Future-Fit Workforce

The pandemic has changed the way we do business - but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

The global consensus is that the pandemic was bad for business. But there is very bright light at the end of the tunnel that is emerging in the shape of rapid acceleration of innovation as businesses focused on tackling one of the greatest organisational challenges of our lifetime over the last two years. Carl Bosma, Head of TMT Advisory at BDO South Africa, shares some insights into how Covid-19 has completely changed the construct of a future-fit workforce.

Future forward concepts and innovations within the digital realm have always been something that were on the cards for optimising the way businesses work. Technology advances have been driven by finding the ideal work models to suit the type of work that is going to be done, how it is going to be done, and the tools and technologies that employees are going to need to do it. But now, thanks to the pandemic, ground-breaking emerging technologies as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) have been pushed past their tipping points to transform business and the way we do it forever.

In just over two years, the Covid-19 crisis accelerated digitisation of operations by an estimated three to four years, with some sectors even suggesting that their digital transformation has been accelerated by a staggering seven years. And now that these changes have proven that a workforce of the future looks quite different today than it did in 2019, they are here to stay.

What the pandemic has revealed is that business operations no longer need to be office bound and that tech has become an integral cog in the workings of a reimagined landscape. Virtual reality innovations are now common concepts in the work place. But, as with most new concepts, when we start looking into the subject it is becomes slightly more complicated than simple ‘virtual reality’.

In order to simplify these concepts, they can be broken down into three subsets.

  1. Virtual Reality (VR)
    VR is the situation in which a user immerses themselves into a complete virtual environment, often in 3G and reacts within that environment. The virtual world entirely replaces the real one and is normally created by a using a headset that provides visual input to the brain. The environment can be enhanced by using additional sensors to monitor the user’s movements in their real space and then overlay that in a virtual environment that is being presented to them through their headset. Additional input can be provided through the use of VR gloves or earphones, for example.
  2. Augmented Reality (AR)
    AR represents the situation in which a virtual environment is imposed on top of - hence the term “augmented” - the real environment the user is currently interacting with. In most instances, the technology is provided through mobile telephones. Classic examples of this are related to home improvement in which different furniture, paint colours or tiles can be overlaid onto images of real home environments.
  3. Mixed Reality
    Mixed reality, as the name implies, is a combination of VR and AR. Microsoft’s HoloLens is probably one of the most well-known operational examples and is used to bring holograms into the real environment that users can interact with.

All of the above can be grouped under an Extended Reality construct.

The impact these types of technologies have on the advisory and audit sector can be substantial – when mainstream companies begin making use of VR and AR as part of their daily operation, the full impact of the technologies will be realised. VR, for example, allows certain basic functions such as stock counts to be performed remotely. Clients can get a real time view of what is currently in their warehouse without having to be onsite. In terms of risk assessments, clients can be taken through imposed risk assessments virtually so that an appropriate response can be strategised, tested and implemented.

Even daily tasks that have become commonplace since the onset of working from home, such as Zoom meetings, can be enhanced if providers can virtually meet their clients in digital spaces – think the Metaverse and the possibilities that this new disruptive technology will unleash. The digital age is truly on our doorstep and is set to disrupt business across the board even more than Covid-19 did. Fortunately digital transformation will have a positive ripple effect if leaders can successfully adapt.

Of course there are still jobs that require manual skills, and of course the human element must always remain a top priority. But if leaders approach their digital transformation by leveraging technology strategies that can automate tasks to improve the quality of work that humans do, allowing them to focus on more strategic, value-creating, and personally rewarding tasks, the possibilities presented by these virtual technologies have the potential to become virtually endless in their benefits to forward-thinking business leaders.

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