Where do employees fit in the 'Future of Work' puzzle? Will they be moved around as pawns or will they rule the organisation? What will employee experience look like in a world where technology is likely to take over most of what humans do? Organisations know there is much to be gained from customer centricity, but, will they focus on employee centricity as their ‘purpose-capital’? Only time will tell. For now, we wait and watch. Or, speak to leaders like Anand Verma, founder and CEO of Brilliant Basics, an Infosys company, who believe that organisations will have to tilt the axis in favour of employees, even at the risk of profits and shareholders.
Brilliant Basics focuses on how to leverage digital technologies to make people’s life better. Five years into operation, Brilliant Basics was acquired by Infosys and today Anand Verma runs the company as the design and innovation arm of Infosys in Europe and the Middle East. One of his big focus areas is to build a global practice around employee experience and the ‘Future of Work’ for Infosys globally.
What does the Future of Work mean to you?
If you look at the history of business, employees had to adapt to managers and managers had to adapt to organisations. My belief is in the future it will be the reverse, managers and organisations will have to adapt to employees. A lot is changing with employees being social and mobile and digital natives. They are not stuck to one job forever, which means the future of work has to change too. That is one perspective.
The second is that employees are also digital consumers. They are consuming digital products and services in their day to day lives. They are social, mobile and connected. There is a belief I have that a lot of organisations are not digital enough to serve those digital consumers. So, I see the future of work as being far more digital, far more automated, and as the workforce is evolved and evolving, employees will expect the same kind of experience they get outside the workplace. I think organisations have to move forward like the world and the consumers have.
The third part that I am really excited about is this. I think the future of work will be driven by the following:
Physical Work Experience
Digital Work Experience
Emotional Work Experience
These three pillars have to come together to define the Future of Work that is getting disrupted by digital as well as a new generation of workforce.
What have been the three most interesting aspects of your job, you did not imagine you would do 10 years back?
From my own perspective, with people, come challenges and opportunities.
From our own example as a rapidly growing company, as the founder, I worry about how people will understand the DNA of the company and their on boarding happens in a more seamless fashion. How do I ensure that the culture of the company is intact? How do I ensure that we give them tools that allow for a work life balance.
The second part is, as we get into newer geographies, how do I ensure that the connectivity of values is consistent.
The third part is how do I think about retention? People today, want opportunities to prosper and grow. Within retention, a huge aspect is performance management (we do not wait for annual appraisals anymore). How do I ensure the story we tell the world about Brilliant Basics is authentic.
To sum up, before it was more taken for granted; today you have to work hard for your employees and create value for them, so they are able to create value in return.
The way we measure our business puts purpose as top priority followed by product, people and profits. What we have realised is every aspect of our lives is disrupted by technology and an organisation with a purpose and core values will take the lead.
What could the future of customer experience (both offline and online) look like?
Let me begin by telling you how the world is changing. The world is changing dramatically. Digitalisation is rapidly disrupting every industry, content consumption is changing dramatically. Artificial intelligence is changing, data is driving content and specialisation. The other thing that is happening in our lives, is that, we are spending 6-8 hours a day on our mobile phone. We are seeing technology creating a rise of consumerism and deeper entrepreneurial culture. Which means that, we are also impacting how experiencing is changing.
Therefore the way experience is changing is that we are beginning to design for customer centricity or journey, not so much technology. We have a unique process on design thinking & doing in the company and we take it to the next level by what we call conversation to creation (C2C), which has been used to define design and innovation for many global brands. How do we bring the best of customer centricity and design solutions that can get launched in a market within 3-4 months, like a startup. Gone are the days when you can take 3-4 years to launch something new. Also, gone are the days when you say AI is going to solve all problems, but we are talking about how you bring UI (user interface) on top of AI to solve “real” user problems. We are looking at how designers can be coders and how coders can be designers. We are looking at a mind-set of human experience first. In our design process, we always think mobile-first and that helps us tweak to other devices. Emergence of technology has given us the opportunity to create, what we call, the outside-the-browser experience. Example: Use NLP (natural language processing) for chat bots or voice controlled experiences give us great opportunities to simplify tasks and give us opportunities to leverage technologies to make our lives a little better.
