Karen HardyOctober 13, 2021

The Future of Work Has Arrived! What Every Business Needs to Know

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join a panel hosted by The Female Quotient along with an insightful group of female leaders to discuss the Future of Work. Moderator Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, recently published an article for Forbes about our discussion. As I prepared for the session, I recalled how I had just come off a whirlwind year of travel in 2019 and the start of 2020 looked to be no different. I frequently flew as a 1K United traveler. If not traveling, I was in the office in meetings with customers in our executive briefing center. Since the pandemic, work has profoundly changed for everyone, where home offices and remote setups have become the norm.

How COVID-19 Accelerated The Future Of Work 

The pandemic changed everything for our customers and their partners and employees, as well as our employees in the company overnight. Many of the top providers in transportation, financial services, healthcare, government, and education who rely on Avaya communications technology had to completely move their employees and front-line customer service representatives working in brick and mortar buildings to a remote setup. Avaya quickly formed a SWOT team of employees internally that helped support more than 11,000 companies worldwide and enable more than 2.5 million remote workers with remote licenses and setup that would allow them to efficiently work from anywhere. 

In August 2020, we surveyed 300 business leaders and technology decision-makers and found they are rethinking their business at every level. One result from the survey made it clear that COVID-19 has cemented the future of work, revealing that 85% of businesses plan on making the new technologies they adopted during this time a permanent addition to their tech stacks. 

Avaya also shifted some of its roadmap priorities during the height of the pandemic. For example:

  • We leveraged AI technology for our workstream collaboration app, Avaya Spaces, bringing in noise reduction capabilities that effectively remove background noises like dogs barking and the loud clicking of keyboard typing that can become a distraction for other team members.
  • For customer experience and contact centers, where the front-line workforce is still remote, security and authentication have been a huge concern. Here is where we see technology such as biometrics, including voice and facial authentication, coming to the forefront – not only for customers contacting a business but also for employees servicing those customers. Protecting customer data and ensuring sensitive information is maintained has become critical. Avaya has been facilitating some great partnerships and integrations in this area.
  • We have recognized the importance of technology modulization and composability using a composable platform such as Avaya CPaaS, making it easier for organizations to enable in-the-moment experiences for their customers, partners, and employees.

When we look at technology, how it is being used today, and how it will continue to evolve, there’s tremendous opportunity and value with things like AI, data analytics, and the adoption of cloud-based applications that are going to continue to become more important for all businesses.  

New Investments And Training Resources 

Without question, one thing the pandemic has taught us all about is the need to be flexible. I like to say a plan is only a guide because we know how fast things can change and we need to be ready to adapt. There is now a greater requirement for flexible job skill training, and workers will likely need different skill sets to thrive in the workplace of the future. Many people, particularly women, had to leave the workforce during the pandemic. We will likely continue to see a demand in flexible work schedules, and expansion of gig workers who are available more as on-demand services to companies.

With this shift in the workforce, there will be a greater need for forecasting and scheduling tools that can burst up and down based on various demands. This includes tools that can capture skill sets and capabilities of the workforce via online skills assessments. There will be a need to detect things like social, emotional, creative, and processing skills, then determining the various skill levels needed to match the right skillset with the tasks available.

Automated learning management systems that provide on-demand, in-the-moment training will also need to be available, as well as the use of technology such as AI that can detect when updated training may be needed for an employee. Online monitoring tools that don’t feel too “big brother” will also be critical. These are just a few examples of the types of technologies emerging and evolving rapidly with the shift in workforce demands.

Employee Willingness To Embrace Automation

When it comes to employees’ willingness to embrace automation, the topic of human versus machine needs to be discussed as well as the value automation brings to make workers’ lives easier and more productive. There’s a general perception that machines and/or automation are taking over work and jobs when in fact automation technology often augments and delights employees for greater job satisfaction.  

AI can also bring intelligence and context to employees that can improve their efficiency and productivity, so engaging employees every step of the way and providing training and mentoring of benefits is key. Automation can often be positioned to handle traditionally manual, simple tasks, allowing employees to focus on more complex, value-added tasks that can ultimately lead to greater satisfaction.

Advice on Keeping Up With The Future of Work

Some suggestions for keeping up with the now…

  1. Make sure you stay human in a technology-driven world when it comes to looking at work. It’s easy to get carried away with what technology can do. Keeping the human factor at the forefront is imperative.
  2. Work with a technology vendor that can help provide you with blueprints, demos, and cloud-based proof of concept options for you to try out.
  3. Make sure you are given the flexibility and pay-as-you-go options as our worlds continue to speed up and change becomes a constant.

And remember, a plan is only a guide!

The Future of Work Has Arrived!

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy, Vice President of Product & Solution Marketing at Avaya, is a 20+ year business communications industry veteran who currently leads marketing for Avaya's market-leading customer engagement and team engagement technologies.

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