Is Your Business Ready to Take On The Digital Economy?

Anastasia Dyakovskaya

summer-office-student-work-624x416As we hurtle towards the future amidst worldwide transformations like ongoing globalization and the shift toward a digital economy, projections show that by 2020 Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. With so many parts at play, companies risk becoming even more complex, hindering performances, and slowing down business in general. That’s why it’s so important to run simple, streamlining plans and processes to smoothly transition into the world of tomorrow.

A recent edition of Coffee Break with Game-Changers – and the last in our series on transforming your business – takes a look at the future of work in the digital economy. Moderator Bonnie D. Graham welcomed Deloitte’s human capitol practice principal Ben Dollar, IBM’s SuccessFactors Center of Excellence partner Anne Dacy, and SAP’s own VP for product management at SAP Jam Daisy Hernandez to discuss the most important factors in the changing workforce landscape and what they mean for the future of business practice, strategies, and success.

According to recent research from Oxford Economics, employers of the future will value skills in analytics, cloud, mobile, and social above all. And — you guessed it — it’s Millennials who will be delivering. Graham asks, “How can your organization prepare to meet the demands of digital natives as well as your really important need to grow your business through globalization?”

First and foremost, by simplifying and rationalizing the workplace of the 21st century, says Dollar. But what does that mean and what does it look like?

Information sharing: the new normal

“If you don’t share your ideas, smart people can’t do anything about them and you will remain anonymous and powerless.” – Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer 

Recounting the evolution from cubicles to shared workspaces and innovative office environments that are gaining popularity across industries, Dollar highlights the growing focus on catering to and accommodating employee work styles and creative processes in hopes of encouraging heightened performance – not least via the kind of information-sharing made possible by open-plan layouts that encourage interaction.

To Dollar, this translates to businesses finally catching up with the concept that improving the ways people work and fostering the exchange of ideas are truly crucial to success. “What I believe really characterizes this new economy is volume of information, rapid sharing of information, availability of information, and a new kind of expectation of how much information is available and how we make decisions based on it,” he says. There’s no way around it: With the proliferation of social, mobile, and cutting-edge technologies, sharing information has become second nature – and that’s naturally affecting the way we do work.

Smart, fearless iteration and common goals

“Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi, football coach & executive

What we do with all this information determines our success, and with so much of it to sift through, maintaining common goals and a unified mission is more important than ever – and more challenging than ever, as the traditional office becomes a thing of the past. With businesses now employing “a whole different kind of workforce, where you’ve got a mixture of temps and freelancers and contractors all tied together… it’s about putting things out there that enable everyone to exchange ideas and think more quickly,” says Dollar.

Silicon Valley’s startup slogan might be “Fail fast, fail often,” but the truth is, most of us avoid failure at all costs – even when it means passing up risks and forgoing important insights that could lead to future success. “Getting comfortable with the idea that a series of small failures may lead to a big success is important,” Dollar notes. Dacy takes it a step further, instilling how important it is “to make sure that the collaboration concept be strategized at the corporate level, and that you pilot the new program, start small, learn from experience, and keep expanding and collaborating on perfecting that plan.”

That’s where Millennials come in handy. They like to learn, and they learn quickly – what they need, according to Hernandez, are tools that harness senior staff’s wealth of knowledge, clarify organizational objectives, and help them get educated faster, leading to a stream of great ideas from a generation known for its fresh new ways of seeing.

Collaborative cultures and social collaboration

“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.” – George Santayana, philosopher & writer

Whether your team shares an office or is spread across countries or continents (which is more and more common these days), and regardless of its average age, the need for social collaboration is real, and it’s high. Hernandez reminds listeners that in order to progress, it’s vital to understand what we’ve done, what worked, and what didn’t, and the lessons we’ve learned. “Without doing so, you pretty much have to start all over again, or you’re unable to prioritize,” she says. The question, then, remains: How do you capture the knowledge and experience from your current workforce, and how do you distribute and harness it?

Implementing these practices successfully boils down to company culture and the willingness to adopt modern, innovative practices that can streamline workflow and improve the lives of employees, executives, and shareholders all around. Dacy says, “What you really need to ensure is that the social collaboration aspect and tools are in place to allow for creativity and thinking to flourish in [new] types of environments. Tomorrow’s leaders prefer a collaborative, consensus-building culture, [and] social capability should be built into the fabric of an organization.”

But providing the tools alone won’t do. Hernandez adds that it’s essential to install a collaborative network of people that help make sure these ideals become real in an organization’s culture – and it’s up to senior leadership to make it happen.

Click here to listen to the panel’s predictions on the impact Millennials will have on forward-thinking companies, and check out the full episode of this installment of Game-Changers.