William Higham on the trend set to shake up the workplace.
Last month’s launch of Apple’s smartwatch sees it join a lengthening list of ‘smart’ products in our shops: smart cars, smartphones, smart TVs and smart homes.
For employers, though, the next trend isn’t about technology – it’s about people. Make way for ‘smart staff’. As the growth in single-person enterprises illustrates, new tech and technology-driven services are providing individuals with hugely empowering business tools.
Tasks previously requiring whole departments – such as data access or sales communications – can now be done by one or two people.
Meanwhile, the personal technology devices employees use to navigate their lives outside of office hours are improving their skillsets in work-relevant areas. Interactive leisure, news, navigation and entertainment websites and apps are improving their knowledge-finding, networking, creative and communication skills in ways that also boost efficiency and autonomy in the workplace.
This offers real opportunities for growth. Weekends spent navigating their lives via technology are like personal training courses for employees. Improved staff skills means increased efficiency, innovation and sales. Greater confidence means more individual and team-based responsibility.
This transition won’t be easy: traditional workplace structures are geared to departmental hierarchies, not autonomous employees. For employers, the shift will take courage.
New workplace configurations will need to be created, individuals offered responsibility, BYOD schemes introduced despite security fears, and new ways of monitoring and rewarding will need to be found. Failing to make the leap will cost you more than just opportunities.
If competitors are empowering their ‘smart staff’, while yours switch off their virtual brains every time they arrive at work, comparative efficiency levels (and therefore profits) will be driven down, while employee frustration increases. The new era will be about survival of the smartest.