Rachelle Su, Marketing & Communications Coordinator recently sat down with Krista Schaber-Chan, Managing Partner, to discuss the future of work. New workplace trends are constantly being introduced and the way businesses respond to these changes are important. Krista gives us her insights on how to prepare for tomorrow’s workplace, in addition to some key tips on ensuring a smooth transition and effective change strategy in the long-term.
What are the key workplace trends businesses should be paying the most attention to?
The movement towards a flexible work environment is one of the more prevalent trends I’ve seen in the past couple of years. Employers are providing more opportunities for employees to telecommute, develop flexible schedules, and collaborate differently. The main driver of why flexible work environments has become so popular is because of the cost savings. We can look at real estate as one of the most expensive costs a company can endure; if businesses change the need for employees to physically come into the office or take away their designated working spaces, they’re essentially eliminating a huge portion of their expenses. Providing a flexible environment where employees can work from home or making open layout spaces available in the office really downsizes their spending. They remove the need to allocate space for every employee.
Another key trend to prepare for is the presence of artificial intelligence (AI). AI’s presence in today’s workforce is becoming increasingly important. Not only will it change the way we sell our products and services, but it will also play a role in shaping our human resources. AI can be applied to robots or systems that can make processes such as training employees more efficient, and it will quickly automate processes and refine data to enable better decision making. If a business chooses to ignore AI, they’re going to fall behind amongst their competition. It’s going to be a huge part of how businesses operate in the future. As a change management consultant, it’s important for my colleagues and I to know what changes to anticipate and invest in for the long term. AI is definitely one of those things.
Managing expenses for any size of business is crucial, are the workplace trends we’re seeing today being driven solely for the sake of cost savings?
There are many other reasons flexible workplaces have been up and rising beyond the concern for the bottom line. While expenses play a huge factor, organizations are making these changes to attract younger talent and a different generation in the workforce, such as Generation Z. Start up cultures and innovation hubs tend to have different business practices. These organizations focus on flexibility through cross-functional roles, promoting work-life balance, working from home or even volunteering during work hours. All these practices are assumed to be tailored best towards Generation Z and Millennials, assuming this is what they’re looking for in the workplace. At the end of the day, we’re still figuring out how important this trend is to our new generation of employees; is innovating the way we work what they’re really looking for? Organizations are making assumptions and changing their workplaces based on those assumptions, hoping to attract younger talent and keeping themselves from falling behind and seeming outdated.
Are these trends more prevalent in some industries than others? If so, what industries have you seen the most development in?
Areas such as traditional manufacturing, transportation or even banking are less likely to feel the impact of these trends and changes. In these industries, companies have to maintain certain security and safety standards and where automation and AI may come in handy here, they also require intensely secure software. Without protected software in industries such as banking, this can pose a huge amount of risk for firms even though processes have the opportunity to be more efficient.
For companies that produce and manufacture goods, we have seen more developments in automation and machinery. But, many of these procedures still require human interference in order to maintain safety and quality standards. There are no particular industries where workforce changes are working better than others. It’s rather more important to look at if these trends are conducive to your specific business, instead of making changes because your industry is too. For example, in creative industries it makes more sense for your business to have open and collaborate work environments or for your employees to telecommute when a significant amount of the work can be done online.
Once a business has recognized that they need to make a workplace change, when is the right time to make that change?
Well, there really is no right or wrong time to make a change. Of course, it is important to have gathered enough data or information from your employees to ensure you’re not pushing out a decision too fast but, you don’t want to wait too long as well. It’s important to note that it’s never too late to make a change, as long as you’re aware of the pulse of your organization and what your people really want, you can start taking action. You can always try the new change and adjust accordingly based on the reaction or feedback you get from it, just don’t let your business dictate when you make a change. There’s never a good time to make the change, just be prepared to help people adjust when it happens.
While there are always going to be certain people who are very resistant to new changes, there are ways to minimize this turbulence during a transition. One of these ways is to really ensure people understand the personal benefit of the change, before making any moves. I would also consider paying the cost of the transition forward. These workplace changes are often saving you money in the long term and so, providing employees with small rewards or tokens of appreciation during the change, can go a long way in making the transition smoother.
How has the movement towards these workplace changes impacted the way you operate your own business?
One of the goals I hope to achieve for the future of my business is building our own AI infrastructure to better serve our clients. I would like to see AI as a part of our service offerings, where we can help make change and reinforcement of change easier for our clients. By having a bot that can answer questions immediately or walk employees through problems without human interference can provide full 360 support for our clients and will really add value to how we get the job done. Another fun idea would be having a robot attendant in the office! Our robot could help us with processes such as onboarding and training. This could really speed up the process of helping new employees become familiar with the business and helping to answer any questions they may have as well.
Interested in learning more about the future of work? Check out our case study with RSA Insurance Canada where Harbinger supported the transition from a traditional office environment, to a new, flexible workplace here.
Managing Partner Toronto