Workforce 2020: What to Expect

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Workforce 2020: What to Expect

Mahesh Gupta, National Manager, Borderless Networks Sales, Cisco India & SAARC

Elroy D'Souza from Goa works for a retail firm as distribution and marketing manager for the region. Elroy begins his day by first checking his go- with- me communications device (he wears on his forearm) for messages, both personal and business (text, voice and videos) that have accumulated overnight. He then checks his personal homepage and switches to his professional dashboard, which gives him secure access to company resources ranging from a concierge function with GPS followme capabilities to a satellite uplink available through the IP connection.

Elroy has a choice. He can work from his company's local office, work from home, or walk to a nearby DigiCenter, which offers amenities like an air-conditioned work area and high-resolution video conferencing (telepresence) capsules that provide a wraparound communications experience.

Elroy keeps in close contact with his customers and partners (small-business people) most of whom now have wireless computer connections and cell phones. His go-with-me device offers a language translation function for communicating with those who are not fluent in English. Elroy reports to a manager who acts as his mentor and periodically evaluates his work. His go-with-me device helps Elroy get feedback about his work and turn online for advice and counseling.

Workplace 2020

Elroy is a member of Workforce 2020, a globalized, virtualized cohort of workers, whose native environment is the Internet and whose identity is being shaped by the generational, technical, economic, and social market transitions taking place nearly everywhere. Several socio-economic trends like globalization and demographic changes are also contributing to the transformations in the workplace for Elroy and his peers.

Globalization: - Corporates today are managing a diverse workforce, handling cultural sensibilities and catering to a varied clientele across the globe. The rapid pace of globalization has made the workplace location-agnostic and trends such as Bring Your own Device(BYOD) are empowering the employees to access information on the go, through their own set of devices while expecting the organization to support them.

According to the regional (APAC – India and China) chapter of Cisco's IBSG Horizons BYOD Study: Global Trends study, Indian firms have one of the highest device to employee ratios - 2.8 connected devices per knowledge worker- second only to the United States. By 2014, this number is expected to jump to 3.2.

The government has played the role of enabler to create an environment which is conducive to globalization by formulating liberal economic policies, encouraging entrepreneurship and fostering innovation. In India, the recent FDI approvals in the aviation and retail space are a case in point.

Demographics: - An important trend running parallel with globalization is the changing demographics and the effects of these changes on the workforce. Over the last few years, the average age of knowledge workers has reduced significantly; the next gen employee is young, smart, ambitious and extremely tech savvy.

According to Cisco's 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR) 90% of Gen Y (college students and young professionals aged 18 to 30) globally check their smartphones for updates in email, texts, and social media sites, often before they get out of bed. For current and prospective employers, this is meaningful because it demonstrates that the workforce of the future is more agile, informed, and responsive than any previous generation.

Changing employee profile also means that IT managers are constantly dealing with the rising technology challenges and demands of a next-gen work environment. With increased consumerization of end point devices, it is critical for them to enable employee device choice, support and on-board employees with connected, personal devices. From a workplace standpoint, there is also a need to provide secure access to the corporate network, protect data and prevent information loss. The key is to build an end-to-end infrastructure framework which encompasses highly secure connectivity, trouble-free management, unification of network, provides seamless experience and is easy to scale.

Organizations today regard their employees as not only human resources, but also human capital that will add to the intellectual capital of the workplace. Futurists predict that by 2020 the appreciation of human capital - both building employee value and attaching greater value to each employee- will become not just an organizational aspiration, but also an economic necessity.

Technology: - The definition of work and the workforce has changed drastically over the last few years. Technology is one of the key factors which have driven this transformation. Collaboration technologies, universal access, and social networking are changing the way business is done; traditional hierarchies are making way to democratized work styles and transparent leadership styles.

The Internet effect along with growth in mobile communications has been another contributor for change in the workplace. Cisco's VNI report corroborates this fact and reports that mobile data traffic has seen a 70% increase during the last year. Mary Meeker, Analyst turned Venture Capitalist, dubbed 'Queen of the Internet' recently published the annual Internet trends report which stated that internet traffic through mobiles is quickly surpassing traffic on the desktop.

The effect of the mobile phone revolution is being felt globally and organizations are continually evaluating available technologies, deciding what current mix of tools will best enable workforce to increase efficiency, propagate useful ideas, and contribute to collective intelligence. Going forward gesture-based interfaces, wearable computers, and universal language translators along with time-shifting technologies that permit workers residing in various time zones to collaborate more easily could become norm.

Employee driven future

Workplace environments are changing as are employment demands (becoming more about what employees do and less about where they do it). With a laptop, a Wi-Fi connection and a mobile phone, knowledge workers can do their jobs virtually anywhere, making the idea of "going to work" increasingly archaic.

Such a work environment needs a network framework that allows organizations to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, business needs, and user expectations. The key is to create a connected unified experience which enables the workforce to increase its efficiency, propagate useful ideas, and contribute to the organization's collective intelligence.

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