Maria Hui, Director, Marketing & Operations, Microsoft [NASDAQ: MSFT]
As companies become truly global with employees and partners located across multiple locations, traditional boundaries of time, location, space and structure are quickly blurring. People are now more mobile than ever and business success depends on connecting people with each other and with the information and services they need from anywhere, at any time, via any device.
Work environments have also become much more fluid, flexible and less defined. More and more organizations are taking cues from co-working models to enable their employees to work wherever they want, providing them with access to digital collaboration and virtual communication tools that transcend geographical boundaries.
The very concept of one’s work-life balance has morphed into work-life integration as people discover new ways to work, and find that working times have become more dynamic and less conventional and defined. Driven in large part by changing lifestyles, this can only be possible due to the rapid development of technologies that enable seamless communication and information-sharing that not only work for individuals and groups within a company but across teams that may span multiple organizations and communities. Exponential growth has been recorded in terms of the number of IoT (Internet of Things) devices surrounding us. These devices are collecting a massive amount of data and it is a matter of whether we are seeing data as our personal assets or liabilities, and whether we can make good use of the insights generated from the data to help us in making objective judgement, justifying our investment. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and machine learning are changing the future of work with unprecedented speed and intensity, reinventing our economies and forging new ways of working to an extent which is difficult to predict and imagine.
These trends are inevitable yet essential because they highlight not only the challenges we will face in the coming years but also the opportunities ahead to shape a better future workplace.
As a leader of an organization, the key is to identify the strategy and help the organization and community to be ready for the challenges and able to capture or even lead the wave of transformation. Many of us may question, “Are we ready?” I would say that the focus should be to enable us to be “Future-Ready”, there are three key steps we should overtake right now.
First and foremost, we need a mindset change, for everyone in the organization as well as the community. We should embrace a growth mindset, which believes potential can be nurtured and is not pre-determined. This means anyone can change, learn and grow. There needs to be a cultural transformation within an organization from a “know-it-all” culture to a “learn-it-all” culture. It is essential for business leaders, employees and everyone to have a growth mindset and to remain self-critical. Self-reflection is essential to keep us going. Graduation is never the end of learning. We all need to become lifelong learners who embrace every opportunity to cultivate new skills. And mindset change has to start from the top and with consistent message
Secondly, we need to dial up our organization’s ability and readiness to constantly adapt to change, and to lead the transformation of the industry as well. As Hong Kong and businesses around the world embark on the digital transformation journey, leveraging AI and data analytics to help us on productivity improvement, uncovering whitespace of the business and helping us to bring additional value to our customers and the community for a better way of life is imminent. AI is everywhere; it is now being used in the medical field helping pre-screening. It is also helping logistics companies to predict and more accurately plan their shipment routes, and leveraging location intelligence for shopping mall promotion programs etc. We will all need to think about how we can get our organization and every employee to meet the future needs and stay relevant.
Thirdly, a collaborative team is the greatest and most impactful asset of an organization. Motivating the team and enabling them to innovate and collaborate are critical to the business success. With the expectation of a modern and virtual workplace, companies are leveraging communications tools and cloud technology to enable employees to communicate and collaborate in teams wherever they are, whenever they need. This ability to virtually connect with one another, and the flexibility to conduct work anytime anywhere, is also helping employees when it comes to work-life integration. I personally enjoy this flexibility a lot here at Microsoft and I’m also a great advocate for this. Project teams within Microsoft come in all different shapes and sizes and across various geographic locations. Through leveraging Microsoft Teams, our colleagues are connected across the globe without any workplace boundaries. And this includes partners, vendors and external parties as well, allowing us to run our businesses anytime anywhere.
To thrive in a world that is changing at such breathtaking speed, as a leader, we will need to innovatively reinvent many aspects of work and work culture, challenging the status quo while equipping ourselves with new skills. In future, businesses will thrive only if they can harness the power of AI and machine learning to transform the growing mass of data into insights and action. To succeed in this workplace transformation, it is critical to recognize and maximize the potential of emerging technology. It is through new technology and our innovative thoughts that new skills and capabilities are developed that improve productivity and enhance collaboration and ensure that individuals and businesses can be future-ready.