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Is this accelerated Future of Work the optimized reality we had hoped for?

Written by Deloitte Southeast Asia Innovation Team Published on   7 mins read

Remaining distinctly humane goes a long way in helping all organizations better prepared for a foreseeably disruptive future.

In a Deloitte’s report titled “From survive to thrive: the future of work in a post-pandemic world”, the accountancy raised the question of whether the accelerated changes to our work that we have experienced over the past ten months would form our envisioned future of work for at least the next ten years.

This article focuses on the Deloitte 2021 Global Human Capital Trends survey and its accompanying report, where we gain insight from senior executives on how they are approaching this question and preparing their organizations and their workers for multiple uncertain futures as they shift from surviving to thriving in the new world post-COVID-19.

Getting away from ‘business as usual’

This past year has proven that organizations and workers are capable of tremendous resilience under pressure when faced with an unprecedented crisis. They can adapt. They can pivot. They can survive. However, in a world of perpetual disruption, surviving is not enough—organizations and workers need to transform to thrive into the future.

A survival mindset views disruptions as point-in-time crises with the expectation of reverting to “business as usual” once the problem is over. In contrast, a thrive mindset recognizes that there will be continuous, not episodic, disruption; with multiple, high-impact, and unlikely events continuing to emerge at a rapid pace in a world of perpetual change. To thrive means to embrace disruption as a catalyst to drive the organization forward by reimagine norms and assumptions in ways that were previously thought impossible. Organizations with a thrive mindset aim to create new realities that they choose for themselves; in a nutshell, it is about doing what is possible to succeed today and dominate tomorrow.

The CEO of ServiceNow, Bill McDermott, captured the essence of a thrive mindset in this comment:

“I’m leaning in with everything I’ve got to reform, reshape, and reimagine the future without any interest in harvesting the past because I truly believe we will never go back to the way things were before the pandemic.” 

The survey found that the organizations best prepared for the global health, financial, and social equity crises of 2020 were already operating under a “future-oriented thrive” mindset and treating disruption as an opportunity. Leaders in these organizations are more likely to pivot investments towards changing business demands, use technology to transform work, and tap worker adaptability and mobility to organize work for rapid decision-making in preparation for unknown future disruptions. Of particular significance, 61% of the executives surveyed said that they had shifted focus from optimizing work to reimagining work going forward; this is compared to only 29% of executives who said they were focusing on reimagining work before the pandemic.

Putting work re-imagination into action, also referred to as re-architecting work, allows us to fundamentally change the work we have been doing—not only in the way we are doing it but also the value it creates. By blending human and technology capabilities, it optimizes the potential of both to drive a completely new and different level of work outcome. Re-architecting work brings human capabilities and potential to the forefront.


Putting people at the forefront of change

In fact, in our research, executives identified the ability of their people to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles as the top priority when it comes to navigating future disruptions. It is a clear message that the shift from survive to thrive depends on an organization becoming—and remaining—distinctly human where every question, every issue, and every decision is approached from a human angle first.

Being distinctly human is the essence of what it means to be a social enterprise that achieves revenue growth and profit-making by respecting and supporting for its environment and stakeholder network. It is grounded in a set of human principles and has to have purpose and meaning, ethics and fairness, growth and passion, collaboration and relationships, and transparency and openness.

In our report, we focused on the question How can organizations remain distinctly human in a technology-driven world?, and we discussed the three attributes—Purpose, Potential and Perspective—that we believe organizations need to embed into their DNA to remain distinctly human. Being distinctly human puts the social enterprise in a position to thrive by continually reinventing itself on the back of perpetual disruption.

By remaining distinctly human and re-architecting work to move the focus from cost to value, and ultimately, meaning, we can start to shift from looking at the workforce as an ‘enabler’ of productivity to seeing the workforce as the engine—the ‘producer’—of productivity. By doing so, there are new questions that need to be answered:

  • How can we reduce the human cost of performing work?
  • How can we increase opportunities to expand and realize workforce potential to create new value?
  • How can we strengthen the connection that our workforce has to value creation for customers, stakeholders, and a larger purpose: bridging work to sources of intrinsic motivation?


