Speakers at the annual RMIT-Deloitte HR Forum charted the ways forward for organisations when it comes to managing work, workplace and workforce.
It has been nearly three years since the pandemic started and while the fear of viruses might have eased, other challenges have been growing.
During the social distancing period, people had to work from home extensively. Additional working hours with limited face-to-face support created a wave of exhaustion, causing the “Great Resignation”. A global study by Microsoft in 2021 suggested that more than 40% of the workforce was considering leaving their employer.
This begs the questions: What’s next? What do future jobs look like? Is the office going to be the same as where we used to work?
During the recent RMIT-Deloitte HR Forum 2022, four possible scenarios were introduced by Mr Mark Teoh, Executive Director at Deloitte Consulting:
First, people may work through co-location collaboration. In this model, work is executed through fluid networks of teams that are focused on achieving customer missions. These teams thrive when they are co-located, working together physically, and utilising digital tools and platforms to connect with remote peers when needed. Employees do their best work on-site, have tools at their fingertips, and work together across the same time zone.
Second, people may work with more autonomy and personalisation. These organisations will provide their employees wider choices, independence, and flexibility across all dimensions, creating highly empowered teams. Employees work across fluid networks in virtual-hybrid environments. Teams are in tune with each other and have clear norms around working methods.
Third, some organisations may take a more stable, secure and social approach. They will choose to maintain stability in when, how and where work is completed – a lot like the “old normal”. The workforce is focused on task execution relevant to their functional units, reflecting a traditional hierarchical model. There is a preference for working on-site with access to shared equipment, tools, and face-to-face connection.
Lastly, employers may give options for choosing the time and place for work. Work is executed through traditional, functionally aligned structure with high choice around the location and time when work is complete. These organisations will focus on employee outputs and outcomes, over time on the clock. These workforces are comfortable working in hybrid ways.
Mr Mark Teoh emphasised that “different careers may fit in a different model” and that “tech- and knowledge-driven jobs might be more suitable for the autonomy and personalisation model”.
More considerations for the future of work
Mr Yun-Han Lee, Human Capital Consulting Director at Deloitte, suggested that we need to reimagine our work, workplace, and workforce to align with the post-pandemic future. For instance, leaders and employers should focus more on working value, augmented work, and collaboration based on available tech solutions, rather than just focusing on task outputs and extensively implementing IT tools without proper human engagement.
Mr Lee also said “investing in a digital workplace and redesigning the office to be more suitable for flexible working would enhance the employee experience during this transition”. Likewise, it’s essential to rethink what skills and knowledge we need for the new wave of digital transformation and the evolution of our organisational nature.
Indeed, Professor Andrew R. Timming, Deputy Dean of Research & Innovation at RMIT School of Management in Australia, suggested more organisations should invest in virtual reality and Metaverse-typed solutions that help people engage in virtual work. This can create a new workplace free from our traditional offices and significantly reduce the cost of maintaining and developing office spaces in prime locations.
Nonetheless, RMIT Vietnam Interim Executive Dean (Academic and Students) Professor Claire Macken shared some concerns about hybrid and fully remote working practices. She emphasised critical human interaction that forms trust between people might not be fully replicated by technology in the near future. Also, some organisations, such as manufacturing industries, cannot fully accept flexible and hybrid work models. So, she believes it’s important to remember the core values of human interaction – adding value to organisations and societies.
Associate Professor Seng Kiat Kok, Deputy Dean of Learning & Teaching at RMIT Vietnam School of Business & Management, suggested that ultimately it is important for the future of work to be inclusive environments where everyone is considered.
“This means that technological advances, infrastructure or even policies around flexible working arrangements need to facilitate the whole community of colleagues. Often staff who have disabilities are left out of these changes and there needs to be active consideration of their needs, as they have just as much to contribute to the organisation. Digital transformation needs to be undertaken with this inclusivity in mind,” he said.
During the forum, most speakers suggested the hybrid mode would continue at least for a while. Therefore, using the available technologies to harmonise people and organisations is essential, as are forming and maintaining a positive and nurturing organisational culture.
Associate Professor Nguyen Quang Trung, Head of Management Department at RMIT School of Business & Management concluded: “Above all, this is not about where we are, but how we work. Autonomy, respect, engagement, and reasonability are the key to motivating people wherever they work. Under these principles, leaders need to think bigger and more creatively about what would be the net benefits and how to achieve them.”