Trends businesses must adopt to succeed in the digital age

The recent Baker Tilly International EMEA conference took in Belfast
Donal Laverty

LEADERS in HR and organisation development consulting from Baker Tilly International gathered recently in Belfast as part of our EMEA conference. We had the opportunity to investigate the trends businesses need to adopt if they are to succeed in a fast-evolving and challenging environment. We're going through a digital revolution – but, one thing that hasn't changed, is the primacy of human capital as the foundation of innovation, productivity, and success.

So, what were our top four learnings?

1. Digitisation is having a profound effect on the workforce requirements. AI and digitisation is creating a widening skills gap, putting pressure on companies to recruit and retain the talented employees they need to thrive. Only a minority of organisations have reached a significant level of digital maturity and are fully prepared to meet new challenges in the future of work. This is a worrying statistic – as a key factor in successful digital transformation is having and keeping the right talent. With new digital savvy generations entering the workforce, they sense if their employer is not ready for digitalisation – often leading to a swift exit.

2. We see that employees today are ‘calling out' employers who are slow to act on gender neutrality, pay parity, and inclusion and diversity. It's forcing employers towards creating new social contracts which employees now expect their employers to fulfil. Organisations need to demonstrate their intention by prioritising a gender pay diagnostic in their organisation, and urgently address any discrepancies that may be found. We must all commit to a long-term behavioural and social shift within our workplaces by consistently practising transparent communication around pay and career decisions.

3. Historically HR has focused on standardisation and 'one-size-fits-all'. Now, we're shifting to an approach where the individual needs, wishes and capabilities of people are the new starting point of negotiation. It can be challenging for organisations - and HR in particular - where standardisation has been king. Many HR-practices take the needs of the organisation as the starting point. We believe that HR needs to adopt a more customised and segmented approach.

4. Underpinning all the above themes is a sense that the expectations of workforce analytics and technology are often too high and can often fail to meet requirements. Human behaviour is not so easy to predict, even if you have access to people data; so even in domains where good performance is very well defined, where a lot of data is gathered inside and outside the field, it is difficult to predict the future success of young players – and to what extent people behave in a rational way. Humans are prone to cognitive biases that influence the way they interpret the outcomes of workforce analytics projects.

Overarchingly, as people, communities and businesses become more sophisticated about the ways technologies can work in concert with human nature and analogue experiences; new ideas and beliefs are emerging about how best to live a connected life. Life and work are being re-constructed, data is being revolutionised and powerful innovations are shaping how organisations and employees interact to each other. Connectivity, network and information will shape the future design of organisations.

However, at the heart of organisations, regardless of the advance of artificial intelligence and automation, the future is human. This will require a reconfiguration of current practice, new ways of working, significant investment in learning and embracing the challenge and opportunity of technology.

:: Donal Laverty is a partner, consulting at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore in Belfast

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