The concept of the “digital workforce” is evolving, moving from being just a buzzword of the tech industry to a real-world phenomenon that impacts companies and workers in tangible ways. While there isn’t a universally-accepted definition of the term, workforces are being enhanced by digital technology and tools, and incorporating a growing number of fully digital bots, apps, and other automated “workers.”
The success of today’s digital workforces can be tied to digital transformation efforts undertaken by companies around the world. Odds are your organization has embraced digital transformation as well, so it will be critical that you rethink your workforce dynamics and adopt new digital technologies, tools, and processes that will unquestioningly change the nature of work itself.
Adopt a Digital Workforce Framework
While every company will take a distinct path toward creating a digitally-powered workforce, one framework stands out as a popular option. It can be summarized with the acronym SCALE and incorporates these key components:
- Staff on demand
- Communities of contributors
- Algorithms that power efficient work
- Leveraging technology to automate work
- Engaging the workforce
1. Staff on Demand
“Staffing on demand” centers around the ability of a workforce to adjust its configuration and parameters to the work available. There are two primary drivers of this trend. The first is that companies have already created a hearty technology infrastructure to accommodate remote workers, driven partly by the pandemic. A worker’s contribution is measured less by location and more by the skills they are providing to the company.
A second digital workforce driver is the trend toward what’s known as the “Gig Economy,” where jobs are filled not with full-time employees but with freelancers who perform their services on demand and online. Gig-based workforces offer great benefits to both workers and companies. Gig workers have the opportunity to perform projects in a flexible environment, such as a software developer writing code on a 3-month “gig” from their home, or an Uber driver working flex hours to meet their personal scheduling needs. Companies benefit as well by reducing the need for overhead and benefits of full-time staff, and more easily adapting to changing market conditions quickly.
Communication and collaboration technologies are enhancing the growth of digitally-driven communities. Communities can extend a workforce by tapping into the collective knowledge and skills of a large group, all working toward a common goal. Take the example of Wikipedia, which provides its online information service based on the collective efforts of community members who contribute and curate its content, from history and science topics to technology and pop culture. The aggregate effort of people’s communal knowledge creates a dynamic way to keep information fresh and accurate, and keep pace with changing viewpoints.
Algorithms allow software bots and apps to multiply the productivity of human workers. For example, AI-based apps such as Grammarly and Hemingway automate the process of style editing and proofreading of content online, substantially reducing the labor and effort required by human workers. The less time content creators have to spend on the mechanics of what they write, the more time they have to focus on communicating their unique ideas and creating more value to their content. The digital workforce will increasingly rely on complex algorithms to make their jobs easier, boost productivity, and make daily tasks more enjoyable.
4. Leveraging Technology
New technology platforms are being built to help people streamline and automate tasks, and they are taking hold in almost every industry imaginable. By leveraging technology-driven automation, everyday workers become members of a truly digital workforce that reduces the time needed to complete tasks and enhances the value of the entire organizations. Automation potentially reduces the need for manual workers (as shown in the chart below from an OECD study republished in The Economist but also opens the door to reskilling of workers to more value-added technology-focused jobs.
5. Engaging the Remaining Human Workforce
Digital workforces are fundamentally more productive and efficient, but the people that constitute these workforces (and those that remain outside their confines) are still human and increasingly rely on engagement to remain confident, productive, and motivated. An example can be found with companies adapting to life during the pandemic. With so many people working from home, they lose the ability to interact with their coworkers, which can have a negative emotional impact that reduces productivity and job satisfaction. That’s why many companies are focusing on re-engaging their digital workers by having non-work focused “video-watercooler” meetings and group skills training sessions, for example, to ensure that employees feel connected and empowered.
Using the SCALE framework, you cover all the bases for building and managing a digital workforce, including:
- Structuring your workforce to adapt to variations in demand
- Recruiting, building, and maintaining communities that contribute to the work your organization does
- Developing or acquiring algorithms that help your organization work more efficiently
- Looking for ways to apply technology to automate certain tasks
- Creating ways to engage your remaining human workers so they and their digital “co-workers” collaborate effectively and productively
Conclusion: How to Prepare Your Workforce
To prepare for the digital transformation of your workforce and to manage the digitally-enabled new work environment, you must first enable your employees to learn the current concepts of technology automation, project management, and AI and machine learning, to name a few. Simplilearn offers courses and programs that will give you the necessary foundation and tools for transforming your digital workforce in the new digital era.