Shifts in Communications and the Workplace

People around a table using different forms of communication

Due to increased connectivity, communication and collaboration, there is a growing importance for businesses to adopt new digital tools. In Deloitte’s report, “Transitioning to the Future of Work and the Workplace,” C-level executives from differently sized companies worldwide were surveyed in September of 2016 regarding their views of the future work environment. Of their predictions, the most common included the changing of communication and collaboration, the changing of work methods thanks to new digital tools, millennials changing the workplace, company structure’s evolution to networks, the importance of culture, and concrete benefits coming from improvements in connectivity. The authors note that there was a consistent response across company sizes and worldwide regions for most factors.

New Tech Will Enable Better Communication

Most of the executives surveyed believed collaboration and communication will change as more efficient decision-making tools and procedures take over. As employee roles become more fluid and employees themselves work more outside of offices, 65% of leaders believe digital technologies are of great importance for collaborating and communicating. The executives surveyed expect to see more efficient decision-making tools and structures put in place and the addition of time and resources for innovation in the next two years. At the moment only 14% of executives are satisfied with their company’s current collaboration and communication, whereas 59% believe transparent communication is a priority.

Leaders see communication technology changing as well. 76% believe there will be a shift to more sophisticated tools than email for communication and collaboration. 72%  see virtual teamwork as becoming not only important but the norm, creating demand for technologies that allow not only communication but relationship building as scattered employees work in teams through their computers. As the authors point out, however, increased connectivity does not necessarily lead to increased productivity, so companies will need to adjust policies and processes to account for that.

Workforce and Roles Will Also Change

Organizations will have to adapt to generational fluctuations throughout these other changes, especially millennials, who by 2020 will make up 50% of the workforce.  Millennials want more choice in when, how, and where they work. At the same time, roughly 66% of millennials feel their employers don’t make the best use of their skill and experience, and the same percentage plan to leave their current companies within the next five years.  The authors suggest enabling networks, making work more exciting and purpose-filled, and offering more career flexibility to keep and attract millennial talent. Not to be overlooked as well are the Baby Boomers, many of whom are continuing to work into their 70s and 80s. 78% of the executives surveyed believe generational differences will hamper collaboration, so managers will have to be able to handle generational differences in their employees. 

The role of leadership will also change with the work environment. Over 40% of executives believe their roles will change from directing from above to facilitating communication and increasing team and individual autonomy, as companies move from more hierarchical structures to networks. This new role would allow leaders to know what’s going on in real time and intercede accordingly, while also creating more of a sense of personal accountability for employees. However, this would only work if the leader also acts as a role model. Leaders would also have to be careful about privacy, morale, and trust issues.

In an environment where workplaces are evolving to be more scattered and mobile, 69% of executives believe company culture is crucial, especially for larger companies. Clear communication, making employees feel included and able to accomplish goals, and development of strong networks are high priorities to attract and retain top talent. Smaller companies (with less than $50 million in revenue) did not place the same amount of emphasis on culture. However, the study’s authors believe that as a company grows past a certain point, company culture may become a more vital issue of which small but growing businesses should be aware.

Expected Outcomes

A majority of C-level executives surveyed believe improvements in collaboration and communication will have concrete benefits. 57% think these benefits will include being able to find and explore new business opportunities, and 48% believe there would be increased innovation. Other benefits would include improvement of attracting and keeping skilled employees, more cost-effectiveness, quicker time to market, better customer loyalty, more efficiently using new technologies, and increasing resilience in operations. For these benefits to be realized, however, there will need to be carefully chosen tools and decision making structures to create more efficient processes.

The Workplace of the Future

Future workplaces will need to adapt to increased connectivity by using communication via traditional and newer methods. Workplaces will become more networked, team and project-based, fluid, collaborative, and mobile. They could also become more confusing and overwhelming, however, which is why organizations will need to develop networking, collaboration, and better and different communication methods. This will involve new digital technologies and changed leadership roles.  Whichever organizations can steer through the obstacles, stand to reap a variety of benefits.


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