“My own experience is, use the tools that are out there. Use the digital world. But never lose sight of the need to reach out and talk to other people who don’t share your view. Listen to them and see if you can find a way to compromise”. Colin Powell
This year, a lot has been said about the disruption caused by Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence, Big Data analytics, and more recently the pandemic caused by COVID and the new normal. Its is very noticeable in the financial service industry where digital technologies are changing the workforce and how enterprises can adapt and evolve. Many business leaders are currently operating under the hieracrchical traditional model, which is vertically integrated with full-time employees to work eight- to nine-hour shifts in a brick and mortar structure. In recent times, this traditional way of doing business is quickly becoming outdated.
The PUSH factors of the digital environment.
A general scan of modern business environment reveal that the increased digitization of the workplace is being fuelled by the following enablers:
- Increased productivity
- cost savings
- a more mobile and agile workforce,
- increased flexibility and adaptability.
- Collaboration between global enterprises and a more global and diverse staff.
- Reliable internet facilitating employees to now work all over the world.
The Positive Effects of the new Digital Culture:
New technology has replaced work that was before very slow and tedious, causing a boom for employers. On the other hand, the power balance in the employer-employee relationship is changing. The ability to work from anywhere and stay connected through smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices has enabled employees to stay connected and collaborate with peers and stay on top of digital trends.
Global workers are now connected by data as well as voice and video. Teams across time zones and countries can work remotely while staying connected to their teams virtually via Skype, VoIP, email, and cloud-stored files, and more recently Zoom, Microsoft teams, etc.
It is no more economical and even safe to send staff across the world for meetings, and conferences. The recent technologies which have cognitive capabilities, are also creating new jobs, for those with data science and analytics skills.
The Growing Concerns of an Over-Digitized Culture
This new digital workplace also creates its own challenges, including security, developing a new kind of digital etiquette to expectations for employees.
Integrating digital technologies into the workplace is also having a toll on the productivity of workers. A new work culture is emanating, impacting the previous work culture and the general work experience. Command structures are being challenged and forcing both executives and employees to adapt the way they interact with each other and the technologies that enable their work.
Many bank staff are worried they will lose their jobs to a machine. The development of smart machines will continue to shift the workplace and force companies to not necessarily replace but redesign jobs to incorporate new technology solutions.
Since banking is the most dynamic sector of the economy, executives also have to be proactive in creating new systems and policies, and re-interpreting their corporate culture around digital in the workplace, or they risk losing clients, productivity, and employees. The banks that are doing well in this new digital work environment are those that can be open to innovation and adopting new digital methods, while also adapting to new digital experiences for their employees.
The Dangers of Over-Digitalization
- Customer Neglect. When was the last time a Relationship manager called a customer? After sending messages to customers to patronize digital banking, have there been contacts on how they are managing the paradigm shift? Result? No more deposits. Out of sight seems like out of mind.
- Some staff are becoming too comfortable with working on their devices, rather than meeting face to face or having to come into an office. Yes, there is genuine fear, but what happened to chat-boxes?
- The convenience of mobile phone usage is clearly redefining the lines between work and life. Work-life balance can be hard to achieve. Supervisors call their staff late at night with no respect to their privacy. It sometimes seems as if workers are on duty call 24/7! Many husbands have had cause to complain about wives receiving late night calls from their bosses, however genuine. This applies to wives as well.
- People all over the world report being overwhelmed by the digital capabilities they now possess, and find it difficult to put limits or control how much technology they consume or how it infiltrates their lives.
- Employees today work more hours and are nearly continuously connected to their jobs by pervasive mobile technologies.
- Digital connectivity can also create digital etiquette problems for both clients and staff.
- For example, workers in different time zones or on different work schedules will send emails or texts to coworkers at all times of the day. Some of these requests may not need to be responded to right away, but this can pose response constraints on the other staff in other time zones.
The newly evolving work habits
Digital technologies have already dramatically impacted the culture around work and working. According to a report by Deloitte on “ Digital workplace and culture”, there is a growing group of younger, connected, and mobile workers are managing their careers on their own terms and often outside of categories that have defined the workforce for decades.
It goes on further,… “Today’s workers have a new focus on purpose, mission, and work-life integration. They stay connected to friends and family digitally, and are comfortable working in the same way, often blending the two. More workers of all ages are demanding more of a work-life balance that can accommodate more time caring for family, living further away from city centers, or just avoiding peak commute times. For them, this balancing act includes utilizing digital technologies to enable themselves and their broader goals”.
Millennials are a particularly important demographic for organisations to pay attention to. They are the truly first “digital native” generation, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2030 millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. As millennials grow into managerial roles, their priorities—i.e. working for more than just a paycheck—and leadership styles will have a huge impact on all organizations in the coming years.
Today’s employees are more willing to move laterally or to an entirely new company in order to achieve their career goals. Facilitating employees with digital tools to make their work lives easier provides a necessary flexibility for both workers and employees
The shift to a more mobile and always available workplace has also adjusted the corporate mindset to a similar 24/7 approach, and impacted the way people think about work and the way they interact with and at work. The way we communicate at work and with coworkers has changed dramatically. Digital has helped lead to a more casual attitude between co-working peers and bosses, while communication language is changing.
In some cases, this constant connectedness can lead to employee burnout. Employees may feel unable to fully disengage from work, or possibly feel tracked by their company. This growing problem of burnout and being constantly “tethered” to work by mobile devices, email, or other digital formats results in lost productivity and high turnover for companies.
Before I sign off, let me remind business leaders about a famous saying: “Never waste a good crisis.” In unprecedented moments like this, I invite you to not pass up the opportunity to deepen your relationships with all your stakeholders, namely, board members, management, staff, customers, suppliers, vendors, service providers, etc). The new normal has come to stay but relations should still be real, as you stay connected. I will pause here, and continue next week.
Reference: “Digital Workplace and Culture” By: Jennifer Buchanan, Specialist Leader; Beth Kelley, Manager; Alicia Hatch, CMO of Deloitte Digital. Copyright © 2016 Deloitte Development LLC.
TO BE CONTINUED
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.