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In our last blog, on community based healthcare, we touched upon the use of digital – how it will change the way service users manage their own healthcare and, indeed, how healthcare professionals do their jobs.

Across every sector new technologies have changed, and will continue to change, the way we work. Whether that change is powerful enough to alter business models, service models or merely alter the way we communicate, the world is undeniably embracing technological innovations faster and faster.

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Earlier this year the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) published a report titled “The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030”. It explores the trends which are most likely to shape future jobs and skills, giving an indication of what particular competencies will be needed to work effectively in ever-changing digitally enhanced professional environments.

We live in a global economy – internal teams are no longer all hunched around one bank of desks or using the same wifi connection, they are distributed around the world, working together seamlessly despite being thousands of miles apart. In the 2015 World’s Most Admired Companies survey by Fortune, 51% of respondents saw globalisation as one of the top 3 mega-trends impacting their workforce planning in 2015. 86% of WMAC respondents also indicated that their leaders are currently effective in managing with a global perspective. Companies everywhere are thinking globally – they are gaining insight and experience in places and people who are culturally different.

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Globalisation has a key ingredient working away behind the scenes, making all of it possible. Digital. If you’re sitting right now in the UK and want to contact AuPony Expressstralia it is instantaneous (Be aware of the time difference though, you might wake them up). To send an email to Tokyo all you need to do is click a button. To have a face to face video conference with 10 people in New York you can pick up an iPad and your tiny talking image is beamed thousands of miles to the boardroom.

Less than 200 years ago in 1860 three businessmen founded a company called the Pony Express. The Pony Express was a blazing fast mail service crossing the North American continent from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast. And by “blazing fast” I mean painfully slow by our standards. A horseback relay across prairies, plains, deserts and mountains of the Wild West delivered a message in a mere 10 days.

Nowadays we can do things a lot, lot faster. In 2013 researchers at the University of Southampton produced optical fibres that can transfer data at 99.7% of the speed of light – (299,792,448 metres per second). That means data can now do the entire Pony Express route to deliver mail 100 times in just 1 second.

The potential for digital expansion is enormous and, as companies seek to grow faster, more responsive and flexible in this area, they need their workforces to do the same. The UKCES identifies “changing work environments shaped by information and communications technology (ICT), outsourcing, internationalisation and the need for greater flexibility” as one of the key trends shaping future jobs and skills. Companies making use of cutting edge digital technologies to streamline and optimise working processes such as remote working, instant chat, social media and global coverage need to be abreast of the key skills their workforce needs to develop in parallel.

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UKCES, The Future of Work

What are the specific competencies each company needs their employees to display in order to balance the competing requirements of flexibility and productivity? Many of these will be unique to certain industries and among certain roles, however there are definite constants to be identified in terms of key traits for effective, flexible and productive working.

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Is your organisation and its employees flexible enough?

One of these is resilience. Higher work intensity and an increasingly technological component in (almost) all occupations requires an emotional capacity to adapt to stress, adversity and challenging times. As the world of work becomes more flexible, employees are expected to shoulder more and more responsibility for skills development. They need to display self-management, as well as core business skills.

With flexibility comes interconnectedness. For organisations to become highly adaptable they will need to be network and system oriented. Employees (and employers) will require the competencies to work across disciplines to collaborate virtually and physically. There is an imperative on businesses to collaborate around skills development, to ensure and protect their supply of workforce skills and talent. Such skills include effective communication and interpersonal skills beyond organisational boundaries towards a more joined up system-thinking approach. There needs to be a focus on adaptive skills development and self-guided learning. These might be qualities such as dependability, ability to work both independently and in a team and, of course, familiarity with technology.

To disregard this crucial need for skills development is to leave the organisation vulnerable to unpredictable change. The globalised, digital world is increasingly fast-paced and companies are becoming more and more responsive in the way that they achieve high performance and tailor their solutions for customers. The future of work is a global, seamless network of relationships – don’t let your organisation be the Pony Express in a world of light-speed business.

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