Within the next ten years, 96% of businesses closing their first sales today will shut their doors for the last time. Whether these companies suffered from the slow trickle of lost customers or were outpaced by their expenditures, the underlying cause of untimely business failures is typically tied to an inability to forecast and acclimate to a shifting business environment.
Surviving past this ten-year benchmark requires the use of future-proofing, which is defined as the “the process of anticipating the future and… minimizing the effects of shocks and stresses of future events.” In this frame of reference, a future-proofed business is not only able to predict and avoid these disruptions but will also use these changes to their advantage.
But what exactly does future-proofing look like in a business? Unfortunately, that’s not the easiest question to answer, especially in 2020. At the pace technology innovates today, it’s nearly impossible to stay current with the latest best practices and industry trends. Even if you could, few businesses would have the budget necessary to implement every emerging innovation.
That’s why future-proofing today has everything to do with investing not only in technology but in your people as well. Keeping your employees happy, engaged, and highly adaptable toward the future of work is the key to making any future-proofing efforts you implement a success.
To get started, let’s look at how future-proofing can reshape the relationship between your technology and your workforce.
Across industries and business types, automation technology stands at the center of future-proofing conversations for a number of reasons. First and most importantly is its ability to innovate your methods for getting work done. As an example, one specific type of automation called Robotic Process Automation is able to replicate your business’ workflows to accomplish your daily tasks more quickly, without the aid of human labor, and at all times around the clock.
This has directly led to a transformation in the type of work that your employees are doing. Automation enables teams to focus on key objectives that require critical thinking, as opposed to becoming entrenched in more tedious work, such as data entry, follow-up emails with customers, and other administrative work. In the future, RPA and other automated technologies are projected to create new job categories and promote greater employee engagement as your team works on higher-level objectives.
An example of automation’s positive impact on the future of work is known as the paradox of automation, which states that humans will become more—not less—valuable as the capabilities of this technology advance. The more complex the task is that requires automating, the more important it is for that process to be overseen by a human, should anything need adjusting or fixing.
In order to future-proof your team to work in tandem with automation technology, it’s important that your team hones their soft skills, critical thinking mindsets, problem-solving capabilities, and any other proficiencies that will make them most prepared to work alongside this new technology and use it to its fullest potential.
New technologies, such as 5G cellular networks, are projected to create a new wave of digital consumerism that is both faster and more mobile-friendly than ever before. As the next generation of mobile networking, 5G is only just rolling out to major cities and phone providers—but its improvements on data speeds from 4G and 4G LTE will enable even more of its users to make the most of their smartphones and other portable devices.
Already, nearly 4 out of every 5 smartphone users have used their mobile devices to make a purchase in the past 6 months, amounting to 10% of all retail eCommerce sales. As 5G becomes more available to the general public, businesses will need to future-proof their efforts by preparing for the breakneck speeds at which customers expect to do mobile business. You can start by enabling both employees and customers alike with mobile devices and capabilities.
For customers, this means ensuring that your digital channels for communication and commerce are mobile-friendly. Developing an app to pair with your product offerings is one way to help you engage with a mobile audience. You can also optimize your website for mobile transactions by creating pages that load quickly and are still readable on smaller screens.
On the employee’s side, mobile technologies will help businesses future-proof by enabling employees to reshape their work environments, thanks to benefits like telecommuting and work-from-home. These flexible work opportunities help your coworkers work when and where they are most productive and can even enable your teams to seamlessly engage with customers outside of the office should the need arise.
Technology will never be able to fully replace the human aspect of your relationships with customers, but future-proofing your customer experience with what’s known as big data can help you make meaningful, personalized connections with current and prospective buyers alike. At its core, big data is exactly what it sounds like: a large, rapidly growing set of digital information.
Advancements in technology have made what was once an insurmountably large amount of data one that is more easily managed to help you find relevant, key insights on your business. And with 58% of shoppers more likely to purchase from companies that recommend new products based on past purchases, using big data to discover what exactly your customers want and how you can best serve them.
Regardless of your technology’s ability to collect these insights, your big data will only be as valuable as your team enables it to be. Organizations that integrate their big data findings in their employee training sessions and workshops ensure that employees are best equipped to satisfy the needs of your customers, even as these needs change over time. Big data also gives employees measurable and trackable data points for them to improve upon, which can mitigate frustrations that teams so often experience when they aren’t sure how they can improve their present strategies.
By aligning your company on your approach to these technologies, you can ensure that your teams remain not only happy and engaged but highly prepared and future-proofed, regardless of what obstacles come your way.
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Use this worksheet to reflect on where your culture stands.