The world of work has changed. The speed of the evolution is incredible and some of the largest shifts have been driven by digital innovations. Workforces across the region continue to fine-tune their ambitions, outlooks, and expectations. People are driving the change. It is because of employee priorities that new workplace paradigms are here to stay, not because of the technology itself (although it has been pivotal in enabling businesses to grow in the new working landscape).
The dominance of mobile-first, always-on solutions is established. People want them and tech teams been rising to the challenge of successfully delivering them. Expectations are thus driving the modernisation of the workplace. The personal cubicle, adorned with family photos and meaningful mascots, has been relegated to the status of quaint relic. Even hot-desking is being phased out. And hybrid work environments – the talk of the town mere months ago – have been swept away by nebulous discussions that seem more suited to the art world than the business community: “Oh, the workplace isn’t a place anymore; it’s more of a concept built around flexibility, personalisation, and inclusiveness, where ‘you do you’.” That was a brief journey through the mind of the Employee of the Future.
So, how do we accommodate the talent-bearers of tomorrow? Technology, that’s how. But not just more of the same. Here are the three essential digital platforms that will deliver the workplace concepts that the modern Middle East professional has come to expect.
1. Self-service HR
Consumers expect self-service systems – apps that are a few swipes and clicks away from what you want – movies, flights, groceries, and the rest. And as employees, these individuals expect the same self-service at the office – wherever or whatever that may be. Barring a few laggards, organisations have ditched paper in favour of digital alternatives. And yet, even this may not be sufficient, Excel just won’t cut it anymore; unstructured documents are even more cumbersome.
So, the 2023 employee will book a vacation (flights, hotels, waterparks, mopeds) with a handful of screen-taps. Can you imagine their reaction if they must then spend half a morning filing the paperwork for the associated leave? Employees expect agility and flexibility and research shows that over half (56%) of MEA employees could probably be dissuaded from actively hunting for new jobs if their company invested in automation. Self-service modules are a great way to deliver such innovation to them. Beyond their happiness (and resultant productivity) is a range of other benefits to the business, including streamlined processes and data from business intelligence – insights into work patterns and common grievances; insights that are all but impossible without digitisation.
2. Digital performance management
Quiet quitting (doing the absolute minimum required to fulfil your contractual obligations), and career cushioning (having more opportunities in the pipeline so you can quickly resign if your employer pushes you too far) are doing the rounds as the talent industry buzzwords of the year. Countering them is not easy, especially as managers have less face time with their team members than in the days of the cubicle.
But there is an answer to many of the problems we now face in the hybridised ever-changing workplace of the future. Digital performance management brings objectivity, precision, accuracy, and speed. Employees have a positive experience. HR has a positive experience. And the business has all kinds of positives, not least the growth of its workforce and their capacity to innovate.
With digital performance management, metrics, agreements, who said what at meetings – everything is in the open. This is crucial for the hybrid world where teams are scattered to the four winds. Everyone has an unassailable source of truth, leading to more rational and balanced decisions and a greater acceptance of outcomes. In an environment where events are recorded rather than perceived, decisions based on those events are trusted to a greater degree. Trust leads to motivation; motivation leads to productivity; productivity leads to profitability. But in a recent Bayzat survey of UAE businesses, 72% said they either do not have a formal performance-management process in place or have yet to digitise it. Clearly as a business community, we need to do better.
3. Employee super apps
It may sound like a fringe comic-book hero, but the super app is fast becoming the core expectation of the digital-native set. According to one survey, some 59% of millennials expect their employers to offer mobile-optimised tools. Super apps can consolidate multiple apps for both customers and employees. The business ecosystem is easier to support, and costs diminish, so benefits all round.
The rise of the super app is happening already, but it is set to accelerate. Nine of every 10 UAE organisations offer some kind of mobile app, but the sheer number and scale of such offerings is becoming overwhelming for DevOps teams. So, consolidation of platforms into super apps is appealing. Users get more uniform experiences and technical staff can be more agile, extending the app in a rational and manageable way.
Apart from saving time and cost, super apps for employees can have positive impacts on their engagement and boost collaboration. They can also be integrated with digital performance management for a furtherance of transparency.
The future, today
Evolution, revolution, call it what you will; we are in a time of change, and we need to respond or be swallowed up by the moment. At the transition of one year to another we often obsess about when to zig and when to zag. What did I do wrong in the previous year, and will I get it right in the next? Digital platforms shield us from the perils of guesswork and standardise everything we offer to employees into a single space. It is not business as usual. It is not more of the same. It is the future, today.