Why does every industry require design thinking and how can we prepare for a design-led future?
Technology is becoming far more automated and commoditised. What is creating true differentiation among organisations is customer experience – because that is where the brand is built. My view is that a design led future is quite bright, for every vertical I can forecast. We work for every vertical you can think of, manufacturing, oil & gas, finance, retail, telcos. Almost every organisation is now using design-led thinking to first of all understand the problem they are trying to solve. The problem among technology led organisations is that they have already thought of the solution. So, with a design led organisation, they have to define the problem before coming up with the solution. Design does not just mean a great looking app or website. It is much more about solving real life problems.
The other thing is that the definition of design is evolving. If you look at things like content, user experience, media and architecture – all of these things are coming under the design bucket. Which means that we are looking at a new category of design being defined.
People like Elon Musk, Jonathan Mildenhall, Angela Ahrendts are all designers in their own way. They are looking at business design, product design, of course technology design (which is a big part of this design). The one thing that is consistent, is that technology is a big part of the design, but the way they are going about it is very much led by the problem definition, rapid iteration of the product, launching the product and getting the data and insights from the consumer and iterating the product from the back again. That, is a design led organisation I am excited about and we will see more of it soon.
This will also make the ‘Future of Work’ more exciting. Let me give you an example. There was this one company that had 10,000 .pdf documents to define their global policies. Imagine, if a working mother is looking out for maternity benefits, there is no way for her to get to the data easily. That is not user experience. Imagine, if they had a voice or chat bot, that does all the work in the background and gives them the information. That to me is a small example to solve challenges employees/ organisations face.
“Creatives fall in love with their solutions but our designers fall in love with the problems.”
What does the future of employee experience look like to you and how can companies retain employees?
This is something that bothers me as the CEO of my own company. I think two things will happen. Some of the millennials, will become like me, and will look for work life balance and consistency in their lives. They will want to be loyal to a brand and create more lateral experiences for themselves. More like 5-6 year kind of stints. I don’t see being in an organisation forever being brand loyalty. You can work there for a short period of time and still be loyal. That is one contingent of my thinking.
The other one, I think, if you create a purpose-led organisation, there will be people who will come in and out. They want experiences, variety and exploration.
It is not one or the other. It goes together.
If you create a purpose led organisation for the employees, the world, shareholders etc., loyalty becomes a by-product of that. I worry for startups sometimes, they grow exponentially, go IPO really quickly and move at great speed. Many a times, they have not constructed the value framework.
For an organisation, it does not matter if it has a 100 thousand employees or a 100 employees, if it is purpose-led, loyalty follows automatically.
The top three skills of the future.
Be a street-smart, problem solver. The only thing that worries me, is when somebody has only a single skillset. In a changing world, being adaptable is going to be the biggest opportunity.
The only constant in our world is change, which means, you have to be creative.
How can large organisations create and build culture?
It is not a one year project. It is a 5-10 year project. The only thing I recommend is to start with how a startup does – look at a minimum viable idea, turn the organisation as a product and iterate that product. Large organisations are like a big tanker, sailing at a particular speed, but how can you transform that into a number of speed boats, that have the agility and boldness. We have something called aligned autonomy in our organisation, where the power is distributed to several individuals, who align to a particular strategy or direction. That allows people to move at high speed, than expecting everybody to run at the same pace. What I mean by that is, aligned autonomy helps speed up organisational behaviour, culture, and the way it works. They are all inter-related.
What are you concluding thoughts?
The ‘Future of Work’ is such an important and timely topic. It cannot just be the CHRO’s job, it must be on the CEO’s, Board’s, everybody’s agenda. If they can focus on that and think of it as a value generator, and not a cost prohibitive, to me it could be a great takeaway. In my view, what we did and are doing to consumers has to happen to employees and not just a cost saving exercise but revenue and margin generative opportunity.
Published Date: Mar 27, 2019 04:03 PM | Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 09:03 AM IST