In 500 BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “Change is the only constant.” Millennia later, this statement still resonates and sounds so true.

Our lives are going through so much change, that we are often not aware of it anymore and don’t realise how it is impacting us. We have to be extra diligent and cognisant when it comes to changes in business and the industry, so that we can take the necessary actions and adapt accordingly. Because in business, missing the bus is often equivalent to awaiting the fate of dinosaurs.

The world we have been living in over the past 15 months has made us realise that major changes will happen in the workplace, on workers and in work. We are entering a brand new world which can have both an immense potential or dramatic perspectives

What are those changes? How do we reimagine work in the 21st century? How do we plan to make the best out of the new trends? Let’s take a look

  1. Digital transformation

This is probably the most obvious one on the list. Business landscapes have been changing dramatically and almost all operations are going digital. In the new era – specifically in the post-pandemic era with almost every aspect of human life would have shifted to a virtual world – leveraging the opportunities offered by digital technologies is not just a way to scale your business or to accelerate growth, but the only way to continue in business. Of course, transformation is not easy. While turning around the ship, you might see your growth slowing, sometimes even receding. Costs could be heavy, and you might have to tread the rope carefully. In a recent Gartner 2021 Priorities Survey of CFOs, Controllers and Heads of FP&A revealed that they will focus on digitalization imperatives and that they intend to fund more digital business initiatives in their organization. For many businesses, this is disruptive in nature. But the customer demand for increased technological capabilities is only going to rise in the coming months and therefore, the digital transformation road cannot be avoided if you aim to make it big.

  1. Not experience, but upgraded skill sets will matter

In 2019, JP Morgan Chase announced that it would spend $350 million over five years to support training and skilling programmes across the world. J P Morgan isn’t alone. A part of the $2 billion invested by Walmart for training and wages is going into helping workers develop valuable soft skills. According to a Gartner report, by 2028, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature, and employees will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. According to the report, the demand for digital skills has grown by 60% in the past few years. The new era brings new requirements, and our experience in solving old problems will only help us up to a certain point. Whilst experience does matter, so do the skill sets you possess, and it is therefore impossible to upgrade the business without investing in the skill sets and capabilities of its people.

  1. Innovation will become a part of the work culture

Gone are the days when a business could simply offer its traditional products/services and sustain its brand name. We are all familiar with what happened to Polaroid. Famous for its instant films and cameras, it barely had any competitors. So they forgot to innovate and explore new territories, and the result? Digital cameras took over the sector and the company, established in 1937, went bankrupt in 2001.

Directing your business strategy and resources towards innovation will not only help you from going down but also bring in immense benefits like

  • Edge over your competitors
  • Better utilisation of resources
  • Attracting new clients from diverse sectors
  • Staff retention

How to integrate innovation into your work culture? By being more open to the ideas of your staff is a good place to start. Seeing some reluctance? Then lead by example. Add more people to the team from different backgrounds so that you would get a flavour of multiple perspectives. Make room for ideas and reward great ones.

  1. Automation

Without a doubt, technology will greatly augment the jobs that are currently done by humans. And while this will bring in a lot of efficiency into the business operations, some fear that it could lead to widespread job losses and loss of livelihoods. The reality is that we can’t ignore the fact that business is bound to evolve, yet it doesn’t mean that all human workforce or jobs will be wiped out. This is where the importance of upskilling lies. Automation will introduce a new work arena where artificial intelligence, smart machines and humans will complement each other. For all we know, it’s already happening. In this situation, the employer is needed to facilitate training and upskilling to the employees which would help to upgrade themselves to work alongside the machines and better manage things. This would help the business to make the best out of both worlds.

  1. Decentralisation

Technology has blurred the geographical boundaries and the new workplace is truly global in nature. The old centralised system of working has no place in this scenario. As we go forward we would see the undoing of old organisational structures. Businesses would see more small high performing and highly motivated teams spread across the world instead of everyone reporting to one central authority. As opposed to the earlier hierarchical organisation structure, these teams will be more autonomous and flexible in nature. The current model of static teams will be replaced by fluid ones which will change their form, size and nature with each assignment. Switching to such a work arrangement will help companies maintaining their structures lean and their employees motivated, thus reducing monotony and attrition.

  1. Flexible working

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed in a world that was reluctantly waiting at the doorstep of flexible working. Pre-2020, work-from-home was a benefit that only a few companies provided to some of their employees. Today it has become the norm. After the initial period of adjustment and confusion, businesses have learned to work with it and have even found it helpful. Many companies have seen an increase in productivity with people working from their own comfort zones. On the cost side too, it has helped several businesses which have reduced their property footprint. With the vaccines in, the world might be limping back to normalcy soon, but what is certain is that remote working is going to see heightened levels of acceptability and is here to stay.

The future that we have been discussing, is in fact not very far. We are already seeing many of these changes beginning to happen. It could be overwhelming at times. but I would say when a cyclone of change is whirling around you, be the cynosure of it. Have a clear vision about the future of your organisation, become an early adopter of the future trends and carefully pave the road for transformation. Because if you are in here for the long haul, then your actions need to be truly futuristic.

Written by Ajayya Kumar, an ethical Investor, start-up mentor, art curator and author.