The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the workplace transformation under way as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Revolution is a time of disruption, which typically means both development, discomfort and adjustment. Game-changing developments can be expected and significant adjustments will need to be made. For companies and employees alike, it is a mixed bag – but one filled with immense possibility.
With progress, it is always a reality that some skills will be replaced. Major companies such as Petronas in Malaysia have already installed robots to complement humans in some key functions – for example, in the Treasury Department. Other organisations such as Novartis have implemented robot technology at manufacturing sites around the globe, in logistics and mobility roles.
As some jobs become redundant, others are created. The faster technology advances in the workplace, the greater the need for highly skilled individuals who can manage these processes. There is a need to re-train and upskill staff and employees to embrace these new ways of working. Meanwhile, new job roles in companies, for instance conversational design staff, story-boarding staff, scrum-masters, employee experience roles, digital transformation team roles, customer interface roles – to name but a few that already exist – spring up as companies plot their technology roadmaps for continued roll-outs of greater and greater technological influences in their workspaces.
The impact of AI and other technological developments means humans now no longer lead humans only – distributive leadership can now be achieved between human and machine – and traditional notions of time and space no longer apply, as remote, flexible or constant work schedules become even easier. Traditional hierarchical and linear models of leadership may no longer apply as workplace structures change, and we have to find new ways to establish trust in virtual domains.
So how do leaders navigate these changes with integrity and still provide positive, impactful and ethical leadership? Leadership and management development is also affected. Traditional topics of leadership must be examined through a new lens. How do we lead in virtual environments? How do we lead across cultures? How does technology enable teamwork? Does the traditional notion of a team still exist? How do shared leadership roles and reciprocity work in virtual spaces?
When we discuss communication and dialogue, how do we re-frame our discussions taking into account the impacts of these new technologies? How do we re-imagine our working and personal identities in this new world? Our sense of community and belonging? How do we communicate internally and externally, and how do we enrich multi-person, inter-personal dialogue with the many new avenues open to us?
These are all questions that must be grappled with as the working world continues to change, and as business schools invite debate on, and dialogue with regards to, these important challenges.
Organisations and individuals need to be adaptable, innovative and responsive, in order to stay relevant and competitive and able to meet the demands of evolving workplaces. At the UCT Graduate School of Business we understand the need for continuous refinement of our MBA programme to prepare graduates for the future of work.
That's why, in partnership with PwC, we have launched a survey to get feedback from our stakeholders on how we can continue to enhance our academic offering, most notably the MBA programme, to adapt to the rapid changes in the market.
Watch: An insightful discussion facilitated by the UCT GSB’s Segran Nair, Director of Open Academic Programmes, including myself and Dr Christina Swart-Opperman, Senior Lecturer at the UCT GSB, Maura Jarvis, Associate Director: HR Consulting at PwC, and Gerald Seegers, Senior Partner at PWC. This video highlights some of the current issues and contemporary thinking in both academia and the private sector about what constitutes the appropriate skills to meet future work requirements in organisations. It also explores topics such as how leaders can create enabling environments for supporting skills development, setting the tone for more flexible organisations, and managing change brought on by the challenges of the future of work.