Working in the new age of collaboration

Successful businesses will need digital tools for an increasingly diverse and distributed workforce

It’s a typical day at the office, and you head to the conference room for a weekly status meeting with colleagues. The team greets you when you arrive, yet you’re the only one physically in the room. Everyone else has joined the meeting from different locations around the globe. As you get to work, an AI-powered voice assistant tracks the updates and assigns action items as they arise.

The convergence of technological innovation and societal changes around the world are fundamentally reshaping the way we work. Over the next few years, scenarios like the one above will become the new norm for how businesses operate and, more precisely, how people work together.

Business leaders must embrace the new paradigm of digitally-driven, work-from-anywhere collaboration if they want to attract and retain talent—and stay competitive, says Cheryl Cran, a management coach and author of “The Art of Change Leadership: Driving Transformation in a Fast-Paced World.”

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Cran says. “If leaders ignore the future of work reality, that there is a new way of working together and that this new way is gaining momentum, they will miss out on key business opportunities.” 

Companies that prioritize collaboration are four times more likely to see growth in their bottom line. They are also five times likelier to experience a considerable increase in hiring and twice as likely to be profitable and to outgrow competitors.

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Redefining the workplace

Experts say the new collaborative culture is being driven by the intersection of four key trends. Businesses will have to adjust for all of these influences—and soon—in order to stay ahead of the game.

integration

The integration of disruptive, intelligent digital technologies in the workplace

Zasób 1

The influence of rapid urbanization on where businesses look for top talent

remote-worker

The rise of remote workers

millenial

The entrance of the post‑Millennial generation into the global workforce

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Redefining the workplace

Experts say the new collaborative culture is being driven by the intersection of four key trends. Businesses will have to adjust for all of these influences—and soon—in order to stay ahead of the game.

integration

The integration of disruptive, intelligent digital technologies in the workplace

Zasób 1

The influence of rapid urbanization on where businesses look for top talent

remote-worker

The rise of remote workers

millenial

The entrance of the post‑Millennial generation into the global workforce

Businesses will have to adjust for all of these influences—and soon—to stay ahead of the game.

As a company’s workforce becomes more geographically diverse, collaboration tools—virtual meeting apps, online whiteboards and other digital assets—will become critical for effective teamwork. While leveraging technology to maximize productivity isn’t new, many businesses are in uncharted waters when it comes to machine learning and artificial intelligence. If cognitive technology is used in the right way, however, these resources can unleash opportunities to develop new skills and encourage collaboration and creativity.

“AI is going to continue to transform business—and rapidly,” Cran says. Business leaders agree. Surveys show three-quarters of executives believe AI will dramatically alter the way they conduct business within the next three years. But to reap the rewards of AI, leaders must approach it from a “people perspective,” Cran says. “This means human skills will need to be highly developed by leaders and teams, along with technology solutions.”

One way companies can leverage AI is to create simulated scenarios that measure performance metrics. Managers can then analyze the data collected, identify areas where employees may need additional training or reskilling and use those insights to produce customized development programs. AI can also make a difference in employee engagement. Companies can utilize surveys to identify barriers to satisfaction among workers, and use the data to frame new, more meaningful engagement initiatives.

“The companies people will want to work for will be the ones thinking about how to use AI in service of furthering people’s careers,” says Kristin Sharp, director of New America’s Initiative on Work, Workers and Technology.

And the more engaged and fulfilled employees feel individually, the more effective they will be on their teams.

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Where to Find Talent in 2030

A steady supply of talented human capital is essential for any nation to compete in the global economy. Imbalances can have serious implications for the country’s social and political stability, as well as its future growth potential.

What actions can be taken to mitigate this outcome? Analysts say boosting productivity with capital investments in infrastructure, innovation, technology and skill-development programs are key. Accessing cross-border talent pools and taking advantage of virtual collaboration technology to improve worker mobility also can address talent shortages.

