Humans and Work Transformation

Posted by Laurence Collins on Sep 2, 2020 12:16:06 PM

The use of sporting related metaphors to make a business point are often over-used.

So, why take the risk of losing you immediately and start this article with a reference to racing? Well, because modern F1 is not a metaphor for the future of work. It is living testimony to an industry that does not make a single decision, spend a single pound or start a single lap without unwavering reliance on the most precious of all its resources – data. If we want to pinpoint the birthplace of digital then look no further than the pioneers of advanced engineering.

For those of us less familiar with the nuances of smart manufacturing, IoT, automation, agile development cycles, simulation modelling and predictive race strategy algorithms rest assured that in the ultra-competitive world of racing then if it is digital, it’s legal and it shaves a tenth of a second off a lap then it’s spun up, tested, bolted on and rolled out the garage. Furthermore, the data created before during and after this process is sweated for perennial benefit.

All the while this rinse and repeat cycle of data-driven performance improvement has been achieved while simultaneously making life for the human (driver) ever safer. In bygone ages drivers were fearless souls with an honest expectation of their mortality. Too many had perished pushing the boundaries to be anything other than realistic. Today, multi-million pound state-of-the-art digital and mechanical technology is wrapped around them to form a ferociously fast protective shell designed specifically to unlock the most of their raw human potential. Together humans and technology have mastered speed and for the most part safety too. Thanks then to F1 for teaching us that humans and technology are meant to be together.

For the rest of us in less exciting industries take heed. Our equivalent tension of speed and safety is facing us too thanks to COVID -19. If we’re going to survive then the marriage of humans and digital for sustainable improvements and corporate victory is something we need to do. The race is on. The question though is do we have the data and the where for all to make the performance breakthroughs we now desperately need?

Humans and Work Transformation: Why Now?

Our mission is to dial up the pace of work and workforce optimisation by unlocking human and digital potential. But why is now the time to kick into gear?

Uncertainty
Skill scarcity, rapid digitalisation of work and changing client, customer and stakeholder expectations are all converging to create a cauldron of uncertainty for senior leaders. Leaders’ ability to mix technology with strategy, operational control and workforce production management has been thrust into the spotlight. This has created both an expectation and an opportunity for renewed efforts of change and vows to ‘re-imagine work’ and ‘finish what’s been started’.

Urgency
Furthermore, COVID-19 has accelerated the recognition of the need to redesign work and workforces with the optimal blend of human and digital capability. There is a newfound sense of urgency and consequential jostling on the first out lap of this race for scaled digital adoption. Despite the fact terms like ‘war for talent’ have bounced around boardrooms for nearly 25 years there’s now a sense that this time there’s no choice but to tackle the thorny challenges of human capital. Yesterday’s breezy assertions of addressing skills gaps have forever been replaced by the stormy and thunderous demands for workforce resilience.

Value Creation
This pace of change is creating a two tier and two speed transformation approach to the way work is designed, the tools that we use and the rate at which we mass-deploy technology. The gap is widening between those who are successfully optimising human and digital potential and those who risk being left behind. We've also seen an evolution in leadership, management and mindset, coupled with a realisation that new sources of value have to be created. No matter where you are on the maturity curve of human and digital work optimisation, there are elements to accelerate, resources to re-deploy and value to be created. The re-wiring of the relationship between humans and technology is fundamental to the overall health of the future business model.

Strategy
Whether we call it workforce resilience, re-skilling, or people future-proofing, all paths lead back to the same fundamental challenge; how do we create business models that can utilise the human and digital capabilities needed to execute ever-bolder business strategies? Why do some organisations perform better than others? Why are they better prepared for change than others? The reality of the world we are in today has forced organisations to re-think strategy, business models and transformation programmes. This goes above & beyond re-skilling programmes, HR initiatives and employee experience-oriented software implementations. Those things are all great - useful component parts, but people strategy needs to be driven by the capture of value, the wider signals of business performance and detailed design of work structures. Now is the time to grab hold of the opportunity for transformation and do it better than so many of us have managed before.

