Resiliency During Uncertain Times: Resilient Leaders Will Lead Societal Change by Reimagining the Future of Work

By Hassan Khan  |  June 18, 2021

Resiliency During Uncertain Times: Resilient Leaders Will Lead Societal Change by Reimagining the Fu

Technology leaders today are in a unique position to help their organizations reimagine the future of work, of the workforce, and of the workplace. We are at an inflection point where technological capabilities are ready to transform every facet of work as we know it. Resilient leaders will comprehend that and provide the vision that the moment demands by embracing technological tools and innovation to propel their organizations into the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled resilient leaders to shift their attention from the strategic long view to the immediate mission, find creative ways to get the job done and keep their organizations running. It is time now to pivot, to take the lessons learned during this crisis and use them to reimagine the future. By pivoting successfully, resilient leaders will create resilient organizations.

That this pivot will revolve around technology is evident. Embracing new technologies helped many organizations sustain themselves internally and externally throughout the pandemic. Leaders are now poised to accelerate the impact that new technologies have on their organizations moving into the future.

The pandemic accelerated job displacement and unemployment trends initiated by advances in technology and automation, exacerbating social inequities embedded in our pre-COVID economic landscape. Yet the dynamics reshaping the nature of work offer an opportunity for visionary leaders to change course in a fundamental and broadly impactful way.

Rather than signaling the beginning of the end for human workforce – as is widely feared – new technologies will give rise to whole new classes of jobs for humans, ‘super jobs’ that will allow people to play to their strengths and create significantly more value for their organizations.

Through automation, robotics, cloud and cognitive computing, the work done by humans will fundamentally shift. By offering virtualization and enabling the extended enterprise, the workforce will transform. And by enabling collaboration, cloud-based services and remote work, the workplace will alter forever.

The good news is that these major technology shifts are either underway – or should be – for many organizations. The key is to enable present workarounds and use this as an opportunity to shape the future ways of working, which are more efficient, effective and collaborative, beyond the boundaries of the function and the enterprise.

Technology leaders in higher education institutions have a special role to play in the coming transformation as they apply innovation to a learning environment that will shape a new generation’s views of the workplace, the workforce and work itself. Likewise, in the nonprofit world the most resilient and visionary leaders will help lead the way by embracing technologies that enable them to leverage their organizations’ resources to build and strengthen their missions.

These leaders have the opportunity to execute critical change and technological transformation across the following key dimensions:

  • Being methodical and disciplined in automating manual processes. Of course, automation of key processes will reduce dependency on humans and improve quality for manual, error-prone processes. The biggest and most obvious opportunity is for CIOs to identify ways to automate technology systems and processes. Almost all traditional IT operations could be candidates for autonomic computing, which means taking automation to the next level by building technology environments based upon virtualized assets, containers, and advanced management and monitoring tools that seamlessly move workloads among traditional on-premises stacks, private cloud platforms and public cloud services. Autonomics also has the potential to re-engineer business processes to increase efficiency, quality, speed and reliance on humans.

  • Advocating a cloud-first approach and aggressively migrating to cloud services. The advantages of cloud-based services and infrastructure were brought into stark relieve by the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide the convenience of accessing services from anywhere, anytime and from virtually any device. New workflows can be pushed out quickly to enable self-service capabilities and on-the-fly process and configuration changes. Cloud-based service providers also have the elasticity of scaling solutions, such as bandwidth and computing capacity, based on needs – a critical capability especially when the scope and scale of a crisis is not known. But longer term, cloud-based solutions are critical for organizations to achieve quicker time to market, creating self-service solutions for business and providing sandboxes for experimentation and innovation.

  • Pushing virtual collaboration as the default. The last time organizations invested heavily in collaboration tools was about a decade ago in response to the crisis created by the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Since then, collaboration tools have improved tremendously, and the cost for bandwidth and hardware has dropped while the quality has improved for videoconferencing. Mobile devices are more functional and collaboration platforms are more intuitive. Investigating and investing in these tools will not only be good risk mitigation during a crisis, but also could allow for easier collaboration, quicker turnaround times and cost savings as a result of less travel.

  • Envisioning new business opportunities and modes of working. The COVID-19 pandemic already has helped leaders rethink established paradigms around physical presence. Higher education is ripe for this mindset change. Physical presence may not be a requirement to deliver consulting services or to take a course at a university or college. Not only should institutions invest in remote work capabilities, they also should utilize virtual presence as a springboard to create new business models.

Our new normal presents an opportunity to recalibrate traditional workforce development models that recognize the long-term return on investment in talent, skills and people, resulting in enhanced opportunity and social prosperity. Addressing these issues involves creating partnerships between workers and employers, as well as educators who can provide the tools to prepare for the ever-shifting needs of the new economy.

Revising this framework requires broader ecosystem participants to leverage their networks and funds to support state and regional talent development efforts. Forming cross-sectoral, regional employer collaboratives, for instance, can align competency-based curricula to short-term critical workforce needs and stretch public dollars. Educational institutions and employers must also expand their networks and get creative with leveraging other training, operational and funding-related resources. In the long term, by investing in our talent pipelines, these networks can advance an adaptable education-to-employment system that supports sustainable careers in local industries.

Progress will depend not only on strategic thinking but innovative approaches to operational funding that build on the traditional vocational and public-private models that once existed in the economy but could not adapt with the times. Technology and the rise of virtual work can help restore these types of training and partnerships. Place-based pilot programs focused on developing robust talent pipelines can use existing networks and infrastructure but adjust them to the new future of work. By implementing these pilots and scaling them up as the infrastructure evolves, resulting partnership programs can reduce costs, expand funding sources, leverage organizational strengths and create shared prosperity.

Finally, the pandemic has also drawn attention to the notion of essential jobs, such as health-care workers – not the highest paid but vital beyond doubt. Profound stress and shortages have required adaptation and shown where society’s needs are now and are likely to be in the future. As societies race to prepare for the future of work, it is increasingly vital for resilient leaders and resilient organizations to ascertain both the obligations and opportunities emerging in this shifting landscape and how we can ensure that both workers and employers can meet their own needs and those of society and the economy.

About Hassan Khan

Hassan Khan

Hassan Khan is a Principal in Marks Paneth’s Technology Services Group. Mr. Khan works collaboratively with clients’ management, audit committees and boards, and provides independent, senior-level expertise that enables executives to drive value from technology and improve business performance. Over the course of his career, he has led and delivered advisory engagements including technology governance, risk and compliance assessments; organizational reviews; board governance; benchmarking and best practices reviews; enterprise risk management (ERM); internal audits; technology... READ MORE +

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