Here’s a look at countries potentially facing talent shortages and surpluses in the next 20 years that may need some of these tactics to address the problem.

germany
2.4 mil

germany

Germany will see a shortage of up to 2.4 million workers by 2020 and 10 million by 2030

brazil
8.5 mil

brazil

Brazil will have a shortage of up to 8.5 million workers in 2020; by 2030, that figure could increase nearly fivefold to 40.9 million people

italy
2 mil

italy

Italy will experience a surplus of 2 million workers in 2020, but by 2030, it might face a labor deficit of up to 0.9 million people

canada
1.1 mil

canada

Canada’s labor surplus of 700,000 to 1.1 million people in 2020 will become a deficit of up to 2.3 million by 2030

china
75.3 mil

china

China’s surplus of 55.2 million to 75.3 million workers in 2020 could reverse sharply, turning into a shortage of up to 24.5 million people by 2030

south-africa
7.8 mil

south africa

South Africa’s labor surplus of 6.5 million to 7.8 million people by 2020 will hold relatively steady—between 6.2 million to 9.2 million by 2030

us
22 mil

u.s.

The U.S., with a surplus of 17.1 million to 22 million workers in 2020, will see that surplus shrink to around 7.4 million by 2030

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Where to Find Talent in 2030

A steady supply of human capital and talent is required for a nation to compete in the global economy. An imbalance can result in grave implications, not only for the economy, but the social and political stability of a country too—as well as the potential for future growth.

What actions can be taken to mitigate this outcome? Analysts say boosting productivity with capital investments in infrastructure, innovation, technology and skill-development programs are key. Accessing cross-border talent pools and taking advantage of virtual collaboration technology to improve worker mobility also can address talent shortages.

Here’s a look at countries potentially facing talent shortages and surpluses in the next 20 years that may need some of these tactics to address the problem.

germany
2.4 mil

germany

Germany will see a shortage of up to 2.4 million workers by 2020 and 10 million by 2030

brazil
8.5 mil

brazil

Brazil will have a shortage of up to 8.5 million workers in 2020; by 2030, that figure could increase nearly fivefold to 40.9 million people

italy
2 mil

italy

Italy will experience a surplus of 2 million workers in 2020, but by 2030, it might face a labor deficit of up to 0.9 million people

canada
1.1 mil

canada

Canada’s labor surplus of 700,000 to 1.1 million people in 2020 will become a deficit of up to 2.3 million by 2030

china
75.3 mil

china

China’s surplus of 55.2 million to 75.3 million workers in 2020 could reverse sharply, turning into a shortage of up to 24.5 million people by 2030

south-africa
7.8 mil

south africa

South Africa’s labor surplus of 6.5 million to 7.8 million people by 2020 will hold relatively steady—between 6.2 million to 9.2 million by 2030

us
22 mil

u.s.

The U.S., with a surplus of 17.1 million to 22 million workers in 2020, will see that surplus shrink to around 7.4 million by 2030

A workforce without borders

High-tech collaboration tools can also broaden businesses’ reach when they’re searching for high-performing talent. With continuing rapid urbanization, companies with the flexibility to integrate global—and virtual—talent pools from a wide range of centers will have the biggest competitive advantage over those restricted by geographical boundaries, Cran says.

Let’s say you’re a hiring manager in New York City, and you’ve found the perfect candidate for a position you’ve been trying to fill for months. The person lives in another country and is unwilling to move, but you don’t want to lose out to a competitor. Being able to offer a remote collaboration alternative provides a smart way to secure that talent.

Today, 37 percent of the global workforce is mobile, 30 percent of full-time employees do most of their work outside the office and 20 percent of the workforce comprises temporary workers, contractors and freelancers.

With the right technology, companies can also consider ways to make certain roles remote, Sharp says. “We'll see companies thinking specifically about how they can provide flexibility for their employees.”

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What Does Gen Z Want from Employers?