Humans and Work Transformation: Quantamental Analytics

When you think about the basic elements of capability required to drive sustainable competitive advantage through people and digital - most companies just haven’t got there yet. Many HR functions, the heralded new strategic powerhouses of long-term value creation are still struggling with table-stakes activities such as workforce planning and skills profiling - not least due to the difficulty in forecasting demand, the awkwardness of getting to really know what your people can do and the embarrassment of inadequate analytic simulation capability. It really begs the question – ‘why go and build a strategy if you know you haven't got the human and digital capability and capacity to fulfil it?’ It also begs the question as to what HR are really going to do to justify this new found boardroom faith? Point Workday at the problem?

Yet, nevertheless, the ‘nirvana’ of any organisation to have the ability to control business outcomes and value creation still remains.

The truth is that this can be achieved, far more readily than has historically been attempted. It just requires a bit more radical thinking, some big analytic horsepower and an experienced workforce transformation architect. Through the measurement of proxies for workforce activity, by understanding how the company’s capability and cost profile relates to the nature and orchestration of the work that needs to be fulfilled and by modelling the potential of technological automation we can hit top gear. We call this capability quantamental work analytics – it is the analytics of workforce economists, work re-designers and advanced organisational scientists. It is the analytics driving the next generation of transformation investment activity and operation production management. It is not people analytics.

To explain the concept further, consider for a moment how HR and leaders have focused on engagement (and now experience) as the key ingredient, and therefore golden measure, in driving more productive, sustainable organisations. Now, how many organisations have the ability to determine business outcomes based on engagement levels? How many inclusive, skills-driven organisations, maximising human and digital potential to drive business value have been built on the back of engagement? I would go as far as to suggest - ‘none’. Engagement is not a strong enough proxy for overall business outcome, there are too many noises in the measurement system.

Similarly, people analytics is plodding towards a dead-end of incremental improvement on issues such as attrition, retention, recruitment, progression and workforce mix. Despite protestations to the contrary, people analytics remains HR-centric, overly focused around unimportant algorithmic development, often with the inability to scale and move beyond proofs of concept, or create adaptative solutions to new, critical business needs. People analytics has not found the strategic lens or application to drive business value. People and workforces are a component, and a key component, of digital transformation and business strategy. But the fusion of human and digital capabilities to maximise the value of future work is not something that people analytics teams are ready to solve alone.

Do not despair, however, for we have pioneered the analytical capability to solve these organisational challenges from a human and digital transformation lens using a more objective means of measurement and predictive business performance capability: enter Workbench. Through partnership with ex-Googlers from Temporall we have launched an analytics platform that re-defines transformation and re-frames the boundaries of work and workforce analytics. Founded on quantamental intelligence principles Workbench is to transformation and business value creation what the calculator was to accounting.

Workbench centres around the optimal fusion of technology, people and business transformation, representing a massive opportunity to drive business value. The new world of work is no longer a curious, abstract exercise in ‘what if’ contemplation, but an investment-hungry requirement that has an exponential curve of criticality. The ‘wait and see’ approach is not good enough anymore – the pace of change is too fast, the risk too grave and the opportunity too great. Digital and human transformation is the new frontier, productivity analytics is in the driving seat, and the race is on.

Human and Digital Transformation: What We Do

We are an accelerator for organisations wanting to go further and faster with digital. By focusing on the readiness, resilience and responsiveness of businesses to optimise human and technology performance we show clients how to realise sustainable business value from the digitalisation of work.

Our bespoke, accelerator-based approach of continuous support from dedicated Future of Work and Digital experts allows you to be self-directed in the fulfilment of your digital ambitions. By disrupting the traditional consulting model, we have created an innovative, agile method that places you at the heart of our human and digital ecosystem. We don’t try to optimise your work and workforces for you. Rather, we blend our expertise, intelligent instrumentation and accelerators around your transformation efforts. This is more cost-effective, more agile and more impactful than traditional methods.

Using our Workbench platform we start by benchmarking your future readiness. We use our assessments and indexes to locate where you are on the transformation curve. We perform intelligence-led deep dives, quantify your biggest strategic opportunities and risks, and pinpoint where to go for the biggest returns. We then utilise the platform to collate all the different real-time data streams in the business, create unique business insights and drive implementation sprints. All of our projects are bespoke, so whilst you will benefit from our previous experience and expertise, each engagement will have a unique architecture, tailored to your existing digital transformation efforts and future requirements.

And just like our friends in F1 having to compete in a world where budgets are reduced and the rules have changed, our approach is fit for the more modest wallet. No longer the need for big 4 armies of consultants and astronomical day rates. Just the perfect blend of speed, safety and savings.

Topics: Strategy

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