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Kate Field

Global Head, Health, Safety and Well-being, BSI

With digital tech going through a huge growth stage, organisations are assessing how they best approach their digital futures, and it’s taking them to some exciting places.

Ditching analogue and embracing digitisation is not a new phenomenon in business, admits Kate Field, Global Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at BSI. “In the automotive sector, robotics have been used on production lines for decades,” she says. “In engineering, manual tools have been replaced by CNC (computer numerical control) machines.”

What digital technology will look like

Field says, “None of this is new. It’s just that digital technology is going through a huge growth stage at the moment.” There are several reasons for this. Firstly, digital tools are more affordable and accessible than ever. Secondly, the IT behind digital has improved so much that it can now be used in ways that weren’t previously possible.

What’s interesting is where digitisation is heading because it’s yet to reach its full potential. If they haven’t adopted them already, organisations are investigating how they can include big data, artificial intelligence (AI), wearable tech and augmented reality (AR) in their growth plans.

It might even mean their employees entering the metaverse (think of it as the internet in 3D), an immersive experience which allows them — or their avatars, at least — to attend meetings or training sessions while they are sitting elsewhere wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset or AR glasses. All of which are going to have a massive impact on the future of work and organisational culture.

Higher efficiency for employees

Employers may have to deal with the concerns of employees, who might worry about being replaced by increasingly smarter tech. “Yet, robotics on car production lines didn’t reduce jobs,” argues Field.

“And CNC machines still need operators and engineers. Digital improves the quality of jobs so that people don’t have to do things that are dangerous or might impact their physical or mental health.” Plus, computers can now perform menial tasks at speed, such as extracting information from large volumes of data. This frees up humans to concentrate on the things they are good at — which can’t be replicated by technology — such as critical thinking, conflict resolution and empathy.

Failure to embrace and deploy digitisation may
result in challenges hiring diverse talent.

Being responsible with your tech

Naturally, cybersecurity remains a central concern. Staff need to understand how they can be manipulated by phishing scams or that logging into work via an external network — such as the internet at their favourite coffee shop — will not be as secure as their organisation’s own system. “It’s vital that employees know the risks, especially with bad actors becoming more sophisticated,” says Field.

There are data protection issues to consider. “A lot of tech gathers data,” says Field, “Think of hi-vis jackets worn by security staff which can be fitted with smart sensors that monitor the wearer’s heart rate. That’s a great way to look after your people, but it’s technology that generates personal medical data, so data governance must be managed robustly.”

Making the design of digital tools inclusive

Future-looking organisations are focusing on how they can upskill staff properly to better prepare them for the unfamiliar digital tech they know is coming. On the other hand, Gen Z candidates may have higher expectations for employers to offer more digitally enabled modes of working.

Digital tools must be designed in an inclusive way so that everyone can use them. “Think about your workforce’s digital wellbeing,” says Field. “What are their needs, expectations and concerns regarding this technology? If you talk to them early to find out, they are more likely to go on the digital journey with you.”

Field concludes: “Failure to embrace and deploy digitisation may result in challenges hiring diverse talent. Therefore, organisations who fail to live in this new, digitally transformed environment are likely to fall behind in the war for talent and in delivering products and services to today’s competitive markets.”

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