To attract and retain Gen Z workers, organizations will need to reexamine how they do business. Here are a few qualities that will be important to these digital natives.

path

Customized career paths

One-size-fits-all positions won’t jive with this generation. They want employers that provide opportunities for growth, upward mobility and a flexible career path that accommodates their talents and specific needs.

puzzle

Constant opportunities to learn

Gen Z wants to be challenged. As such, managers and mentors must be ready to use a tech-based environment of learning and continuous feedback.

purpose

Purpose-driven work

Gen Z wants to make a big impact and believes technology can create professional opportunities while leading to positive change in the world.

flexible

Flexible work arrangements

Flexibility at work greatly appeals to Gen Z. Distributed work, remote work, adjustable work hours and coworking spaces can all help meet this desire.

collab

Collaborative environments

Surveys suggest Gen Z workers are even more entrepreneurial-minded than Millennials, but not necessarily more individualistic. Gen Z wants team-focused working environments that enable them to make meaningful contributions.

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What Does Gen Z Want from Employers?

To attract and retain Gen Z workers, organizations will need to reexamine how they do business. Here are a few qualities that will be important to these digital natives.

path

Customized career paths

One-size-fits-all positions won’t jive with this generation. They want employers that provide opportunities for growth, upward mobility and a flexible career path that accommodates their talents and specific needs.

puzzle

Constant opportunities to learn

Gen Z wants to be challenged. As such, managers and mentors must be ready to use a tech-based environment of learning and continuous feedback.

purpose

Purpose-driven work

Gen Z wants to make a big impact and believes technology can create professional opportunities while leading to positive change in the world.

flexible

Flexible work arrangements

Flexibility at work greatly appeals to Gen Z. Distributed work, remote work, adjustable work hours and coworking spaces can all help meet this desire.

collab

Collaborative environments

Surveys suggest Gen Z workers are even more entrepreneurial-minded than Millennials, but not necessarily more individualistic. Gen Z wants team-focused working environments that enable them to make meaningful contributions.

Shifting generational expectations

Younger workers particularly favor the freedom offered by work-from-anywhere solutions, as well as organizations that prioritize a culture of collaboration. By 2020, Millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce. Concurrently, an estimated 61 million members of Generation Z—the population group born in the late 1990s and early 2000s—will be entering the labor market. About 20 percent of the U.S. labor force will be from Gen Z by 2020.

To accommodate the workforce impact of these younger, more tech-focused workers, companies must rethink their recruitment and career advancement strategies.

Providing flexible work arrangements, whether through location or work hours, has been linked to improved performance, better employee retention and higher levels of loyalty among Millennials. In fact, in companies described as having the least flexible work environments, 45 percent of Millennial employees intend to leave within two years. Businesses should care—Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually.

quote
Getting rid of hierarchical legacy systems for managing people will appeal to these two generations And technology will start to be oriented to all of these things.
Kristin Sharp
Director of New America’s Initiative on Work, Workers and Technology

Both Millennials and Gen Z members seek employers that emphasize meaningful work, nurture their people and provide digital tools that let employees collaborate and exchange ideas transparently.

“Getting rid of hierarchical legacy systems for managing people will appeal to these two generations,” Sharp says. “And technology will start to be oriented to all of these things.”

That said, companies shouldn’t ignore their Baby Boomer and Gen X workers—all employees will need to adapt to this new style of work. To assist team members who require added support, managers should approach it from an individual level first. That could mean anything from providing an opportunity to improve skill sets to incorporating an employee’s personal work preferences into the collaboration strategy.

The future of work is here

Organizations that opt for a digitally driven, geographically diverse and collaborative workplace are likely to be leaders in their respective fields. But to assure success, executives must make collaboration an integral part of how the company does business, Cran says.

“Millennials and Gen Z will not stick around for companies that remain siloed,” she says. “They’re looking for opportunities that allow for dynamic collaboration. And they want and need the right technological tools to work as a team effectively.”

This means companies at the leading edge of integrating the latest tech tools—those that facilitate continuous communication, maximize productivity and allow remote teams to communicate easily in real-time—will attract a higher level of talent than those moving more slowly.

Effective collaboration is good for business—higher employee productivity, better worker satisfaction and a stronger bottom line. Is your organization embracing the next era of collaboration, or still conducting business the old-fashioned way?

Sources: UN Population Division database; ILO LABORSTA database; The Boston Consulting Group analysis; Deloitte: 'Transitioning to the future of work and the workplace' Deloitte: 'Bullish on the business value of cognitive' Gallup: 'Millennials: the job-hopping generation'