Gilles Muys is the VP of Customer Solutions at Simplus and an experienced executive.
If the Fourth Industrial Revolution needed the means to accelerate innovation, Covid-19 was the gas pedal. Known as Industry 4.0, this phase of epic change and innovation refers to the evolving changes to our workflows using the Internet of Things and a combination of cyber-physical systems.
The rapid transition to a new normal in business is credited often to the Covid-19 pandemic. But Industry 4.0 was already making its way into the workplace as intuitive technologies integrated and often defined daily human habits, with examples like smartphones, wearables, 3D printing and customized online shopping.
As of July 30, all U.S. states are in some phase of reopening albeit at varying levels. But reopening business during these uncertain times has hastened many companies in all industries to rely on technology connected to Industry 4.0 as they initiate new work environments and business strategies.
A flexible, if not an outright remote, work environment will remain a permanent part of the workplace due to health concerns and the influence of changing times. And with those changes comes the need for an evolving, highly skilled workforce and fluid environment, a new management style and a new and improved sales approach for the changing customer. Here are four areas that will experience the most change.
New Work Environment
The uniqueness of the new work environment is that it isn’t a traditional environment at all. The days of gathering around the water cooler to catch the latest office news are gone. Instead, the new workplace is a network of employees collaborating from remote parts of the globe. At our company, a commitment to personal connection means we frequently use tools like Slack to interact with co-workers, based on common interests or themes. We even use Slack to share public accolades for team members who performed well on a project or went above and beyond with helping a co-worker.
According to Salesforce’s recent study, “We’ll see connected devices that improve cooperation among teams, workplace automation, and connected devices that enhance business processes. The revolution may also bring better disaster preparedness.”
Under New Management
A manager’s role will tap into a skill set that doesn’t rely on “presenteeism” to measure employee productivity. However, it will require sharing frequent feedback with a remote workforce and developing acute communication skills to ensure consistent workflow, clear goals and well-defined expectations. For example, managers need to pivot focus from hours worked to measuring achievement and outcomes.
Even before the pandemic, global business was moving toward transformation. To navigate it successfully, leaders should be informed about technological developments that impact their industry and workplace. Adopting technology such as remote dashboard sessions, for example, can help leaders oversee support teams and manage support sessions, supervise the distribution of session load and monitor representatives’ desktops. This knowledge will prepare managers to lead their team through transitions.
Who is the new employee? Generally, they are someone who can adapt to an internet-based, collaborative culture and is already accustomed to the flexibility and immediacy that emerging technologies provide. “We now have a generation of young people joining the workforce who have never known a world without the internet,” explained Peter Thomson in a recent OpenMind article.
An acuity for digital technology also benefits the manufacturing industry as more companies move to robotics and automated inventory and order management processes that require highly skilled workers.
But what about the new work environment? A recent Forbes HR focus survey found that employee experience ranked first among half of workers surveyed, followed by a desire to focus on using technology and artificial intelligence to automate routine tasks (41%). Those two factors play into the shift from “perks” that applied to a physical office space to the desire to engage in a more meaningful and lasting connection with co-workers and employer, often in a virtual space. Sound familiar? Meet the customer.
Meet The New Customer
Your company has withstood many changes in a short period of time. It’s important to remember that your customer is experiencing the same uncertainty while they move forward. To establish a meaningful relationship, focus on a customer-centric approach to sales. That means providing services at the right time, to the right person, with the goal to help achieve a purpose.
To stay competitive, businesses are not just collecting data but utilizing AI capabilities to track patterns within this data — all in real time.
For example, customized CRM and ERP systems, integrated with quote-to-cash applications, organize data and pinpoint buying history by collecting data on purchases, inventory, pricing, etc. While your sales team focuses on the emotional needs of the customer, a quote-to-cash system brings it home by helping your sales team understand and identify market demand, customer preferences and trends in buying patterns.
These are disquieting times for business, to be sure. But these circumstances can also be the ignition we need to explore a new revolution in business strategies, fueled by the inevitable onset of transformative technology and a new normal in day-to-day workflow.
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