Tech innovation has had to cater for a whole new workplace environment: a technology-driven space characterised by simplified communications, multiple systems, different jobs and, most significantly, a completely new type of employee.
Management at leading ICT solution supplier and services provider DAC Systems believes the workplace has evolved to the extent that businesses are forced to operate at speed and with agility, but soon discover they also have to adapt to the mobile-driven, gig economy.
And this lends itself to a new breed of employee, one who has the ability to work from anywhere, share information, leverage collaborative technologies and can quickly lead from the front.
This is the modern workforce – equipped to take advantage of the so-called nexus of forces to enable the business to compete as the 4th industrial revolution takes hold.
“Fundamentally we’re talking about cloud/SaaS, connectivity and BYOD shifting the landscape,” says Bernadette Froelich, Human Capital Manager at DAC Systems.
Froelich says the workplace has truly evolved over the last 50 years. It has changed from the days of storing information on punch cards, communicating via phone and telegram, and storing information in huge banks of filing cabinets.
This evolution of the workplace – initially defined by fax machines and home PCs, then the internet and freely accessible information.
“Your managers became able to trace your bad behaviours online, and a whole new world balancing business and personal ethics and privacy rights opened up. Fast forward to now, with the huge amount of storage available individually to each person. We now file in huge digital document repositories that allow multi-persona same-time collaboration,” says Froelich.
“Mobile is in, switching off is a thing we talk about, but don’t manage to always do successfully. People eat at their desks, and grab cups of coffee in between. There’s more information, more speed, more pressure, and less personal touch. Now we need tools to stay in touch effectively,” she adds.
The fact is that jobs have changed within businesses that operate in the knowledge economy.
According to DAC Systems, there are fewer typists and secretaries and only slightly more administrative support staff.
ICT job types and descriptions have evolved from not existing to being critical to company strategy and delivery.
Jobs like networking, business analysts and developers were not generally required by the average business.
“The electronic tools you use to perform your job are always changing, so you have to keep on updating and growing. No-one can skill up and sit comfortably at the top of their field, slowly progressing up the chain for years. Now you have to put in conscious effort just to stay current on your skillset, and only the passionate and driven really get ahead,” adds Froelich.
But what is the price to pay for businesses investing in technology to remain agile? There is a cost, but the ROI is guaranteed and that outweighs the price factor.
“It has simplified communications, and given more tools to keep what’s precious, but not enough to lose what’s unwanted. It raises a lot of new questions on privacy and ethics, and creates business opportunities in the process. Data is the new gold, it’s a currency of its own,” Froelich says.
Among the questions that do arise and that businesses must answer is ‘how safe is your data? How safe is your device?
“More tools are employed for the luxury of immediate access. When your information should expire is also a huge topic of debate, for example with the POPI Act, and Facebook being forced to pass accounts on to the estate of a deceased girl so her parents could access her information and decide on terminating her account,” Froelich continues.
The boundaries between work and personal lives are much more fluid. Businesses operate in an environment of access, of continuous quest for balance – this translates into a more conscious management style and more effective engagement with social media.’’
“You have everything you want immediately, but you can’t hide anywhere anymore.”