The communications, media, and technology (CMT) sector has been at the forefront of the digital revolution and, today, forms the backbone of a fast-evolving information economy. Innovation in these industries is likely to gather steam, with global information technology spending predicted to surge to $4.2 trillion this year, propelled by the recent shift to remote work.
The “great resignation” trend, coupled with a staggering shortage of skilled talent globally that is set to reach 40 million by the end of 2021, has many employers worried. With firms gearing up for a gradual return to work and designing the right palette for their workplaces with a blend of home, office, and hybrid experience, how can businesses ensure they are best supporting their employees, freelancers, and contingent workers and building agility for growth?
At Workday Industry Insights EMEA, industry leaders, experts, and customers discussed how firms are riding out the storm with digital acceleration and pivoting to the future of work.
While for some companies the pandemic was the major catalyst for triggering revolutionary changes in the way business is conducted, the digital story of communications, media, and tech firms was one of evolution.
A Story of Digital Evolution, Not Revolution
The technology sector, by virtue of its innate DNA, had a head start in the digital race. While for some companies the pandemic was the major catalyst for triggering revolutionary changes in the way business is conducted and the urgency with which digital transformation programs were adopted, the digital story of CMT firms was one of evolution.
Nate Phelps, head of people transformation and operations at Criteo, a global technology company, described the advantages of being a digitally native company when confronted with unexpected disruptions, such as the COVID-19 crisis.
“I think that we're very fortunate as a technology organisation, as we're able to adapt quickly to change, both operationally and how we work, but also mentally. Our teams are constantly adapting and evolving to the changes that technology brings. This has really helped us with making the transition to a new way of working,” he said.
The COVID-19 crisis compelled many industries to revolutionise digital adoption at breakneck speed, both in terms of how they operate and how they manage their workforce. But tech-based companies like Criteo, early adopters of remote working, had a smoother journey in navigating the disruptions of the pandemic. “When I look at the changes that we've gone through at Criteo over the past 18 months, I'd see it less as being a revolution in terms of how we work and more of an evolution,” said Phelps.
Patrice Lesko, head of systems and strategic projects for FREE NOW, a Workday customer and gig economy travel business with a digital-first approach, agreed with Phelps' thoughts. “Our employees are really our most important internal customer. And for us it doesn't really matter where they're located. We see each other as one big family across Europe. And in that way, the changes in the recent year didn't really impact us that much,” he said.
Digital Acceleration, Turbocharged by Data
Businesses have come a long way in the last decade in terms of how they approach digital transformation. According to Rusbeh Hashemian, partner and new ventures leader at PwC Europe, there is a clear shift from a laser focus on profits and cost reduction to investment in technology to create experiences. “So you need to think about the tech stack, not only the monolithic applications that you put in place, but actually, the entire user experience that you're creating in your tech stack,” said Hashemian.
“So while we also started to focus on operating expenses versus capital expenditures, right now, the capacity of investment that we put next to technology is unmatched,” he continued. “The level of change management investments that we make is unmatched, and also the level of upskilling that we have to put in in order to actually get everyone up to speed and on board in this transformation is unmatched. Those three elements are extremely important.”
Harnessing the power of data and deciphering how that data is linked are key for firms today to get a better handle on business drivers and levers, and set themselves up for success.
Lesko believes that planning, budgeting, and forecasting should be top of mind for tech, media, and entertainment businesses, especially those saddled with legacy infrastructure. He believes that having a fully integrated tech stack will allow organisations to better run predictive models and make necessary course corrections. “I think really interpreting data and making it easy for our internal customers and our managers to get value from the system will make all the difference,” he said.
Technology has been a real game-changer in the war for talent, particularly CMT firms. Businesses have had to utilise tech in an increasingly competitive talent market. “I think one of the key elements, actually, for us in this talent war is data, and we've really had a focus, particularly in the last 12 months, in terms of how we build a more cohesive and holistic view of talent data across the entire employee life cycle,” said Phelps of Criteo.
“It is really about starting with understanding the talent landscape through what your data can tell you and then building your actions using the technology to support that as part of your talent approach,” he added.
“I'm a father of three young kids, and both Workday and PwC were able to provide the right work-life balance I needed. … With digital technology, the ‘where’ and ‘how’ you work have changed things immensely.”Sebastian Schmitz, Director of New Ventures, PwC
Work 2.0: The Office of the Future
There can be little contention that the pandemic has permanently altered the way we work and how we manage our workforce. A new hybrid workplace, built on a foundation of digital technology, is the future for forward-thinking firms, including PwC. “We gave 30,000 people in our firm the opportunity to change their contracts to virtual roles, as we call it, and into a ‘live anywhere’ model. Within 48 hours, we've changed 10,000 contracts to a fully virtual role,” said Hashemian.
Criteo’s Phelps described how his firm was supporting its teams to make the transition to adopting new ways of working through digital learning platforms and using new technology to create memorable virtual onboarding experiences. “We’ve invested a lot in terms of how technology supports remote productivity and also collaboration. We are supporting our teams to embrace changes and adopt new ways of working through digital learning platforms. But at a more micro level, it's also been about streamlining legacy and traditional ways of working, and it has really been a key part of how we've managed this transition to a more hybrid way of working,” he said.
Sebastian Schmitz, director of new ventures at PwC, believes that there is a formula for success in creating a balanced hybrid workplace and gaining an edge in the war for talent. Schmitz described the importance of giving employees the flexibility to choose where they work, and also how they balance their work and life goals. Schmitz, who was employed with Workday prior to joining PwC, candidly shared an example from his own career.
“I'm a father of three young kids, and both Workday and PwC were able to provide the right work-life balance I needed. Fifteen years ago this would not have been possible, but with digital technology, the ‘where’ and ‘how’ you work have changed things immensely.”
A strong culture is at the heart of what makes a truly successful digital enterprise.
Culture Lies at the Heart of a Digital Enterprise
As businesses transition to the new hybrid workplace model and adopt innovative technology solutions and platforms to drive growth, it is important to not lose sight of what is really important. A strong culture is at the heart of what makes a truly successful digital enterprise.
“It's about overcoming decisions and legacies that you've built for yourselves and actually having a good feel about where your people sit. Ask them more often how they feel,” advised Hashemian.
In the absence of watercooler moments and coffee chats, use technology to reach out and connect with your colleagues and make those virtual moments count. “So call to action: Take your mobile, type an SMS, or even a feedback via Workday, and you will make someone smile today,” urged Schmitz.
When it comes to digital acceleration, the experts agreed that firms must make a leap of faith and take the plunge. “I don’t believe anyone should be afraid of technology. Even small changes can be impactful, and it’s important people are not too scared to try,” said Schmitz.
Kate Russell, BBC Click presenter and host of Workday Industry Insights EMEA’s track on tech, media, and entertainment, summed the sessions up beautifully: “Digital is a journey, not a destination.” So buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Watch the on-demand session to learn more about how businesses in the communications, media, and technology sector have accelerated their journey to becoming a digital enterprise.