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News Article

Tech Enables a New Digital Workplace

By Cas Biekmann | Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:34

You can watch the video of this panel here.

 

The digital transformation of the workplace began years ago but while this development dragged on for years, the pandemic opened the flood gates. Industry experts outline which factors enable this rapidly evolving digital transformation and what challenges need to be overcome.

Office spaces and their importance were taken for granted for so long that the COVID-19 pandemic initiated quite a shock: not only was remote work possible but it became highly desirable. Still, now that in-person contact is possible again, the modern workforce is shifting to a hybrid system, trying to meet demands from both sides. Verónica Peña, Modern Work, Security & Surface Business Group Director, Microsoft, called this the hybrid work paradox. “Sixty-three percent of employees said they wanted to work remotely when asked in a survey. But at the same time, 77 percent did want to have meetings in person. This paradox is difficult to facilitate for employers,” she told MBN.

In any case, such changes require a significant amount of financial investment, as well as a commitment to change. “Perhaps companies should accept that not everything will be as smoothly implemented as it is in a traditional office,” suggested Amilcar Alfaro, Head of Field Marketing GCP for Mexico and Emerging Markets, Google Cloud. Regardless of these bumps in the road, the benefits could far outweigh the negatives. Employees can spend more time at home, a major boon as long as they can maintain a healthy work-life balance. Alfaro furthermore emphasized that people have been more productive working from home. Agustin De la Maza, Chief Solutions Officer, Softtek also pointed out the higher efficiency. “Remote work requires a higher level of autonomy too, but this needs to be repaid with this improved efficiency,” he added.

Furthermore, remote work “changes the global dynamics of work,” allowing companies to hire talent from outside of their own region and therefore become more inclusive, said Peña. The in-person mode will remain a part of the working environment regardless, the experts agree. “Meeting in person positively influences the playing field and builds a platform where people can then meet online after,” said De la Maza.

The move to remote work increased the willingness of companies to spur on their digitalization. While such developments always come along with some anxieties, this is unnecessary, if understandable, said Alfaro: “People are always scared of how technological advancements will affect work. But just like after the founding of the internet, these developments actually breed opportunity instead of harm employment. Digitalization is making it easier to access higher levels of employment for many.” Medina agreed. “All this change is coming to help and bring process, not to harm working opportunities,” he said.

But there are also challenges in fostering an environment in which employees can efficiently employ digitally transformed tools. “We cannot leave lesser skilled workers behind,” underscored De la Maza. Technical skills are a major global issue to be tackled. “Information from PwC shows us that 64 percent of CEOs around the world worry that employee skills are a barrier for growth in their company,” said Peña.

But rather than seeing it as a problem, training workers can be turned into a major weapon for any company. “According to the same report, 94 percent of workers say they will stay at their company if it were to invest in their skills. Because replacing workers is much more expensive than retaining them, the costs of training are justified,” said Peña. What is more, 86 percent of top employees argued that digital skill trainings helped to get them to their high level of performance. “I see that many agree on this issue. It is indeed important that people reskill and that a company’s evolution should take along its people,” agreed Medina. Retraining depended on wider social factors such as age and technological aptitude. “People do not resist technology on average, but need to see the benefits and be aligned with its goals,” said De la Maza.

In terms of speed, Mexico is not exactly at the forefront of digitalization. Fortunately, it is not far behind either and  the USMCA opened further room for improvement. “(The USMCA) has allowed us to get the right level of investment to adopt the latest trends, albeit a year or two later. But this does get us on a good level of forward movement,” said De la Maza.

Still, digitalization does not need to happen for its own sake, said Alfaro. “Digital transformation does not all go at the same pace. We need to look at Mexico’s consumer realities, where people often have a ‘mobile first’ or even a ‘mobile only’ approach,” he said. In this environment, the digital transformation should be in the service of cost reduction and simplification of business processes. “Tech should not turn into something unruly and hard to wrangle,” he continued.

Cost reduction should be a main concern, said Peña, but that exact reason companies should not be afraid to invest in digitalization. “Investing technology is not a sunk cost. It boosts productivity and opens up new business avenues,” she emphasized. “Business can never be hampered or it will harm its main objectives. Technology can be an ideal solution to boost its progress,” concurred Medina.

One significant hurdle to overcome is security. With hybrid models being the latest trends, experts argue that companies need to foster a culture surrounding security. Keeping client data and operations safe is essential in a time where cyberattacks are becoming more frequent. When it comes to security, the biggest steps cannot be made with technology but through culture and safety processes, “especially now that we have so many portable devices,” said De la Maza.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst