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Digital workforce: the master plan (Part 3 of 4)

April 17, 2017 - 88 views

Digital workforce: the master plan (Part 3 of 4)

Digital workforce transformation requires a master plan, as well as a rewired technology foundation that enables a holistic view of the talent pool.

Third of a four-part series.

As discussed in my previous blog, a depth chart can help businesses more effectively manage the digital skills and potential of their current workforce. The depth chart is an essential part of the overall master plan for digital workforce transformation.

Foundational to the master plan is what we call an “employee Code Halo:” the unique virtual identities created with each online interaction or transaction. As employees interact with business systems, connected devices, customers, other employees and partners, they build a digital record of their work histories, subject matter expertise, perspectives, work styles and experiences. This information ensures businesses are continuously updated on the skills and interests of each team member.

Organizations can use employee Code Halos to steer the right work to the right person at the right time, in much the same way that Amazon uses customer data and algorithms to individualize the shopping experience.  This is absolutely critical because in the digital work architecture, the skills and availability of individual workers need to be continually matched with the ever-changing work that needs to be done.

The key elements of the master plan include:

  • A full understanding of existing talent, informed by a wide variety of data sources. Ongoing assessment and redirection of the workforce cannot wait for formal employee evaluations. In addition to employee Code Halos, data can also be gathered from work management systems, HR/talent management functions and external service providers to jump start digital talent sourcing. If work is crowdsourced via large numbers of virtual employees, developing Code Halos can be challenging; in this case, platforms can be used to gather the necessary information, such as detailed histories of assignments and how well each worker performed them.
  • Human-to-machine workflows. The master plan should incorporate human-to-machine workflows that make it easier for work to get done. Within our own organization, we’ve seen tremendous productivity improvements and cost reductions by digitizing workflows for Agile teams. Automated systems can help teams identify available work locations, track assignments, collaborate, receive special instructions and hand off work products to others.
  • Software “robots” to automate routine tasks and enable human-to-machine workflows. Within our company, some teams have improved productivity using Amazon’s Alexa (the voice interface to its wireless Web access devices) to interact, analyze electronic project assets and administer project workflows through voice recognition and associated database analytics.
  • Workforce analytics. One of our insurance clients has developed an analytics model to identify candidates for various tasks, using information about available skills, current allocation of work, staff utilization, training status and stated interests of employees. Another client in the technology space uses our crowdsourcing platform to select, hire and administer talent for development and testing. By combining this platform with a cloud-based development and test environment, the client has sped time to market and improved the customer experience. To achieve such results, many companies will need to improve their workforce data management, including ongoing tracking of skills, needs and capabilities across multiple environments, including legacy platforms.
  • Fluid, connected processes that democratize decision-making. Organizations need to break down silos and redistribute decision-making and accountability to encourage experimental business processes and innovative thinking. One way to do this is by forming smaller functional work teams that cut across business lines and market segments.
  • An internal initiative to help manage disparate teams. A center of excellence or digital transformation office can help promote collaboration and knowledge exchange among these disparate teams, as well as break down silo mentalities. In addition to ensuring accountability, discipline and communication among the teams, this group can host events such as collaboration forums and hackathons for digital and legacy workers to improve morale and drive process innovation.
  • A knowledge-sharing platform that incorporates open APIs to encourage use of third-party platforms and data. Such a platform will empower workers to more quickly iterate and experiment with a new customer experience or product innovation. The platform must be continually refined to ensure all stakeholders have the data required to make proper decisions. Establishing common social/collaboration platforms can encourage internal collaboration.
  • External talent “clusters.” Assess external talent with a deep awareness of the gaps identified in your depth charts. Utilize both internal and external labs and innovation groups to assess whether, and how well, new products, services or business models will scale. Organizations can also consider partnering with or investing in academic institutions to grow new digital skills.

Building the Technology Foundation

Most businesses will need to rethink their technology foundation to execute on the master plan. For example, while traditional workforce management platforms are adequate for assessing short-term individual performance and compensation, they don’t provide the holistic view required to make strategic decisions about enterprise-wide and long-term workforce staffing, training and retention.

Digital workforce tracking systems today must instead reflect the distributed, and sometimes virtual, nature of today’s workforce. They need to enable continual updates about performance and work quality, including input from systems that track the rapid work iterations of Agile development activities. For example, if the evaluation of an employee’s work in one Scrum shows rapid skill improvements in developing user interfaces, or an increased willingness to share best coding practices with others, those changes need to be quickly noted (and shared) to allow other managers to quickly put those skills to work on other projects.

Integrating such data will require intelligent interfaces linked to the discrete workforce management tools that are often scattered across the organization. This level of knowledge sharing also requires increased collaboration among all the managers and functional units that have a stake in the ever-evolving skills of individual workers, including managers of active projects, recruiters and centers of excellence. The human resources organization must also expand its role to understand employee performance in current work projects, not just when they change jobs or join or leave the organization.

In my next post, I’ll talk about taking a more digital approach to training the workforce, as well as how to ensure employee engagement in the digital transformation process.

This is the third of a four-part series on digital workforce transformation. For a summary of the five key ingredients of workforce transformation, see the introduction to this series. For a closer look at depth charts, see part 2.  For digital training and employee engagement, see part 4.

Anbu Muppidathi

Anbu Muppidathi is a member of Cognizant’s executive leadership team and is a senior leader in the company’s Digital Systems...


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