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Interview with Dr. Roze Phillips, Managing Director, Accenture Consulting

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Q: What trends do you see shaping the workforce in Southern Africa?

A: Very soon, organisations’ competitive success will hinge on a highly unlikely suspect: workers who aren’t employees at all. There are a growing number of people who temporarily lend companies their skills and knowledge in an ever-expanding network of freelancers, consultants, outsourcing partners, vendors and other types of non-traditional talent. Many of these individuals are jobless, but not workless. Others have jobs in one organisation but perform work for another, existing in a complex and intricate web of cross-organisational relationships that form a new “supply chain” of talent.

They help organisations supplement their existing core set of employees with a highly mobile, dynamic workforce to meet the challenges of a complex and turbulent business environment. Digital tools will pave the way to making this ‘liquid’ way of engaging more and more the norm vs the exception. Many people will become their own ‘digital talent brokers’ and employment will be ‘shared’.

Q: What impact is globalisation having on operational models. and how has this impacted workforce transition and management?

A: Globalisation is driving companies to push talent management beyond the confines of the business and make room for the new extended workforce: a global network of outside contractors, outsourcing partners, vendors, strategic partners and other non-traditional workers. By maximising the potential of both an extended workforce as well as permanent employees, companies can gain critical advantages such as agility and access to valuable talent that are able to do the job at the same standard as local talent but at half the cost.

Q: Is automation really a threat and where do you see it impacting the workforce most?

A: First, machines took the dirty and the dangerous away through mechanisation. Next, they took the dull and mundane away through automation. Today machines are taking decisions away. Their progress into industry and our lives is unavoidable. I believe machines will catalyse a change that is far more dramatic: they will allow us to become more human.

Intelligent automation is going to reinvent what is possible and business leaders will embrace that change. Machines don’t need sleep, they don’t need a bathroom or a smoke break, and they have no need for union memberships – rewards and recognition are not concepts that drive their productivity.

As intelligent machines release us from repetitive rules-based tasks, an evolution for humanity as potent as the first industrial revolution dished up may be in the making. What comes next will be a product of the new tools and skills the workforce acquire – an as yet unimagined opportunity for growth and innovation. It is time to embrace the machines, sharpen the human edge and chart a course of discovery to the next stage of evolution – one in which we unleash our human ingenuity.

With many roles already changed, retail sales staff will advance from ringing up sales to using social, interpersonal and other Emotional Quotient (EQ) skills to engage customers and close sales, a miner or warehouse worker or a navy captain may become a highly skilled technical white collar worker that directs self-driving autonomous machines from a control tower, managers will orchestrate and optimise automated coordination and planning functions rather than create them.

Q: How should and will HR be expected to rise to the occasion in redesigning organisations to build future focused organisations?

A: Right now, core characteristics of the labour market are changing and driven in large part by technology. Digital technology has fundamentally changed every aspect of the business: strategies, processes, job functions, and business models. The workforce needs not only to adapt to meet evolving demands, but also to develop the skillsets to achieve their new goals.

Conventional wisdom suggests that employees are a barrier to digital progress, yet Accenture research shows the opposite is true. Compared with the business leaders, employees indicate that they are not only aware that digital will improve their work experiences and job prospects, but also they are proactively seeking out the skills they need to suit the demands of a digital business. Employees are upbeat about the anticipated advancements from digital technologies and the young, better educated and those with higher level occupations are more positively disposed to digital technologies in the workplace. Organisations needs to:

  • Align their workforce and HR strategy with the business. They should coordinate their workforce approach with the overall digital business strategy to influence areas such as workforce planning.
  • Start experimenting with more flexible and agile ways of working using proven digital technologies and tools. Engage the workforce to reinvent business processes and capabilities with big data analytics, the Internet of Things, social collaboration tools and 3D/virtual reality interfaces.
  • Define the digital skill gap within the workforce. Create a digital skills catalog by defining required skills and required level of competency by job.
  • Develop required digital competencies within the workforce. Use ubiquitous training and new ways to learn via social learning platforms and other online forums.
  • Foster leadership behaviors that fuel a digital culture. Set clear direction, engage with the workforce using collaboration technologies, actively encourage feedback and innovative.

 

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