There have been more than a few business lessons learned since the pandemic hit, none bigger than the effectiveness of remote working and the need for the latest digital technology to make it happen. And that’s not just virtual meetings software like Zoom, but also collaboration tools and hardware to help us work efficiently – arguably more out of the office than in it!
A host of organisations have, therefore, woken up to the true value of a remote workforce and the importance of digital transformation. That’s critically valuable in terms of enabling continuity – and therefore survival – during a global pandemic and also with respect to the potential of reducing office overheads at a time of falling revenues. None of which could be realised without digital innovation.
Another powerful lesson is the increased need for business agility, an area in which many companies were found wanting. Ironically, this was even the case for many virtual meetings platforms, with several struggling to satisfy demand.
The need for the agility and flexibility to scale up, scale down and shift approaches to meet the changing demands of customers was becoming more acute long before COVID-19. And not just in terms of business services and tools, but also people, striking the right balance between fixed and variable human capital. This is particularly important to meet the growing need for digital skills and the widening technology talent gap.
With increasing globalisation and the rise of e-commerce continually growing customer choice expectations, markets have never been bigger, but equally never more volatile. This looks only set to increase, particularly in the face of the current threat and similar ones to come. As a result, agility – the ability to experiment, test, measure results, pivot and reach competitiveness in new areas – will increasingly determine commercial success.
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Digital transformation has come to the rescue, with Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions enabling upsizing, downsizing and switching between platforms when required, along with anytime, anywhere, hyper-collaborative working. Meanwhile, data capture and analytics deliver a sharper vision of markets and customer experiences for smarter, faster decision making.
True agility also requires a philosophical shift from traditional long-term strategic plans to more nimble execution. Whereas companies used to ponder what mix of technology and skills they needed for the next few years, they are increasingly looking at their requirements on a near to mid term basis. This demands a more fluid approach to skills as well as technology.
With the liquid workforce and the emerging norm of agile, project-based execution come new questions for recruitment, retention and deployment of talent – essentially how to juggle fixed and variable human capital. Fixed investment covers full-time employees, building company culture, human and professional development, which currently make up the vast majority of most organisations.
The call for flexibility from businesses and people – let’s not forget the continued rise of the skilled freelance and contract worker by choice – means the current status quo will change, with fixed human capital falling as variable rises.
Businesses that are more balanced in their fixed vs. variable talent management will better fulfill on their strategy and growth goals. Satisfying this need is prompting the emergence of a new set of global digital resource marketplaces linking companies with professional services and the appropriate solutions providers to enable fast, efficient and effective sourcing of innovation and skills.
The future of work looks more flexible than anyone ever imagined. And the sooner we get there, the better businesses will be able to cope with whatever challenges are thrown at them.
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