With new work styles being triggered by emerging social tools, organisations can be both overwhelmed and buoyed by the barrage of digital developments.
The way business responds to this digital innovation is crucial, as not having a sophisticated digital strategy in place can reduce competitiveness and eat into profit margins.
We are currently witnessing the rise of the “business consumer” – an employee for whom business activities are one part of a wider lifestyle, according to Gartner research vice president, Matthew Cain.
“Individuals do not stop being consumers when they go to work. Business consumers often make more consumer-like choices in their workplace computing tools and styles to increase efficiency,” says Cain.
Here’s a summary of the five main digital trends Australian organisations will need to deal with in 2015.
Trend 1: the internet of ‘things’
By 2020 an estimated 26 billion devices will be connected, easily surpassing the number of humans who use them.
Many of these devices are smart sensors and switches, such as internet-connected cameras, thermostats and light bulbs, plus wearable items.
Apple captured headlines recently with its forthcoming Apple Watch, but numerous fitness monitors and smart watches are already available, including Samsung’s Gear and head-mounted devices such as Google Glass.
For HR, this presents two challenges. First, peoples’ predilection for interacting via their smart phones could translate to other wearable devices. Second, workers like to use these devices at work. BYOD (bring your own device) policies are slowly being introduced throughout workplaces but, as executive editor of the World Future Review, Timothy Mack, points out in a recent article in The Futurist, the challenge is to successfully walk the productivity line between not enough connectivity and too much.
Trend 2: digital disruption
The rise of Uber, already valued at US$18 billion, demonstrates how new digital players can quickly disrupt traditional incumbents.
Flexibility, creativity and collaboration is the response, says ChangeLabs co-founder and chief creative officer, Dom Thurbon.
“If you have a team of people who want to turn up to work and just follow a process, or do what they’re told, or act the same tomorrow as they acted yesterday, then you probably haven’t got a particularly resilient workforce when it comes to dealing with disruption,” warns Thurbon.
Trend 3: big data
Big data refers to the capture, analysis and use of multiple data sources to derive insight, particularly for predictive purposes.
Big data delivers much greater insight into many aspects of organisational performance at a more detailed level, says Aaron Green, Oracle’s vice-president for human capital management strategy. “In the next five years, we’ll see more and more HR executives’ KPIs tied to the business performance of the organisation.”
Green says there are already analytical tools HR directors can use to understand organisational performance and development, and figure out how to align those with organisational goals.
Trend 4: social tools
Once dismissed as a fad, social media will only continue to grow in importance for businesses in 2015, especially as an internal communication mechanism and platform.
Green sees huge opportunities for the use of social tools inside organisations, particularly in areas such as engagement, knowledge management, and learning and development.
There’s also the potential for HR to harness so-called work-life applications, such as apps that help teams set shared fitness goals, says Green.
Trend 5: mass adoption of technology
Part of the reason smart phones and tablets have proven so popular is because they’re so easy to use.
New workers expect the same ease-of-use in work tools they experience as consumers, says Gordon Zeilstra, vice president of product sales and strategy at SuccessFactors.
“People are coming out of university, or out of their personal lives, and walking into a workplace that seems to constrict their use of technology,” he says. “So how do you allow for people who have been used to being productive in their scholastic career, and make this meaningful in the workplace?”
Gartner’s Cain says that the usual explanation for why there is a “substantial gap between the business computing environment and the consumer computing environment”, which is generally explained by culture, security and compliance, needs to be re-examined by organisations.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘5 digital trends for 2015’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.