The year of AI and contingent workforces


Oracle's Rob Bothma explores what 2020 holds for employers and employees.

As 2020 fast approaches, we reflect on having survived a year where HR has been flooded with information on how their jobs and those of employees will change. Technology continues to take a foot hold in our everyday work lives; the new way of work has become the way we work.

There are two dominant forces playing a major role in changing the way we work – the emergence and adoption of new technologies, and how the new generation at workplace view their jobs.

The first force has come about through the rapid advancements and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within organisations. The second is the drive towards a workforce dominated by contingent workers - which aims to reduce the dependence and the fixed costs organisations incur through the more traditional model of having a permanent workforce.

Additionally, when looking at the future way of work, we also find that organisations are impacted by four primary factors:

  1. Continual and Rapid enhancements in technology
  2. The emergence of the Networked Organisation
  3. Globalisation of the workforce
  4. Working with four different generations simultaneously in the workplace

Organisations and their HR teams need to understand how these factors will affect their current way of work and more importantly how they can best take advantage of the opportunities.

A recent study conducted by Oracle, Robots at work, of 8 370 employees, managers and HR leaders across 10 countries, found that AI has changed the relationship between people and technology at work and is reshaping the role HR teams and managers need to play in attracting, retaining and developing talent.

These changes provide the HR team with an opportunity to transform themselves and the organisation. By empowering themselves in becoming more strategic and business-focused, HR enables the ability to start creating true value within the organisation through people practices.

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One of the new ways of work that all employees need to adopt is to start building internal and external networks. Here social media plays a huge role, as it has already become the de facto means of how the younger generation already communicates.

This always-connected culture has seen leading HR solutions include social media connectivity as an integral part of the standard functionality offered within the system. This allows the organisation to start leveraging off their employees’ networks.

The emergence of the networked organisation has a mechanism to pool the collected IQ of the organisation and make it available to whoever needs it, thus destroying the age-old siloed organisational structures by providing employees’ knowledge and experience across the entire workforce.

With the lines of communication between work and home becoming more blurred and now practically interchangeable on platforms such as LinkedIn, WhatsApp etc, employees can now connect to any member of the organisation. With this, the ability to cross-pollinate knowledge and ideas has grown exponentially, by enabling employees to connect with work colleagues both past and present, family and friends. Now even customers can belong to the same group, sharing thoughts and ideas.

All this indicates another big shift in how employees interact within their workplace – by being mobile.

Younger generations, especially millennials, have a need to be able to perform their work anywhere, anytime, and from any device, all of course within the relevant organisation security parameters.

Employee mobility also enables organisations to expand across the globe. With the impact of geographical distance negated, it allows for having a global workforce without having a physical footprint in any particular country. In many industries, entire projects can now be completed offsite and delivered electronically. Through the latest Chatbot technology, HR can now provide a 24/7 service for handling and answering the bulk of mundane employee queries.

Ultimately, the future of work is all about people - your employees, the way they work, where they work and how they can work - factors which are influenced through emerging technologies are forcing these changes. Organisations with an appetite to embrace change will reap the biggest rewards, while those that refuse will become irrelevant and slowly disappear.

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