The Workplace of the Future is here; How Organizations & HR can thrive

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Just as human evolution can be charted based on marked historical archeological changesi, business technology evolves at an accelerated pace when new discoveries are made or when we are forced to change under cultural pressures. We are witnessing this today with COVID-19, forced change due to cultural pressures.  History demonstrates this repeated pattern of pressure, accelerated change and adaptation. In our current business environment this has resulted in the rapid adoption of technology for many and a forced adaptation to new ways of working so business can survive, and people can thrive.  This change is about bringing people and businesses together holistically.    

COVID-19 is now a major marker in our cultural and technological evolution.  It will be written about, discussed in university classrooms and in business conference rooms for years to come.  As we continue to adapt and thrive in this new normal, I have been reflecting on the incredible way people and businesses have pivoted and the remarked human ability to be agile.  While it has been very difficult for many organizations, and mentally exhausting for people to process, our agility brings hope.   

Seven months after lockdowns, organizations are re-emerging and beginning to thrive.  Everyday on LinkedIn I see inspiring out-of-the box thinkers, organizations adapting processes and leaps of progress on the traditional work environment; all due to the rapid cultural pressure of COVID-19. New ideas, emerging technology, sleek apps to make us more efficient, and an emphasis on collaborative cloud-based tools to bring people together; are at the forefront to help us keep the pace. These cloud-based technologies are the key to thriving, not only as a business, but as a society, to maintain our connection. 

When COVID-19 lockdowns hit organizations hard in March, many had not yet adopted Cloud based technology and found themselves in a tough situation:  

1) Forced into adopting new technology rapidly  

2) Completely rethinking business direction/pivoting  

3) Unable to adapt  

4) Still trying to adapt    

This forced change and subsequent ability to be agile has enabled the next step in the evolution of work. The future of work is here, and this leap has brought technology & people together holistically.  So, what does this mean for the future of work? Priority one is ensuring businesses have the technology they need to help their business thrive.  Whether that is going digital or enabling virtual collaboration, equipping people with the tools and technology to be collaborative and successful is for many a necessity.  This includes reimagining how teams work together, enabling working from anywhereii, restructuring jobs to make them leaner, and a greater emphasis on people & culture.  Business needs to start with team collaboration, improving the employee experience, training, virtual, employee wellbeingiii, and enhancing communication within organizations. Strategies need to include upskilling employees on new & emerging technology, and a focus on soft skills like resilience, emotional intelligence, and agile methodologies.  

What have we as organizational leaders learned over the past seven months? We have learned that leadership from a holistic lens has been the most successful.  Connecting strategic direction with technology and an improved focus on your people, is what matters.  If your business is not using Cloud based technology with collaborative tools, your business will struggle to adapt and keep pace with the virtual and agile world.  Businesses need to adopt this state of intelligent holistic business agility.  

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So, what are the steps HR leaders and Organizations need to take to achieve this state of intelligent holistic business agility

  1. HR Technology Adoption: Implementing a secure, reliable Cloud based HR system is first and foremost. Careful planning for now and the future, to ensure you have the team, tools, and resources you need to implement and maintain a Cloud based systemiv are key. At Cloudworks, we implement Oracle Cloud for our clients. 
  2. Intelligent automation: Having a cloud-based HR system is great, but are you utilizing the features and modules of that HR system to their full extent? Are you thinking about your future state and adopting intelligent automation add-ons like Robotic Process automation (RPA) or an Employee Experience platform (such as ServiceNow)? Automate and integrate workflows to help teams work smarter by automating the onboarding experience for new employees, maximize the use of employee self service capabilities, utilize collaborative virtual tools (not only video calls, think VR), implement electronic secure file sharing with workflows and electronic signatures, continued engagement through integrated social and wellbeing platforms; and keep the pulse on employees via continuous feedback so your culture can thrive.  The business tools and apps that have emerged from COVID-19 place an emphasis on everything from engagement, wellness, learning and efficiency, and demonstrate how organizations have thrived and are adapting to this rapid change.  These key areas are achievable if you have a Cloud based HR System and Intelligent automation. Think holistically when setting up your intelligent automation, to ensure systems are fully integrated and are highly collaborative. 
  3. Equip & train your teams on the technology and tools they need: Focus on the employee experience when equipping your team with the technology and tools they need to make their jobs more efficient.  Automate tasks, integrate applications, and focus on micro learning to help employees adapt.  Impactful learning experiences lead to a better adoption of technology and a greater experience for your employees and your internal HR team, which leads to greater results for your business. 
  4. Take care of your people: By equipping your people with the tools they need, working from anywhere becomes possible long term.  Working from home, working from an office, maybe from a coffee shop, or a combination of both – the work from anywhere movement is all about work life balance.   Allowing employees to flex their day to drop off or pick up a child from school, and to attend to other family commitments, leads to greater productivity and employee happiness.  Employee wellbeing moves to center stage, as employees lives mesh with home life – it is more important than ever to support your employees so they can navigate the work/home boundaries and establish healthy routines. Employees spend less time commuting, and more time focusing on what matters.   
  5. Holistically integrate technology & people:  A Cloud based HRIS (like Oracle Cloud), Intelligent Automation such as Robotic Process Automationv, integrating systems with an employee experience platform such as ServiceNow, and deploying the corresponding apps to support WFA, will help your people and your business continue to thrive, grow and realize its potential.   
  6. Continuous upskilling and reskilling of your workforce: With the technology in place, you can focus on the support and skills employees and leaders need now and in the future.  COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for leaders with skills in resiliency, empathy, leading agile teams and managing change.  Employees need access to intelligent learning platforms and content to help them keep the pace and to stay agile within the organization.  Your current employees can be upskilled and reskilled to be your future candidatesvi

At Cloudworks we walk the talk. We utilize a Cloud based HRIS, we have collaborate tools and platforms, we integrate our applications with ServiceNow and Robotic Process Automation; all of these measures keep our systems and people connected (and keeps our roles leaner, as well as our bottom line). We are leaders in the WFA movement; we offer continuous learning & development opportunities, employee pulse surveys, a virtual social committee, and place an emphasis on employee wellbeing. We set the example for our clients, which has helped our company thrive through COVID-19.   

As the saying goes, take care of your people (both mentally and by equipping them with the tools they need) and they will take care of your business. 

About Jennifer Elliott: Jennifer is the Vice President, Human Resources for Cloudworks where she leads the HR team and helps leads the HCM Advisory practice at CloudworksJennifer’s education in Anthropology, Law and Human Resources bring an introspective lens to her leadership abilities; a dual lens as a business anthropologist (the cultural observation of people and adaptability), and the lens as leader and expert in the HR & HR Tech space Jennifer’s introspection and experience helps Cloudworks and organizations realize how connecting Cloud based technology with people leads to business efficiency and success. 

[i] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/culture-speeds-up-human-evolution/

[ii] https://hbr.org/2020/11/our-work-from-anywhere-future

[iii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/10/09/what-the-future-of-work-means-for-our-mental-health/?sh=58d161ca60f7

[iv] https://cloudworks.co/services/ams/

[v] https://cloudworks.co/services/rpa/

[vi] https://joshbersin.com/2020/02/were-running-out-of-workers-now-what-do-we-do/

Jennifer Elliott
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