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Workforce of the Future
Humanizing Work
through Digital
by Colin Sloman and Robert J. Thomas
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Digital is about cold efficiency and doing away with the human touch.
Right? Wrong. Digital is making the work experience—and the workforce—
more democratic, more networked, more human.
2 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital
In the early days of digital, technological
advances were associated primarily with
efficiency. Taking human intervention
out of work and replacing it with
automation and changing the very
foundations of how work is performed.
Now, with advances in collaboration
and social media, digital is transforming
work again. Breaking down traditional
boundaries. Supporting the reorganiza-
tion of work into open ecosystems to
enable greater collaboration. Radically
augmenting brain and brawn to enhance
both the cognitive and collaborative
side of work as well as the physical
possibilities of human beings.
Democratizing how work is conducted
and forever changing our ideas of how
an organization should be run from
every level all the way to the top.
In short, this new wave of technology
is far from dehumanizing. In fact,
it’s precisely what will make work
radically more human: more tailored to
individual strengths, more flexible and
portable, more collaborative and more
meaningful to employees throughout
the organization.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 3
Reorganizing Work
Even two centuries ago their drawbacks
were duly noted. Alexis de Tocqueville
wrote, “Nothing tends to materialize
man, and to deprive his work of the
faintest trace of mind, more than
extreme division of labor.”
That’s because the very concept of
“a job”—and the strict division of
work—can effectively kill autonomy,
inspiration, innovation and increase
monotony, making tasks seem less
significant and meaningful. Yet whole
HR departments organize nearly every
talent practice around the concept of
jobs, and managers and employees use
the notion of the job to hire, manage
and organize teams.
Digital is shaking the foundations
of labor management to its core
as functional roles and rigid job
descriptions give way to people
coalescing around joint goals and
forming collaborative teams. In fact,
recent Accenture research shows that
44 percent of high-growth companies
now use temporary teams, and 86
percent leverage the power of
collaboration across employees to
achieve high performance.1
These new
ways of working open the organization
for feedback, ideas and innovation at
all levels.
Hierarchy. Bureaucracy. Functional silos. All are vestiges of the division of labor from the earliest
writings of Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Boosting Brain and Brawn
How much? Preliminary pilots in the
utilities industry suggest that plant
workers can gain 1.5 hours/day in work
time using mobility-enabled, electronic
work packages, boosting productivity
by up to 25 percent.2
And such advances will lead to greater
experimentation and empowerment for
the employees who use them, enabling
them to make more strategic decisions
at a local level. They’ll also allow
employees to collaborate with each
other and with the machines to boost
productivity and make their jobs
ultimately more fulfilling. Boosting
both brain and brawn.
On the brain side, the decoupling of
the worksite and the machines in the
field transforms the nature of work:
from the traditional blue-collar to
knowledge-based roles with real-time
access to data from industrial assets,
such as fleets of trains, airplanes,
power grids or earth-moving equipment.
It also affords a new level of flexibility
on where and how work is done.
One example: Rio Tinto. At this mining
company’s operations center in Perth,
Australia, skilled equipment operators
now sit in a remote command center
and work side-by-side with data
analysts and engineers to orchestrate
the actions of huge drills, excavators
and other machinery across multiple
mining sites.3
On the brawn side, firefighters, military
personnel, surgeons, and nurses can
now wear powered exoskeletons to
boost their strength and endurance
to perform better at work. Chicago
firefighters have tested robots as
their first line of defense. By using
technology, firefighters can go into
partially collapsed buildings and other
perilous situations with a camera-
equipped robot and assess the danger
before risking human life. The US space
agency NASA is teaming astronauts
and robots to handle the difficult and
dangerous task of cleaning derelict
satellites. Outfitted with advanced
analytics algorithms and stereoscopic
cameras, robots are analyzing space
junk to quickly map each piece’s spin,
velocity, trajectory, and center of
mass—allowing astronauts to capture
it safely, out of harm’s way.4
In an auto manufacturing trial, a
human-robot team assembled the frame
of a car 10 times faster than a team of
three humans. How? For simple welds,
a robot with a video projector would
show a human where to place a specific
part; then the robot would make perfect
welds in five seconds per weld. For
more difficult welds, however, the
robot would defer to its human partner
to perform better. Ultimately the
accelerated assembly speed frees up
time for workers to focus on trouble-
shooting and more challenging
(and therefore more rewarding) tasks.5
4 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital
New digital advances like virtual sensors, analytics, advanced robotic devices, developments in
artificial intelligence, automated virtual assistants, 3D printers, wearable devices, collaboration
software, and gaming capabilities promise to reshape work practices like never before.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 5
Redefining the Role of Leadership
It makes work processes more
transparent and encourages the
intersection of people and ideas that
can lead to breathtaking innovation.
