Shared from the 7/22/2019 Financial Review eEdition

Technology will transform work

Picture

Australians have a global reputation for the ultimate work-life balance.

But is this a true reflection of who we are and how we spend our time?

The reality is that here, like everywhere in the world, work expects more of us – and we expect more from work.

One of the biggest challenges facing our economy is productivity growth, down to a very low 0.5 per cent in 2017-18, according to the Australian Industry Group, the country’s peak industry association.

And all eyes, from the board to the CEO, aspire to drive unrelenting productivity gains and a competitive edge, to better serve customers and improve the employee experience.

David Oakley, ServiceNow’s vice-president and managing director, Australia New Zealand, highlights the disconnect between slowing productivity growth and more access to technology in the workplace than ever before.

‘‘Organisations need to rethink how they use technology in the service of people,’’ he says.

‘‘Technology used as operational foundations streamlines processes and will deliver better ways to get work done – that ultimately unlocks productivity. It gives people the control back in their work, the work they signed up for, the meaningful work that will give a business its competitive edge.

‘‘More and more, we’re seeing these soft skills applauded by management because of people’s ability to pre-empt the customer experience and best serve the needs of the market.’’

But, Oakley acknowledges, the word automation is anxiety-inducing for many executives and their people.

‘‘It’s ironic in a way – in our personal lives we have embraced technology to speed up or remove the mundane tasks,’’ Oakley says.

‘‘We love how it is intuitive and simple to use, and how it enhances our lives.

‘‘Yet in our work lives, we continue to manually perform what can only be described as mundane and time-consuming tasks; tasks that could be easily automated, freeing us up to focus on more meaningful endeavours.’’

This is a view shared by many, including management consultancy McKinsey & Company, who put in a ground-breaking report: ‘‘Customers have been spoiled ... thanks to companies such as Amazon and Apple, they now expect every organisation to deliver products and services swiftly, with a seamless user experience.’’

ServiceNow’s Oakley adds that employees, like customers, want their workplace to offer the same ease of use as their mobile devices.

‘‘Until the mid-1990s, the technical experience was better at work,’’ he says.

‘‘Around 2000 that flipped and the experience as a consumer is now far and away better than what is experienced at work.’’

But that doesn’t need to be the future. It is some of these newer enterprise technologies that automate or digitise workflows that Oakley believes will drive a new era of productivity within the economy and individual businesses.

The World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Initiative goes so far as to predict that digitisation ‘‘has immense potential to change consumer lives, create value for business and unlock broader societal benefits’’.

Yet don’t envisage a world where robots take your jobs, Oakley stresses. ‘‘On the contrary, this new world is a world where the future is most definitely human,’’ he says.

And Australian workers seem to be at a tipping point, ripe for change. In a study earlier this year by ServiceNow, 60 per cent of Australian Millennials say they would forgo a pay rise if it would allow them to do more meaningful work.

‘‘Many Australians, and particularly our Millennials and Gen Zs who have grown up digital, expect their work and personal worlds to be one – and that means embracing digital ways of working to free up from menial tasks to focus on collaborative ways of working and driving new levels of innovation and impact,’’ says Oakley.

‘‘What provides some light relief in what is a serious consideration for boards and executives is that 69 per cent of Australian workers would rather go a day without coffee than deal with a complex HR process.

‘‘And 73 per cent would give up a day at the beach to work on a project they feel passionate about.

‘‘To me, that speaks volumes on why the leaders of corporate Australia cannot bury their heads and continue to shy away from technology that drives productivity and with people at its heart.

‘‘With the right technology in place, organisations are able to free up employees’ time and allow them to focus on more creative, innovative and meaningful work and have more time for pursuits outside work.’’

TAFE NSW partnered ServiceNow in the organisation’s pursuit to improve the employee experience, digitise workflows and tackle some of the most common work processes, making them easy to do from anywhere.

‘‘Empowering our employees to scale the workforce of the future means that we needed to integrate simple, mobile processes into our operations,’’ says David Backley, TAFE NSW chief information officer.

‘‘We wanted to give our employees immediately accessible mobile work capabilities.

‘‘TAFE NSW staff can self-serve no matter where they are with an easy-to-use portal and workflow apps for field services and IT teams.’’

Oakley concludes that the future of work and workplaces will be built around people, where organisations and technologies adapt to meet human needs. ‘‘Intelligent platforms will handle tedious, repetitive processes so people can focus on more creative, value-added work.

‘‘In turn, greater digitisation of workflows make people happier, more productive, and creative at work.

‘‘Importantly it also increases customer satisfaction, reduces employee turnover, creates jobs, and correlates with higher revenues and outperforming financial goals.’’

“Organisations need to rethink how they use technology in the service of people.”

David Oakley

See this article in the e-Edition Here