How the workplace is adapting to the digital economy

By 16/02/2017 October 15th, 2018 Business, Human Resources, Technology

The term ‘hyperconnectivity’ has become rather overused of late, but its premise is vital if we’re to better understand the mechanics of the world in which we now find ourselves.

‘Mechanics’ might sound a little cold – un-human, even – but, in literal terms, we do live in a particularly mechanised society. However, far from being the future Terminator 2 predicted, the digital era is instead driven by multiple forms of communication, all of which rely on wide expanses of connectivity to be effective.

This is what hyperconnectivity is all about. It’s a rich world of multiple communication channels that include instant messaging, email, telephone and social media. Even traditional forms such as telephone and face-to-face contact can be included, but it does present something of a problem.

There’s an awful lot of noise. Where does one turn when they need to make an important business announcement or contact an associate?

As rich and powerful as the hyperconnected world is, it can also be incredibly confusing. There’s almost too much choice when it comes to communication methods, prompting many of us to get lost in a sea of unread emails, missed instant messages and avalanches of social media notifications.

 

However, the signs are positive – particularly where business is concerned. For as noisy as our personal lives may be when it comes to communication, the workplace is beginning to adapt rather handsomely to the digital economy.

In some instances, businesses have even managed to disband legacy forms of communication entirely, instead turning to powerful in-app messaging and social media platforms to build a coherent workforce and impressive public image.

In this post, we’d like to look a little deeper than modern communication, by instead considering how the workplace is adapting to the digital economy as a whole. We think there are six key areas in which the future of work is being reshaped by digital – for the better.

1. A brand new perspective on learning

Once upon a time, the only way a business could ensure staff were sufficiently trained was to send them on lengthy courses. If the training was relevant and well delivered, this method worked, but more often than not, it created two problems.

Firstly, it took the employees in question away from their jobs – often for extended periods. Secondly, the training was usually delivered in one great big chunk, making it hard to digest and even harder to retain.

Learning in the digital economy is all about harnessing the power of content and the many ways in which it can be distributed. Training is now delivered in bite-sized chunks that can be devoured whenever people feel most compelled to learn. And, with such content available on devices that are forever by our side, the ability to learn on the go and in any environment is liberating.

2. A vastly different job market

In the United States alone, one in three Americans is a freelancer.

Think about that for a moment; it’s an incredible statistic. That means, if you put three people in a room, one of them will almost certainly work for themselves within the complete antithesis of a ‘regular 9-5’ environment.

The freelancing community (or ‘gig economy’, as it is often referred to) has exploded in recent years and has in turn created a vastly different job market. In the digital economy, talent can be picked up and dropped as and when required, with no harm made to either the business doing the hiring or the individual being hired.

Freelancing may not be for everyone, but the rise of the independent worker is forcing businesses to realign their thinking when it comes to recruitment and the way in which resources are acquired for specific projects. After all, if you can hire someone to do a brilliant job for a six month period in order to meet a tight deadline for a new client, why would you instead go through the process of hiring a full-timer who would inevitably end up a spare part once the project has finished?

3. Tighter collaboration and a simpler working environment

As businesses age, they become increasingly complex. This is worrisome, because procedures on top of procedures, departments spawned from other departments and managerial structures that make little financial or commercial sense are silent company killers.

Before you know it, you’ve created a monster, and it takes an awfully brave CEO or managing director to unpick the mess (that’s assuming it can be unpicked, obviously).

The digital economy is therefore something of a breath of fresh air. With teams able to use tools that encourage tight collaboration and with working environments that mix working-from-home freelancers with traditional office staff, things are far simpler.

Processes are handled by software, while the hierarchy of a business is made clear thanks to modern communication and the ability for multi-skilled workers to break free from the boundaries of their roles to explore other avenues and peers within the business.

Put simply, we’re now working in a far cleaner, simpler environment, and that can only be a good thing.

4. Technology confirms we’re only human, after all

It would be fair to assume that the abundance of technology in today’s society could turn us all into robots ourselves – but the opposite is true.

In business, the brilliant tech we all have access to helps us prove that we are human by enabling far better and close-quartered contact with customers. For example, consider the customer who takes to Twitter to complain about the service they receive from their energy supplier. Within seconds, they receive a reply from the supplier in question and, far from being an automated reply, it’s a real, living, breathing human being.

Technology should enable humankind to better itself, not be swallowed up by its bits and bytes.

5. A wider audience can be reached – by anyone

Perhaps the most profound outcome of the digital economy is how it has enabled virtually anyone to reach a colossal audience. Previously, the ability to speak to the masses was only available to those with marketing budgets big enough to afford TV advertising spots.

Not any more. Open the Facebook app on your smartphone, hit the ‘Live’ button and you can instantly start live video streaming to the world – no broadcast truck or satellite dish required.

Computing power has finally reached the point where businesses can take advantage of incredibly small devices and low-cost software to reach massive audiences. As a result, the playing field has been completely levelled; start-ups can now make just as big a noise from the comfort of the spare bedroom as a multi-national corporate can from the plush surroundings of their high-rise office block.

6. Leadership is no longer confined to the board room

Thanks to the gig economy and prominence of bite-sized learning techniques, we all have access to content and resources than make us better leaders. In turn, that has shifted the role of leadership from what was once solely the domain of the board room to the business as a whole.

Anyone can be a leader, providing the business for which they work encourages leadership within teams. There’s no treading on toes, either – managers remain managers and ultimately in charge, but if their individual team members feel empowered to stand up and show guiding lights for their colleagues whenever the need strikes, a far more productive and ultimately successful business will emerge.

Wrapping up

It’s a cliche, but we really do live in very exciting times. The digital economy has mobilised employees, levelled the commercial playing field and put the power of leadership into all of our hands – safely.

Embrace it; encourage the staff base as a whole to embrace it. The digital economy will continue to offer ever more exciting opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

Natural HR

About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.

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