Global Technology Impact

How organizations can anticipate the future impact of new technologies on their workforce, today.

We have been supporting Andy in designing a job architecture for the corporation with which he built his career. In that one meeting, he was clearly in distress. His Board had asked him to provide them with a reasonable number of employees who can safely be laid off. Besides having to let valuable people go, he was uneasy because cutting employee costs seemed to have been the only option being discussed to counter a changing technology environment.

New technologies have an undeniable impact on business models, products, and workforces. They provide productivity gains and innovation potential. We devour news about AI’s most recent stunning achievements. We are horrified by stories about large layoffs of yet another industrial giant with an obsolete product because their strategic decisions were oh so wrong.

That’s easy to say in hindsight. What has not become clear is how we best inform our thinking, which occurs before we make strategic decisions. Our VUCA world keeps spinning ever faster, with ostensible options seemingly coming and going daily. The results of foresight as a structured approach are becoming more volatile. How could Andy gain transparency about the real impact of new technologies on his workforce? How could he expand his Board’s perception of their strategic options and discover all the choices at their disposal?

New technologies have an impact on every company

We have seen this before. There is probably not a single corporation in the world unaware of the impact that new technologies will have on its business. The problem lies in achieving transparency in this complex situation and gaining visibility of the impact in the various parts of a company.

You’ll need to work with real, individual company data so as not to depend on a crystal ball. So, we fanned out and talked to subject matter experts in the technologies that will shape our century, with economists, sociologists, and even organizational psychologists. And we found a way forward.

Here’s what doesn’t work

We encountered skepticism towards purely software-based approaches. There are doubts that a machine learning process cannot properly inform our thinking because the data patterns it detects don’t necessarily mean one can act on them. There also exist comprehensive doubts that an AI — even coded by world-class programmers — can lead to actionable results if they don’t have a deep understanding of how your industry actually works. AI needs specific instructions and parameters, but the interplay between different influencing factors is not the same in all industries, and even more so when discussing individual companies. After all, you can’t make strategic decisions based on general averages.

Here’s what your foresight model needs to achieve for you

Contrary to general opinion, our decades-long experience in HR consulting has made us less complacent and more entrepreneurial over the years. We had to come up with a solution. So, we started developing our proprietary model with three commands in mind. Anything less wouldn’t solve the problem.

· Develop company-specific foresight based on a company’s reality, data, and existing initiatives.

· Develop actionable results based on designing and comparing various business cases.

· Develop reliable results with a transparent framework.

Our three secret ingredients

First, we developed our Level of Work Matrix © into Work Impact Profiles, built on the best practices of job architecture design and deep knowledge of how technology can impact individual jobs. We use job data because it provides a reliable and readily available description of your reality today as a starting point. We fill the matrix with your organizational structure and anonymized data of your organization’s members.

Second, our data model breaks down the exposure to disruption by new technologies for every position in your organization. It provides a clear visualization of a complex environment and enables an easy understanding of the exposure to disruption existing in your company (i.e., by unit, geography, or seniority level).

Third: The most important secret ingredient is YOU. No one better understands your business than the people in your company. Your people have the expert knowledge and experience needed to adapt a model in its details to your specific reality. Together, we discuss the first set of results and adapt the data model to your individual situation. This not only improves the foresight to be used for your strategic decisions, but it also gets your people on board for the decisions you make.

Why so simple

Well, it sounds simple, but some work is always involved. Our approach is a transparent process rather than a magic black box. With our model and your expertise, we achieve the transparency necessary to clearly understand the mid- and long-term impact of new technologies on your business reality and your workforce.

We went through this process together with Andy. We involved various of his colleagues and compared different scenarios and (existing) transformation initiatives. Andy provided his Board with a larger set of choices and actionable, clearly visualized and easily understandable options.

We don’t have the details of how Andy’s presentation went.

But when he asked us with a broad smile to develop a plan for reskilling part of their workforce, he seemed particularly content.