It helps grow complex ecosystems of
vendors and alliance partners by
dramatically reducing the cost of
collaboration.
In the process, digital gives greater
prominence to the practice of
“horizontal leadership”—that is, the
ability to exercise influence without
formal authority. Horizontal leadership
encourages collaboration and
decentralized decision-making—vital
elements of the digital enterprise.
Indeed, skill in horizontal leadership
is what enables executives to “let go”
and trust that effective work can be
conducted by teams and that effective
decision-making can be carried out at
the edges of the organization. The shift
to horizontal leadership is evident in
Accenture research results: 48 percent
of high-growth companies say their
leadership team has worked to
incorporate a broader range of
perspectives and skills.6
What’s more,
high-performing companies have
invested in collaborative tools like
interactive portals, social networking,
SharePoint and wikis and have found
them to be 80 percent effective at
improving productivity.7
Horizontal leadership is a critical
element of management in the digital
age, but it is not the only one. Thanks to
the ubiquity of digital applications like
instant messaging, web cams and social
media channels, leaders have never
been more visible to their people. In
fact, Accenture research found that 58
percent of executives felt technology
improved communications by allowing
them to connect with a team, or the
broader organization, easily and quickly.8
Couple this with increasingly flat
organizations, and the old command
and control style of management is
rendered more and more old fashioned.
Instead, leaders communicate their
priorities, goals and expectations
directly to employees who have more
opportunities to engage directly with
them through social and collaboration
platforms. This can encourage
meritocracy by tapping employees
throughout the organization for the
best ideas.
Like water, digital technology insinuates itself into every nook and crevice of an organization.
Digital breaks down silos and hierarchies and hastens the evolution of organizations into more
fluid and networked forms. It connects people across geographies and functions.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
6 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital
Break the hierarchies
Instead of hierarchical command and
control units, companies should
resemble interconnected networks.
Ecosystems of companies, third-party
suppliers and independent agents that
hold specialized skills and workers
who define their own jobs.
Enter the digital race
Robotics, automation, technological
augmentation, and collaboration
tools are here to stay. Embrace them
proactively instead of playing catch
up to competitors that have already
improved the work experience through
digital. And gained the advantages.
Enable the multi-skilled worker
Coach and enable employees to
constantly develop new skills that are
needed by the organization and seek
out new opportunities to create value
for their organizations. And have them
focus on human skills that will reign in
the age of the machine—developing
capabilities machines won’t likely
take over: ideation, communication,
analysis, experimentation, and the
ability to make sense of data.
Three Fundamental Changes
•	 Guarding core values and
	 shared purpose across the
	 ecosystem and throughout
	 contingent labor while
	 experimenting with products,
	 services and organizational
	structure
•	 Letting go of tight control in
	 order to free up employee
	creativity
•	 Mastering complexity but
	 guiding through simple rules
•	 Exercising judgment in the
	 face of an unprecedented
	 volume of information
Paradoxical leadership
in the age of digital
Leaders need to manage
paradox in the digital age by:
To become more agile, accommodate changing worker demands, and harness the new open talent
economy, organizations will increasingly change in three fundamental ways:
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 7
New digital technologies are driving
that change through more bespoke roles
and rewards, and a more democratized
workplace. You could say digital
is putting the “human” back in
“human capital.”
