disruptions to work place practice and the capabilities of workers. This has been the case for some time, but the issue is only escalating, with the learning curve growing ever steeper, and the rate at which new technological advances occur occurring ever faster.

As an example, Jules noted in his talk that machines are going to play a role in leadership teams moving forward. This will enable teams to become a lot agiler, as well as allowing them to utilise decision scenarios and simulations to carry out rapid yet low-risk trials.

In addition, the success or failure of leadership in the future will hinge on networks. A leader will sink or swim based on how competent they are at engaging with and orchestrating their intranet software network, both at work and at home. This shift to so-called ‘intrapreneurship’ has been coming for a while, but it’s about to kick up a gear and will create environments in which employees are able to pursue extremely innovative professional offerings in order to address issues that are truly meaningful.

Talent fragments

As talent in the work place becomes increasingly dynamic, workers are learning an ever wider set of skills and availing themselves fully to the global talent marketplace (who are more than eager to snag those skills). As a result, a new environment is emerging. The digital workplace is evolving into an environment in which workers are increasingly able to learn, grow, and experiment. Digital workers are able to rapidly adapt to the shifting landscape around them. More than that, they are accustomed to this constant need for evolution and change. Gone or the days when you learnt a trade and were set for life. Technology is the new trade and it never stops evolving. Those who are accepting of this reality and adapt to it will excel. Those who are unable to shift into a mindset of perpetual motion will be left behind. The good news is that those who have been static in their jobs and constricted by the need to become the masters of convention will finally have room to breathe and improvise.

Digital trust and transparency

The final mega trend to shape the future of the digital workplace is trust and transparency. Businesses who are open and willing to embrace complete transparency will soar. As Jules stated in his discussion, “currency for high performance is digital trust”.

Essentially, trust in the digital age is paramount. In order to command an audience’s loyalty, grow a customer base, and build your business, you must first master the fine art of being trustworthy. To achieve this digital integrity you must engage others by demonstrating a shared purpose, particularly if that purpose lies in the betterment of businesses and organisations.

A little advice to get you started

So how are we to approach this rapidly shifting landscape surrounding the digital workplace? The key is practising intellectual flexibility and openness. Become entirely comfortable with learning new skills and subjects, and apply yourself to that learning as openly as possible. Remember that learning takes many forms, and you may have to include an openness to being coached by other experts.