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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Thursday 13 Mar 2014
Technology transforms the workplace

Technology transforms the workplace

At our recent Ceridian UK annual customer conference, attended by over 600 people, the theme was how technology is transforming the workplace, and we were lucky enough to have Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist as a keynote speaker. 

For those of you that have not heard him, he’s great; he is one of those people who stretches your brain in many directions at once. Some of his themes were interesting, and showed a peek of how technology will impact how, where and when we work. 

For example, the number of desktop and laptop devices is now relatively constant; but the number of mobile devices has now outstripped them, and is continuing to grow fast. 

Previously, technology inside of work was better than technology you used at home. This is no longer the case; and this is causing pressure for employers to be more flexible: “Bring-your-own-device is the IT department’s Arab Spring” was one of his more amusing quotes. If your software cannot use these new devices, then it is increasingly becoming outdated and useless. 

Increasingly people will not want to work with an employer whose infrastructure and tools are simply “old”. The most interesting thought for me was one on the pace of change, and how the workplace of the future might look in 20 years. 

Some recent research shows the likelihood of certain jobs not existing in a couple of decades, as a result of technology automating or replacing activities. The obvious jobs most likely to be replaced were those involving repeatable or low value activities. 

Less obvious was the pace of intelligent technology advancement, taking automation into roles involving even moderately complex standardisable tasks. This includes many jobs in customer service and even sales. Those jobs where high levels of complex judgement or creativity exist, such as senior management roles, are likely to remain. 

The questions these trends pose need us to think how we prepare our workforces and our companies for these changes, and how fast we drive that change. However we look at it, technology will drive change and shape our workforces, and will demand faster pace of reorganisation and redeployment of people. 

This drives a premium for those colleagues more adapted and adaptable to change; so how do we bend our workforces to have those skills in greater abundance by developing, hiring and exiting policies? 

One thing is for sure; if the pace of change inside your organisation is slower than the pace of change outside your organisation, then trouble is coming. 

Nick Laird, chief commercial officer, Ceridian UK