Through digital, people can co-create
highly personalized work experiences
and lead and manage in ways that free
employees to exercise judgment and
unleash their creativity at all levels of
the organization. Leaders will need to
loosen the old school “command and
control” grip on hierarchies and instead
manage networks of employees and
external talent pools, often at the far
ends or outside the organization.
Digital isn’t a panacea. Just having the
technology won’t instantly imbue an
organization with a greater sense of
human touch. Humanizing the work-
force through digital takes a conscious
effort. Organizations that embrace
these changes from leaders down to
front line workers will be able to enjoy
more engaged, satisfied employees,
improve workforce productivity and
effectiveness, and achieve new levels
of meaning, innovation, agility, and
operational excellence.
The “Human” in “Human Capital”
We are shifting to a world where the innately human characteristics of collaboration, coaching,
entrepreneurialism and fluid temporary teams are fast replacing hierarchy, bureaucracy,
functional silos and traditional notions of the job.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture.
All rights reserved.
Accenture, its logo, and
High Performance Delivered
are trademarks of Accenture.
This document makes descriptive
reference to trademarks that may
be owned by others. The use of such
trademarks herein is not an assertion
of ownership of such trademarks by
Accenture and is not intended to
represent or imply the existence of an
association between Accenture and
the lawful owners of such trademarks.
Join the conversation:
@AccentureStrat
For more information
please contact:
Colin Sloman
colin.sloman@accenture.com
Robert J. Thomas
robert.j.thomas@accenture.com
About Accenture
Accenture is a global management
consulting, technology services and
outsourcing company, with approximately
319,000 people serving clients in
more than 120 countries. Combining
unparalleled experience, comprehensive
capabilities across all industries and
business functions, and extensive research
on the world’s most successful companies,
Accenture collaborates with clients to
help them become high-performance
businesses and governments. The company
generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion
for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014.
Its home page is www.accenture.com.
Sources
1	 ”Accenture research on business agility,”
	 Accenture, 2014.
2	 ”Power Generation: Meet the New
	 Digital Field Worker,” Accenture, 2014.
3	 ”Recombination at Rio Tinto: Mining at
	 the push of a button,” by Robert J.
	 Thomas, Alex Kass, and Ladan Davarzani,
	 Accenture, 2014.
4	 “Digital Business Era: Stretch Your
	 Boundaries,” Accenture, 2015.
5 “Digital Business Era: Stretch Your
	 Boundaries,” Accenture, 2015.
6 “Traits of Truly Agile Businesses,”
	 Accenture, 2014.
7 “High Performers in IT: Defined by
	 Digital,” Accenture High Performance IT
	 Research 2013, as cited in “Masters of
	 the Digital Universe,” Accenture Outlook
	 2014, No. 1.
8	 “#ListenLearnLead,” Accenture, 2014.
Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.

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Accenture Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital

  • 1. Workforce of the Future Humanizing Work through Digital by Colin Sloman and Robert J. Thomas Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 2. Digital is about cold efficiency and doing away with the human touch. Right? Wrong. Digital is making the work experience—and the workforce— more democratic, more networked, more human. 2 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital In the early days of digital, technological advances were associated primarily with efficiency. Taking human intervention out of work and replacing it with automation and changing the very foundations of how work is performed. Now, with advances in collaboration and social media, digital is transforming work again. Breaking down traditional boundaries. Supporting the reorganiza- tion of work into open ecosystems to enable greater collaboration. Radically augmenting brain and brawn to enhance both the cognitive and collaborative side of work as well as the physical possibilities of human beings. Democratizing how work is conducted and forever changing our ideas of how an organization should be run from every level all the way to the top. In short, this new wave of technology is far from dehumanizing. In fact, it’s precisely what will make work radically more human: more tailored to individual strengths, more flexible and portable, more collaborative and more meaningful to employees throughout the organization. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 3. Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 3 Reorganizing Work Even two centuries ago their drawbacks were duly noted. