Research into the relationships between technology, workforce optimization and business survival can yield a glimpse of the near future…

Technology and innovation are constantly creating new opportunities and challenges that will impact how we work in 2020 and in the years to come. Emerging technologies such as 5G/6G, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies are just some of the technologies radically transforming our world and the face of business.

These emerging technologies will revolutionize work and create new ways to prepare and connect people that could help shape a more inclusive, empowering and rewarding work environment over the data decade. For instance, AI will complement and augment human capabilities rather than replace them. According to the Dell Technologies Future of Work Report, 78% of business leaders in Singapore welcomed people partnering with machines/robots to surpass human limitations, and 86% predicted people will continually learn new skills in-the-moment as the pace of change accelerates. A deep understanding of AI, human and machine systems will unlock human potential and set workers apart.

To comprehend the transformative trends that are reshaping the workplace, we have explored how these technologies are radically changing the bedrock of our economy, removing age-old frictions and ushering in new ways of conducting business and exchanging value in the future.

One Year: the duality of the mobile workforce

While the introduction of mobile technology and cloud-based solutions have certainly helped make the idea of working anytime and anywhere a reality, the mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and now, Gen-Z, creates a complicated dynamic mixing ground of working styles and productivity drivers that are hard to ignore.

IDC has predicted that by 2021, 60% of the Global 2000 largest public companies will have adopted a future-workspace model. As work becomes less of a place you go to and more of a task you perform, employees expect to be able to work whenever they want, wherever they want. The recent turn of coronavirus events has also made this expectation a necessity for business continuity.

Currently, with well over half of the global workforce working remotely, technology assets are more critical now than ever in the journey to create a robust digital future. Technology is helping to reinvent the way we work and learn, conduct business and find solutions to problems big and small —regardless of location, time of day or even job description. Organizations equipped with the right policies, innovative technology—and an empowered workforce—will be able to transition relatively seamlessly in response to immediate needs for social distancing while maintaining business continuity.

However, some businesses are facing issues they did not foresee, ranging from the inaccessibility of digital files and business platforms to ineffective management approaches. Many organizations have realized too late that they did not have the right type of technology to support remote-working.

As a remote workforce becomes the new reality, businesses should re-examine their organizational capabilities on whether they are truly ready to evolve the traditional 9-to-5 desk job to meet the needs and expectations of employees.

Businesses are finding themselves in need if striking a balance between empowering employees to work virtually through advanced technology solutions and retaining a workplace environment that allows them to implement flexible working arrangements. At the same time, there is a need to maintain a company culture and promote employee productivity.

Five Years: understanding and satisfying Gen Z

They are coming! The first wave of Gen Z employees started infiltrating workforces in 2019 and they are very different from their millennial counterparts. They have grown up with cutting-edge technology and are a hyperconnected, collaborative cohort that is accustomed to learning and working in groups.

According to Dell Technologies’ research, 55% in APJ believe that humans and machines will work as integrated teams and 36% see machines as tools for humans to use as needed.

Therefore, organizations ought to be ready to meet the needs of these digital natives. Gen Z employees want to focus their skills at companies that provide the flexibility and freedom to be entrepreneurial through personalized roles. Interestingly, they see the tech industry as the sweet spot to pursue these career goals in.

Providing intuitive technology and solutions is just one piece of the puzzle for organizations looking to attract this new wave of talent. In the next five years, organizations will need to challenge the hierarchical power dynamic between employees and employers; and they will have to provide Gen Z employees with career paths that develop and bolster their skills in new and exciting ways.

Ten Years: people and technology form the fabric of the organization

In 10 years, as the fourth industrial revolution would have fully taken hold, the workplace will have been completely redefined. Technology and IT solutions will more seamlessly support and offload workplace tasks—this, in turn, will reshape the responsibilities and roles of employers and employees.

According to the IFTF Future of Work Report, 89% of business leaders in Singapore plan to use emerging technologies to improve workforce productivity. Some 81% agree that the way we collaborate and work will be transformed for the better with emerging technologies by 2030.

While that may sound like a scary prospect for some, experts do not expect machines to fully replace us any time soon. Over the next decade, workers and organizations will adapt as machines take over mundane tasks; new work opportunities will emerge, involving qualities and skills that are fundamentally human. An overwhelming 91% in APJ recognize that we are entering—if not already in—the age of human-machine partnerships, according to our Gen Z study.

Employers, specifically the C-Suite, can expect IT to hold an integral role among all functions of the organization. Information and technology will be the invisible threads that drive and connect everything.

Ten years out, organizations that successfully achieve digital workplace transformations will be at an advantage over businesses struggling with legacy systems, massive amounts of data and a workforce that is unprepared for change. Some companies will run the race quicker than others, which could widen the gulf between businesses that are future-ready (able to benefit from emerging technologies) and those that are not.

One thing is for certain: the steps organizations take today—including modernising infrastructure, inspiring employees and deploying next-generation technologies—will lay the groundwork for their digital future and help bring to fruition the next wave of human-led, technology-underpinned progress.

In the age of imminent change and disruption, strategic investments in talent and technology will set a strong foundation for a more resilient and future-proof organization.