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November, 7th 2009

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Following is a guest post from Matt English, a partner in IBM’s Global Business Services division in Australia:

The workplace as we know it today is about to change. In fact it needs to change. The availability of technology has created an abundance of opportunity for new processes – smarter processes. An aging workforce and customer expectation means change is becoming a necessity. Organisations need to work smarter.

In Australia, the aging population will in the very near future lead to a reduced taxation pool and skills shortages. In fact, by as early as next year (2010), for every ten people leaving the Australian workforce, there will be only eight to replace them. By 2020, for every ten people leaving the Australian workforce, there will be only six to replace them. With a reduced talent pool, businesses will need to do more with less.

A large majority of generation Y is also now part of the Australian workforce, and over recent years organisations have deliberated how to cope with this generation which is culturally different – a generation which thrives online in social networks – they are the first generation to have a natural relationship with technology as we know it today.

Digitally aware employees entering the workforce are natural proponents of more collaborative and efficient working practices based on networking tools and other web 2.0 applications. They are natural collaborators and have a natural aptitude for technology which enables information sharing and sourcing.

So what can be learnt from this generation? And as more digitally aware employees enter the workforce, how will organisations evolve?

A recent survey conducted by IBM found that two thirds of people can’t find the help they know exists that would enable them to do their jobs better; two hours per day is spent looking for the right information and expertise; and in fact, 5.3 hours are wasted per employee, per week due to inefficient processes. 42 percent of decisions are reached with the wrong input, at least once per week.

However, organisations that work smart enhance and benefit from their people’s expertise, enterprise and creativity. Thanks to the environment we live in today, workplaces have the ability to be mobile, connected, and clever, creating efficient processes through technology. The way organisations and individuals create, use and share information will transform organisations, to make them work smarter. For digitally aware employees, this is second nature. At IBM we take advantage of this skill set, and our Generation Y employees are mentoring older employees with 20+ years in the workplace on how to embrace new social media channels and tools.

So what does the workplace of the future look like?

Future workplace trends include:

Processes will become more simple
As generation Y joins generation X in the workforce, a dominantly technology aware group will push for the use of technology to simplify work processes. Older workers will develop their knowledge to meet the demands of a new working environment

Offices will be more mobile
The growing use of wireless mobile phones, high-speed broadband connection, and personal digital assistants (PDAs), a fixed physical office location is no longer an absolute requirement for an organisation. The number of employees working from home will increase.

Workplaces will become increasingly global
With offices becoming more mobile, companies will be able to hire from all corners of the globe to get the right fit. The number of employees working from global locations, thanks to collaborative technologies, will increase.

Four-day work weeks
Technology which enables greater efficiency and productivity will also enable individuals to work smarter – work which once took 40 hours to complete could take 32 hours.

Innovation will be spurred
The move toward more open, collaborative and cooperative models encourages networks, and enables greater thought sharing. The type of open conversation enabled by collaborative processes encourages a cross-fertilisation of ideas, and innovation.

Workplaces will work smarter
Businesses will need to adapt to survive. In fact, technology has created a society in which businesses are expected to adapt, to respond dynamically. People want to work and communicate in real time, anytime, from anywhere – and they can.

A Harvard business study showed that organisations with a culture of collaboration had productivity levels up to 250% greater than competitors with a culture of competition.

Collaboration allows organisations to discover, tap and combine expertise and information in time and in context, while the connected workplace enables round-the-clock resources – this is smart work.

IBM’s Smart Work Summits going on right now in Sydney and Melbourne are discussing how organisations around the world and locally are transforming to manage their processes more efficiently, and to help their people work smarter. Peter Sheahan, Global Business Analyst and Generation and Change Guru will also be speaking on generational change, workforce trends, and building the enterprise of the future. Find out more here about the summits. Registration is free. You can also follow the events on Twitter: #IBMSWS.

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Hi Matt,

You have clearly explained how technology is advancing day by day and what will business shape into in the near future. This blog will also be of great use to beginners.

Posted by: Australia Biz Opp
November 9, 2009
7:58 pm

Four-day work weeks? It is still puzzling me, as technology helps us work faster but we still have to work in a long hours. I used to work in engineering cunsultant firm where engineering drawing (hand drawing) used to days to finish. Now we’ve got CAD tools but all of us still stay up till late evening many days a week.

Is Four-day work weeks really going to happen?

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