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Nothing tends to materialize man, and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind, more than extreme division of labor.” That’s because the very concept of “a job”—and the strict division of work—can effectively kill autonomy, inspiration, innovation and increase monotony, making tasks seem less significant and meaningful. Yet whole HR departments organize nearly every talent practice around the concept of jobs, and managers and employees use the notion of the job to hire, manage and organize teams. Digital is shaking the foundations of labor management to its core as functional roles and rigid job descriptions give way to people coalescing around joint goals and forming collaborative teams. In fact, recent Accenture research shows that 44 percent of high-growth companies now use temporary teams, and 86 percent leverage the power of collaboration across employees to achieve high performance.1 These new ways of working open the organization for feedback, ideas and innovation at all levels. Hierarchy. Bureaucracy. Functional silos. All are vestiges of the division of labor from the earliest writings of Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 4. Boosting Brain and Brawn How much? Preliminary pilots in the utilities industry suggest that plant workers can gain 1.5 hours/day in work time using mobility-enabled, electronic work packages, boosting productivity by up to 25 percent.2 And such advances will lead to greater experimentation and empowerment for the employees who use them, enabling them to make more strategic decisions at a local level. They’ll also allow employees to collaborate with each other and with the machines to boost productivity and make their jobs ultimately more fulfilling. Boosting both brain and brawn. On the brain side, the decoupling of the worksite and the machines in the field transforms the nature of work: from the traditional blue-collar to knowledge-based roles with real-time access to data from industrial assets, such as fleets of trains, airplanes, power grids or earth-moving equipment. It also affords a new level of flexibility on where and how work is done. One example: Rio Tinto. At this mining company’s operations center in Perth, Australia, skilled equipment operators now sit in a remote command center and work side-by-side with data analysts and engineers to orchestrate the actions of huge drills, excavators and other machinery across multiple mining sites.3 On the brawn side, firefighters, military personnel, surgeons, and nurses can now wear powered exoskeletons to boost their strength and endurance to perform better at work. Chicago firefighters have tested robots as their first line of defense. By using technology, firefighters can go into partially collapsed buildings and other perilous situations with a camera- equipped robot and assess the danger before risking human life. The US space agency NASA is teaming astronauts and robots to handle the difficult and dangerous task of cleaning derelict satellites. Outfitted with advanced analytics algorithms and stereoscopic cameras, robots are analyzing space junk to quickly map each piece’s spin, velocity, trajectory, and center of mass—allowing astronauts to capture it safely, out of harm’s way.4 In an auto manufacturing trial, a human-robot team assembled the frame of a car 10 times faster than a team of three humans. How? For simple welds, a robot with a video projector would show a human where to place a specific part; then the robot would make perfect welds in five seconds per weld. For more difficult welds, however, the robot would defer to its human partner to perform better. Ultimately the accelerated assembly speed frees up time for workers to focus on trouble- shooting and more challenging (and therefore more rewarding) tasks.5 4 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital New digital advances like virtual sensors, analytics, advanced robotic devices, developments in artificial intelligence, automated virtual assistants, 3D printers, wearable devices, collaboration software, and gaming capabilities promise to reshape work practices like never before. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 5. Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 5 Redefining the Role of Leadership It makes work processes more transparent and encourages the intersection of people and ideas that can lead to breathtaking innovation. It helps grow complex ecosystems of vendors and alliance partners by dramatically reducing the cost of collaboration. In the process, digital gives greater prominence to the practice of “horizontal leadership”—that is, the ability to exercise influence without formal authority. Horizontal leadership encourages collaboration and decentralized decision-making—vital elements of the digital enterprise. Indeed, skill in horizontal leadership is what enables executives to “let go” and trust that effective work can be conducted by teams and that effective decision-making can be carried out at the edges of the organization. The shift to horizontal leadership is evident in Accenture research results: 48 percent of high-growth companies say their leadership team has worked to incorporate a broader range of perspectives and skills.6 What’s more, high-performing companies have invested in collaborative tools like interactive portals, social networking, SharePoint and wikis and have found them to be 80 percent effective at improving productivity.7 Horizontal leadership is a critical element of management in the digital age, but it is not the only one. Thanks to the ubiquity of digital applications like instant messaging, web cams and social media channels, leaders have never been more visible to their