It’s clear that we’re on the cusp of a new era for the global workforce.
Technological innovation allows us to accomplish more, in less time, than ever before. Wi-Fi connectivity makes it possible for us to complete our work and collaborate with others from almost anywhere. The boundary between work life and home life continues to dissolve. And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink not only where we work, but also how we work.
If there is a single word that captures the essence of the present moment, it is “change.”
Change introduces new obstacles — as well as new opportunities — into our equations, and right now change is everywhere. But it’s more than change that’s affecting us: it’s also the pace of change. Over the past two years, it feels like the velocity of transformation has increased exponentially. Notably, all of this change is happening suddenly and at once.
What does all this mean for the future of work?
Our futures depend on how well we adapt to the variables we cannot control, and how well we calibrate the variables we can control to our advantage. The first step is identifying those variables.
Today, four primary forces are shaping the future of work: workplace flexibility, citizen developers, no-code and low-code tools, and human-centered automation. We explore each of these topics in detail with our Future of Work series. In this introduction, we briefly consider these four elements of the future and what they all have in common: each is about empowering people and bringing them closer to the heart of our businesses.
One of the most important lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that conventional work models aren’t the only game in town. In response to the pandemic, the number of workers who adopted a WFH model ballooned to 42% of the US workforce.
Hybrid work models appear to be the most popular choice moving forward, with 86% of business leaders in one survey indicating that they plan to shift to a combination of time spent in the office and time working from home.
Citizen developers have the potential to radically transform business. These are the people with their fingers on the pulse of our work: they manage the processes, fulfill the requests, talk to the customers, and create value for the enterprise. Citizen developers know the processes, workflows, and tasks better than anyone.
Their proximity to the work — and familiarity with all its intricacies — makes them the ideal candidates to assess and optimize the processes and flows for which they are responsible. In addition to helping create ideal customer and employee experiences, citizen developers can distinguish between problems they can solve on their own and those which require IT intervention.
Businesses have much to gain from commissioning citizen developers and providing them with the right tools to solve problems when they can. One immediate benefit will be a reduction in the bottleneck of requests to the IT team: citizen developers won’t be as prone to throw everything over the IT wall. Of course, the key to citizen development is empowerment, and that brings us to the next point.
One of the most common obstacles to innovation and competition is that simply that too few people possess the necessary skills to fix problems with existing tools. This, coupled with the increasing pace of change, are the driving forces behind the adoption of no-code tools, particularly the rise of low-code automation.
The most exciting thing about NCDPs and LCDPs isn’t their potential to increase efficiencies and revenues. It’s the impact these tools will have on people. For example, using no-code tools means that IT specialists can spend more time focusing on their areas of expertise. It also means that a more diverse range of perspectives will be invited into the problem-solving process.
Finally, customers will benefit from processes and workflows that have been optimized by the people who know them best. Citizen development offers a pathway to better outcomes for customers, and better processes for employees.
Most of us default toward a cost-driven model of automation because the results are easily quantifiable, quickly attainable, and immediately rewarded. However, once we stop seeing automation as only an opportunity to contain costs or increase revenue, we begin to get a sense of its potential for generating more comprehensive benefits within a holistic business strategy.
That’s what human-centric automation is all about. Instead of focusing only on increasing efficiencies, this model builds automations around the talents, limitations, needs, and experiences of people.
This kind of human-centered automation aims to 1) make the experience of work better and 2) unlock the time and energy people spend on repetitive tasks so that these resources can be channeled towards value-creating activities. Human-centered automation opens the door to the creativity, curiosity, and more meaningful work. It is these activities, and not repetitive tasks, that help businesses meet long term goals and distinguish themselves from their competitors.
The future is already here, and that future is people.
Work flexibility, low-code, citizen developers, and automation. The point where these four forces converge is the future of work. And at the center of that point is people.
At their core, each of these elements of change is about people. Workplace flexibility is about giving people options to balance work and life commitments while staying safe and productive. No-code tools and citizen development invite people who have too often kept on the periphery into the problem-solving process. Human-centric automation unlocks creative energy and gives people the opportunity to enjoy more meaningful, purposeful work.
The future of work is all about people, and the work of the future is about helping people recognize and attain their full potential.