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There’s a fascinating pair of photos that can be found on the web which shows the Pope on the balcony of the Vatican, in images taken 10 years apart. In 2003, thousands of people are in St Peter’s Square, watching Pope John Paul II; 10 years later there are equal numbers, but all watching Pope Francis through the lens of their smartphone or ipad.

The image sums up neatly how far technology has taken us over the past 20 years. It has changed everything about our lives. It has also fundamentally changed the way we work. Email, the internet and video conferencing began the revolution but now we are into an entirely new phase – a world of robotics and artificial intelligence.

This has led to many to ask whether humans will eventually become redundant in the workplace. The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research estimates that 53% of all occupations will be replaced by digital technology over the next 20 years. The UK Government’s Digital Skills Committee concurs, saying that 35% of UK jobs are under threat from automation.

From my daily experiences of working with people across all sectors I can confidently say that it is people, and not computers, that drive business and innovation. So I was comforted to read a fascinating report from PwC, which argues that in the digital world, people will become more, and not less, important.

The report says that it is not having the best digital technology that makes the difference between a successful company and the rest, but the way in which they use people and technology together. I see evidence for that argument all the time – the best technology cannot bring the full potential of its benefits if the people using it, and surrounding it, are disengaged.

So with that in mind, here are few of my thoughts on success in the digital age:

Remember that it ‘starts in the mind’

It is easy to be tempted into the line of thinking that in the modern world, the companies with the best technology and those that wholeheartedly embrace digital innovation will do better than anyone else. But the best equipment in the world is useless if people aren’t using it well. What does that mean? It means that  people need to be trained and willing to do so; they must be actively engaged and understand its place, purpose and value.

Use technology wisely

The point about technology is that it should help companies do more – making processes easier and more efficient so people are freed up to concentrate on developing new ideas and driving the business forward. As the PWC report says: People have ideas; computers don’t.  We are finding that digitally-related ideas are moving clients into new spaces, where they gain something they didn’t have before.

Use digital technology to help with engagement

Digital technology is incredibly valuable when it comes to employee engagement. The PwC paper points out that social media and internet-led consumer marketing has made us all important as individuals. We have more choice and more information about what is available than ever before, and we are used to getting exactly what we want. We are individual and special as consumers, so why not as employees?

After we’ve helped our clients with their ‘fit for purpose’ talent strategies, often what is needed is a method for engaging, connecting and understanding current and future talent.  Digital technology is a great way to do this. It allows you to target people accurately, communicate with them individually, and track and measure engagement.  The tools don’t have to be overcomplicated – just functional; we are advocates of ‘keep it simple’ wherever possible.

Don’t neglect training

It is easy to assume that the younger generation in particular is born with an inherent ability to deal with all things digital. That isn’t necessarily true. No organisation should ever neglect basic ‘digital’ training for all.  How many people in your organisation are fearful or resistant of all things digital?

Work on your employer brand

The employer brand has become even more central in the digital age. An effective talent strategy simply must have a winning employer brand; a brand that accurately informs the world what you do, what your values are and why you are an attractive proposition to work for.  The digital world has made communication of the brand far easier – but also more fragile, as the view of past and current employees, customers and everyone else with an opinion all are available for all to see.

Are you ready for transparency?

Some organisations are worried about the astonishing level of transparency in the digital world – of performance management, employee assessment, promotions, pay, decision-making and so on.  If you are one of these organisations perhaps it’s time to question why you’re worried.

Time is running out for hidden or flawed practices. Digital media means that very little is secret any more – trust is built almost entirely on transparency. For that reason, leadership in the digital world is a different animal.

It is tempting to take the enormous technological change we’re all living through for granted but PwC’s report is a useful reminder that technology is changing us, rather than just changing how we do things. At Space2BE we always work alongside our clients in finding the best people and talent strategies for them –strategies that become reality on a daily basis. Sitting down and thinking carefully about how digital technology permeates through every layer of that work has been a useful and illuminating exercise full of opportunities.  These are exciting times.