people. In fact, Accenture research found that 58 percent of executives felt technology improved communications by allowing them to connect with a team, or the broader organization, easily and quickly.8 Couple this with increasingly flat organizations, and the old command and control style of management is rendered more and more old fashioned. Instead, leaders communicate their priorities, goals and expectations directly to employees who have more opportunities to engage directly with them through social and collaboration platforms. This can encourage meritocracy by tapping employees throughout the organization for the best ideas. Like water, digital technology insinuates itself into every nook and crevice of an organization. Digital breaks down silos and hierarchies and hastens the evolution of organizations into more fluid and networked forms. It connects people across geographies and functions. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 6. 6 | Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital Break the hierarchies Instead of hierarchical command and control units, companies should resemble interconnected networks. Ecosystems of companies, third-party suppliers and independent agents that hold specialized skills and workers who define their own jobs. Enter the digital race Robotics, automation, technological augmentation, and collaboration tools are here to stay. Embrace them proactively instead of playing catch up to competitors that have already improved the work experience through digital. And gained the advantages. Enable the multi-skilled worker Coach and enable employees to constantly develop new skills that are needed by the organization and seek out new opportunities to create value for their organizations. And have them focus on human skills that will reign in the age of the machine—developing capabilities machines won’t likely take over: ideation, communication, analysis, experimentation, and the ability to make sense of data. Three Fundamental Changes • Guarding core values and shared purpose across the ecosystem and throughout contingent labor while experimenting with products, services and organizational structure • Letting go of tight control in order to free up employee creativity • Mastering complexity but guiding through simple rules • Exercising judgment in the face of an unprecedented volume of information Paradoxical leadership in the age of digital Leaders need to manage paradox in the digital age by: To become more agile, accommodate changing worker demands, and harness the new open talent economy, organizations will increasingly change in three fundamental ways: Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 7. Workforce of the Future: Humanizing Work through Digital | 7 New digital technologies are driving that change through more bespoke roles and rewards, and a more democratized workplace. You could say digital is putting the “human” back in “human capital.” Through digital, people can co-create highly personalized work experiences and lead and manage in ways that free employees to exercise judgment and unleash their creativity at all levels of the organization. Leaders will need to loosen the old school “command and control” grip on hierarchies and instead manage networks of employees and external talent pools, often at the far ends or outside the organization. Digital isn’t a panacea. Just having the technology won’t instantly imbue an organization with a greater sense of human touch. Humanizing the work- force through digital takes a conscious effort. Organizations that embrace these changes from leaders down to front line workers will be able to enjoy more engaged, satisfied employees, improve workforce productivity and effectiveness, and achieve new levels of meaning, innovation, agility, and operational excellence. The “Human” in “Human Capital” We are shifting to a world where the innately human characteristics of collaboration, coaching, entrepreneurialism and fluid temporary teams are fast replacing hierarchy, bureaucracy, functional silos and traditional notions of the job. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.
  • 8. Copyright © 2015 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and High Performance Delivered are trademarks of Accenture. This document makes descriptive reference to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks. Join the conversation: @AccentureStrat For more information please contact: Colin Sloman colin.sloman@accenture.com Robert J. Thomas robert.j.thomas@accenture.com About Accenture Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com. Sources 1 ”Accenture research on business agility,” Accenture, 2014. 2 ”Power Generation: Meet the New Digital Field Worker,” Accenture, 2014. 3 ”Recombination at Rio Tinto: Mining at the push of a button,” by Robert J. Thomas, Alex Kass, and Ladan Davarzani, Accenture, 2014. 4 “Digital Business Era: Stretch Your Boundaries,” Accenture, 2015. 5 “Digital Business Era: Stretch Your Boundaries,” Accenture, 2015. 6 “Traits of Truly Agile Businesses,” Accenture, 2014. 7 “High Performers in IT: Defined by Digital,” Accenture High Performance IT Research 2013, as cited in “Masters of the Digital Universe,” Accenture Outlook 2014, No. 1. 8 “#ListenLearnLead,” Accenture, 2014. Copyright © 2015 Accenture All rights reserved.