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The rise and fall of industries and professions

17 September 2020 Myra Knoesen

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has created the urgent need to adopt innovative technologies, we were reminded during the 2020 EBnet 3-D Conference that we need to adapt or die.

Henry Biddlecombe, Co-manager of Anchor BCI Global Technology Fund, said he came across a fictitious survey that asked, ‘who led the digital transformation of your company’? To which the options were, the CEO, CTO or Covid-19.

This got him thinking and he said, “the truth is, in most instances, it was Covid-19. Companies have adopted technology on a scale today, that would never have been the case before the pandemic.”

The cusp of a digital revolution

In Alvin Toffler's ‘Future Shock’ book, one of the driving themes of Toffler's work was that knowledge would become the driving force behind powerful societies. Toffler wrote that those people, institutions, and civilizations that failed to keep up with the pace of new information would quickly face decline.

Notably, fewer jobs today require employees to be physically present at the office. Toffler predicted this and the rise of home offices, writing that homes would one day resemble "electronic cottages" that would allow people greater work-life balance and a richer family life.

“Many of the characteristics of the changes discussed 50 years ago are relevant today, ranging from the disposable nature of goods, the rapid cycle of product innovation resulting in designs becoming rapidly obsolete, through to the rise and fall of industries and professions due to disruptive technological change. The rate of change is far greater than it was 50 years ago and is accelerating into the future,” said Viresh Maharaj, Managing Executive at Sanlam Corporate.

“We often hear about the fourth industrial revolution and the broad impact of Covid-19 will accelerate the pace of the fourth industrial revolution. In our view we are on the cusp of a digital revolution, driven by the need for cyber resilience, cost efficiencies, individualizations and customer experience. This is not changed for the sake of change, but in pursuit of member centricity, a captured vest by relevance, security continuity, value for money, engagement and satisfaction,” said Maharaj.

The institutes that embrace technological change and combine this with human empathy, according to Maharaj, will be the most effective in meeting the needs of members.

Working in a remote environment

On the same note, as many funds, administrators and product suppliers now have a lot of their workforce working remotely, they are grappling with the problem of how to effectively manage them.

How do you track and manage employees and ensure they are delivering value in a way that can still live up to brand promises?

In breaking down what it takes for people to work in a remote environment, in this sudden and unprepared experience, keynote speaker Jeremy Swartz, Vice President at TransparentBusiness, shared lessons and strategies for people in business, using three elements to thrive in a remote world.

Ways to thrive in a remote world

“The first component is replication… replicating the environment that we used to work in, in the real world, into a digital space,” said Swartz.

“Leaders need to recreate or replicate the workspace into a digital workplace. This enables an office space where you can, for example, share and connect as much as possible, and be a part of the team. The key point here is that we do not want people to feel isolated as they work from home. It is great to put rules down to encourage a culture of connecting. We need to feel connected, and like we are part of something bigger. It is about the importance of human beings feeling comfortable and connected, regardless of whether it is in a digital economy or face to face. What you also do not want to have is a digital environment where people are coming and going, and there is no structure. So, find a creative way to replicate the workplace in a digital format,” he said.

“The next key thing is to automate tasks and ensure that when people are working from home, there is a very clear mandate in terms of who is doing what. This is to make sure everyone has a clear plan on what they should be doing on a daily basis, to create structure” added Swartz.

“A critical function of leadership is identifying areas for automation, whether this is in terms of customer interaction, content creation etc., and align that with an automated task. There should be good structure of processes to follow, like a calender of tasks for daily processes to be complete by individuals. You also want to remove as many manual processes as possible… asynchronous communication like shared documents helps here. This will enable leadership to identify great insights for improvement in productivity etc.,” continued Swartz.

“The final component is to connect and not feel isolated. Some companies have virtual tours, virtual office lunches, virtual exercise classes etc., to maintain that connection and have people meet and interact,” said Swartz.

Swartz said, “take a step back and see what tasks you can automate and where you can replicate a virtual experience. See how you can connect and make sure people are still feeling part of the team and part of the culture. By doing this, we can thrive in a global economy, and during the pandemic.”

The world has not ended

Quoting Toffler, Maharaj said, “Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a ‘super-industrial society’. This change overwhelms people. He argued that the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaves people disconnected and suffering from ‘shattering stress and disorientation’ - future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock.”

He concluded with Toffler’s words, “Now is the time to learn, unlearn and relearn so that we can provide an ecosystem of support through to members.”

Writer’s Thoughts:
Change is happening… fast! While riding the wave of Covid-19, many have felt overwhelmed, disconnected, anxious and stressed… because change overwhelms people. However, as Swartz pointed out, we do not need to feel like the world has ended and that everything has changed for the worst. There are great opportunities and ways of leveraging off what is happening. Do you agree? If you have any questions please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me - [email protected]

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