Many of us are guilty of thinking the whole world stopped when the pandemic first hit. We all went home, built flatpack desks, cleaned out the coffee machine, and jumped on our first 9 a.m. video call of many to come. That is simply not the case.
Singapore recently announced that 75% of staff can return to the workplace at any one time from 5 April 2021 onwards. This signals an inevitable migration back to offices for many, while for others, it will simply be another day at work — nurses will continue to save lives, the police will keep us safe on the streets, lorry drivers deliver our goods, and social workers keep children safe. In fact, 80% of workers don’t work behind a desk, and many can’t — and don’t — work remotely.
Without these people, the world would have ground to a halt. People’s labor is the business — and that business needs to continue in a post-COVID-19 world. Consultancy, social care, and construction are very different industries but depend on personal relationships and interactions. But how can this continue, with employees working from everywhere?
People leaders continue to face a significant challenge: ensuring employees are working in a safe way that helps them to succeed. Desk or no desk, success hinges on one thing: leaving no one behind technologically.
Bidding farewell to the old way of working
In the old world, rolling out new technology in phases reduced risk in the short term. It also led to dragged-out, siloed projects that failed to make an impact. When a business has to move and change fast — like the onset of the pandemic — we saw how quickly we can adapt to change. Now, the question is why we ever wanted phased implementations in the first place. From now on, it’s an all-in effort.
However, it’s not just speed that will change. The number and seniority of staff with access to new technologies will change too. When a whole workforce needs certain tools immediately — including frontline workers who have historically been left out — we can see that there’s no value in being selective. If only a small number of workers get the goods, we only know how a small part of the workforce can be transformed. The pandemic showed us that technology has to fill in the gaps between people — that means between everyone.
Creating a technocracy
To work better together, we need democracy in technology. All workers should have access to the same pool of insights, technology, and resources. While we can all agree that investment in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will be crucial to recovery, we’ll only see success when these tools are available to us all.
Achieving this level of integration and at speed won’t be easy. But it can be done. Even as the pandemic hit, Fujifilm Business Innovation, the world's leading provider of document services and printing technologies, was digitally ready for the global health crisis. With Oracle Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud established across nine markets in the Asia Pacific, they were able to lead their way out of the crisis by investing in the tech, the data, and processes to enable faster, better decisions. By moving staff data, HR applications, and localized policies into a single, digital platform, the organization allowed 14,000 employees across the region access to standardized HR processes and real-time insights into the workforce.
As ever, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, it’s important to start making the most of the tools and systems you have already. Not all frontline workers will have the same technologies, but almost everyone will carry a smartphone. Think about all the systems they could access from this single device alone — many of us do much of our day-to-day jobs on our phones anyway, from calling clients to paying for goods.
When a business has this unity of people, purpose, and technology, it can do great things. It can move much faster than before, all through empowering its people.
What’s more, when all workers are connected, the business can better support and develop them. According to a report by McKinsey, a quarter of people will need to upskill and retrain due to the shift to digital in the coming years. That’s why creating and prioritizing connection — through data — is crucial. Important updates and learning opportunities can be rolled out regularly and to everyone. Instead of losing access to valuable talent, people can be deployed where they’re needed most and be equipped with the tools to help them be their best.
Moving forward together
We’re all on our own path. While one business shifts towards a working model that’s almost entirely remote, another is readying itself for employee-centric hybrid working, and another focused on bottling up the office atmosphere to take anywhere. Each of these scenarios relies on employees to see success.
It’s the employees who have the potential to innovate and discover a better way of doing things — whether they are on-site, in their living rooms, or on a train. But to unlock that potential, they need equal access to new technologies — and they need it fast. In the new world of work, there will be no waiting around; it’s go time.
Diana Spalding, head of apps at Oracle Singapore, wrote this article.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HR&DigitalTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/DragonImages