Building Super teams to Supercharge Growth

Our report suggests that ‘Super teams’ hold the promise of helping organizations re-architect work. By leveraging technology to elevate the ability of teams to learn, create, and perform in new ways to deliver new work, we can create new outcomes and new value for all stakeholders. Steve Rees from AstraZeneca made this comment as he reflected on the last year of disruption:

“What I’ve learned is that nothing is impossible. Nothing’s impossible. I’ve learned that if it is important enough to get something done and you align the resources appropriately. You assemble a team that has the right skill set, both technical and behavioral, you can move very quickly.” 

‘Super teams’ allow us to unlock new possibilities and opportunities through artificial intelligence (AI) along with human potential, and tackling ‘what if’ questions such as:

  • What if we could do this work in a way that reduces functional barriers?
  • What if we could do this work in a way that enables our workers to be closer to our customers?
  • What if we could do this work in a way that enables us to produce insights at speeds not previously available?

Through the synergy of super teams and enterprise technology platforms, organizations can change behaviors and expectations, leveling up human experiences by initiating first through a virtual agent, and then quickly triaging human interaction which may be guided and coached by conversational AI to optimize the experience.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) is one of the best illustrations of this synergy. It uses ServiceNow to provide its caregiver workers with an enterprise engagement platform. It revolutionized work through the integration of Human Resource (HR) and Information Technology (IT) service management by piloting an AI voice-activated patient call system, an appointment, scheduling solution, and a fully mobile orderly request service.

The integrated platform facilitates collaboration across the organization in responding to patient requests. It empowers workers with trust and choice over how they perform their work to elevate the quality of care and the patient experience they deliver. ServiceNow resulted in a 29% increase in productivity and the ability to redirect caregiver capacity to the right work at the right time. The AI and the voice assistant pilot replaced the traditional patient call-button system, providing immediate response and automatic routing of a patient request to the most suitable caregiver based on the level of urgency and nature of the request.

For example, orderlies receive requests assigned to them on their mobile application. Behind the scenes, the platform has released HR capacity and elevated the workforce experience by digitizing HR transactions such as leave and benefits management, harnessing automation to expedite approvals and processing across the right authorities and teams with full visibility requestor and stakeholders involved. Using the ServiceNow platform to re-imagine the patient and workforce experience has enabled CDHB to release 80,322 hours of workforce capacity across the organization. Most significant is the impact that the integrated platform has had on the workforce’s sense of belonging, enabling workers to contribute their full potential in elevating the human experience for patients and advancing the organization’s purpose forward.

As illustrated, by unlocking visibility and access to a treasure trove of data across the enterprise platform, super teams can identify emerging trends and make sure organizations are focused on the right questions and are embracing disruption with a future-focused thrive mindset. Putting AI ‘in the team’ to re-architect work around what humans do best connects human and digital workers and systems in a way that enables organizations to remain distinctly human.


Making the Right Investments into the Future

The past year has shown us what we can achieve through collective innovation and embracing a thrive mindset. By investing in the workforce and enabling technology while using super teams to drive enterprise value and create meaningful work, we can unlock the next level of productivity. We make work better for humans and humans better at work. This unleashes the workforce and gives organizations the ability to impact the bottom line today and set themselves up to remain distinctly human to thrive as they move forward in a world of technological and perpetual disruption.


About the authors:

Richard Mackender leads Deloitte Southeast Asia Innovation, a cross-function, cross-country unit dedicated to driving innovation as a long-term value creator across Deloitte’s Southeast Asia operations.

Nicole Scoble-WIlliams is a partner at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) Market Activation Leader for Future of Work. This article was co-written along with Durrah Hamdan, a member of the Future of Work team.


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