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The workplace today through the lens of augmented humanity

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Heraclitus said it best, when he said that “the only constant in life is change”. Each day we face change, whether this be in a small or significant way. Right now, one of the biggest changes that we are living through is digital transformation.

Digital transformation is reshaping the workplace as we know it.  It is responsible for shaping the way we live and our relationships with one another and while some may view these changes as creating uncertainty, they allow for greater advancement in the workplace, and it is here where the opportunity lies.

In the coming decade, workplace skills will take precedence and the priority skills will focus on relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to manage diverse employees.

The social skills, augmented with the technologies available to us, make it possible to adapt the workplace to the employee and elevate the individual experience.

For the first time in the labour market, the workforce spans across five generations — from the Silent Generation through Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and now to Generation Z. Millennials have become the largest generational cohort in the labour force. By 2025, they will constitute 75% of the global workforce.  The elevation of the individual experience will be key to a successful culture and an organisation that embraces the digital age.

With a melting pot of generations comes vastly different ways of working as well as expectations from colleagues. For example, Millennials and Generation Z are looking for increased flexibility from employers about where they work, because staying connected is so central to their lives.

Augmentation becomes the theme for the future when it comes to the effect of automation on jobs — the reality is that jobs will evolve rather than disappear. To unpack this, artificial intelligence ingests data with such granularity that it can learn from employees’ distinct interactions with data and can tailor their workplace needs based on that information.

Workforce evolution is inevitable and businesses that are challenged by the change can leverage the power of technology by involving employees in every step of the process; connect people in better ways; rethink the role of IT for productivity gains; and leverage the modern IT department so that it changes the way people work in a more seamless and secure way.

The right digital tools connect and support employees, wherever they are, to encourage productivity, engagement, and collaboration. Microsoft has been in the productivity business for a long time and through innovation, acquisition (for instance, Yammer, Skype) and integration we are aiming to support productivity by:

  • Empowering people and unlocking their creativity.
  • Think about teams differently, beyond traditional org structure and boundaries, and making teams more dynamic and effective.
  • As we think about the tools, it’s not about adding more product features — it’s about building simplicity and value into the core design, bringing tools together for ease of use.
  • Security is crucial, because as more people are empowered and inter-connected the surface area also increases.

Remember, technology aids in facilitating this change faster. We must remain cognisant of the generational diversity that exists in the workplace today.  It will be crucial to make a digital culture shift. A thoughtful and comprehensive change management strategy that addresses the needs of everyone is critical for a successful digital transformation. — Jasmin Pillay is director of Microsoft South Africa

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