PRESS RELEASE: Four ways leaders can equip people for how work gets done


Creating an empowered workforce is about enabling people to do their best work with technologies and tools writes Colin Erasmus, Chief Operations Officer at Microsoft South Africa.

Economic headwinds. Increasingly complex business and industry challenges. And changing expectations around hybrid work. The rapid transformations of the past few years have fundamentally reshaped work and life as we know them, globally and in South Africa. It’s clear that the agility and resilience of every organisation rest on a workforce empowered to work more efficiently and flexibly than ever before.

Creating an empowered workforce is about enabling people to do their best work with technologies and tools that reduce friction, unlock innovation and creativity, and reduce busywork to help every individual focus on the work that matters most. Research by BCG found that South African employees embrace working with new technologies and rate it highly in their career progression: 36% rate it in their top three desires – higher than the global average of 27%.

To take stock of how people feel about the digital tools they use today and those they need to succeed in the future, Microsoft surveyed 2,700 employees and 1,800 business decision makers from various job functions and industries— from marketing, sales, and customer service to finance, supply chain, and IT.

The results offer a window into how technology is helping—and hindering—people today, along with fresh insights into the tools and processes leaders should adopt to help people be more energised, empowered, and productive.

Four key principles emerged that can guide business leaders in 2023:

1. Empower people by involving them in new technology initiatives from the start

Today’s employees are hungry for better digital tools: 87% of employees believe pursuing digital transformation is more important now than ever before. While 84% of surveyed business decision makers say digital transformation projects remain a top priority, 61% of employees say they are not an integral part of that process.
The majority – 85% – agree that people across all departments need to be involved. And organisations that have put their people at the heart of digital transformation efforts have seen the value – like Investec. The banking and wealth management group adopted a cloud-first strategy, and involved all people from the start through intensive training and certification. There has been a 43% reduction in costs, with the cloud offering a pay-as-you-use model that allows development teams to build and test solutions and applications on demand.

2. Use collaborative apps to stay connected and share information in the flow of work

Flexible work is here to stay. The BCG research found that it is still the preferred work model, with nearly 60% of South Africans favouring that way of working over fully on-site.As organisations navigate this new world of work, 85% of employees cited collaboration tools as one of the most necessary parts of their company’s digital transformation efforts. People want to be able to collaborate with their colleagues and partners right then and there, whether they’re working on a customer situation or trying to resolve a supply chain issue. Collaboration capabilities need to be infused and embedded in everything we do.
Asked what would work best for them, 86% pointed to the same solution: a single, centralised platform or portal where teams can collaborate in multiple ways. Where companies have invested in centralised tools like Microsoft 365, productivity and collaboration have improved: the 2022 Work Trend Index found that after two years, weekly meeting time for the average Teams user is up 252 percent, and chats sent per person each week is up 32 percent – and still climbing.

3. Accelerate innovation by equipping anyone in the organisation with low-code tools

We’ve entered a new phase, where people are using low-code and no-code tools to create new apps and experiment with new ways of engaging with customers, managing and automating processes, or accessing business insights.
Nearly 9 in 10 people with access to low-code tools said the tools help the organisation automate repetitive or menial tasks, reduce costs, improve analytical capabilities, better manage data, and foster innovation. In Microsoft’s 2022 Low-Code Trend Report, more than 80% said that low-code tools have empowered them to be self-sufficient on tasks that previously would have required a team of developers.

4. Help people feel more fulfilled and engaged by implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automating busywork

Automating mundane interactions – like password reset requests to a call centre – has the power to substantially improve both the employee and customer experience—not to mention a company’s bottom line.
The same goes for AI. Nedbank, for example, deployed an AI-powered virtual assistant to help customers. In a matter of four months, the technology was handling 80% of inquiries at 10% of the cost. Staff were freed up to provide higher-value services to customers.

For those that do have access to automation and AI-powered tools, the vast majority (89%) feel more fulfilled because they can spend time on work that truly matters. The ultimate goal is for anyone in the organisation to have access to all the information they need, and to be able to put it together in a way that they feel is useful. That’s the future of work.