Goodbye to all that

Digital workflows will flatten hierarchies and automate routine tasks

digital delegation australia

As Australia continues to navigate the turbulence of pandemic restrictions, burned out workers are ready for a change of scenery. Nearly a quarter of Aussie workers are actively looking to leave their current employer, according to Gartner. Their top reasons for leaving jobs include work-life balance, manager quality, and respect.

With work-life balance now the top priority for employees, the desire for a better lifestyle is accelerating the digital delegation of mundane tasks to remove friction and free up time.

Pre-COVID, Aussies were already embracing opportunities to minimise the mundane aspects of life and work, using platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and workplace apps. The pandemic has fed the desire for ”click and connect” experiences where people come and go, order and receive service, buy and sell, form relationships, and deliver workplace value without getting bogged down by process.

ServiceNow commissioned leading demographer Bernard Salt to analyse emerging work trends in Australia. Salt predicts Australians will increasingly use digital tools to enable their pursuit for better work-life balance.

Digital workflows help minimise mundane work by automating routine processes inside organisations. They can also help maximise productivity by disaggregating complex tasks into doable bits aligned to specific skill sets.

[Read more: Hybrid work is here to stay]

Salt predicts these two shifts will drive higher productivity, new business models, and the reallocation of resources to more impactful activities. It will require highly interconnected organisations and operations, so that data and tasks can flow seamlessly between those who consume services and those who deliver and manage them.

Throughout the next decade, this movement—accelerated by demands from Gen Z digital disruptors—will trigger several fundamental shifts in Australian workplaces, Salt predicts.

1. Automation will unleash productivity

COVID reminded us that time is limited. We all want to do good things with the finite time we have. At home, that means having groceries delivered to the door at a convenient moment. At work, it means swapping manual, repetitive tasks for processes that let us click, tap, and swipe to do things faster, with less effort.

Digital delegation will take off in the workplace. The Aussie work mentality will shift toward “hey, there’s an app for that task.” Companies will benefit from employees who are laser-focused on business outcomes, not admin.

How? Digital workflows deconstruct and reassemble series of tasks that can be automated, releasing employees from drudgery so they can engage in more important and meaningful activities. Examples include contactless carpark systems, road tolls taken automatically through e-tags, tap-and-go for public transport, and face recognition for passport control. Where last century’s process flows made work more boring and diminished the skilled worker through assembly line production, digitisation enables the opposite. By automating the drudgery, employees can bring much greater value to the workplace.

The Aussie work mentality will shift toward “hey, there’s an app for that task.”

Automation also helps minimise risks associated with rote behaviour. When work is too repetitive, important activities become perfunctory, like clicking through layers of approvals or consenting to conditions without reading the detail. Intelligent processes will automatically assess if work needs to be routed to relevant experts, who can then spend their valuable time applying their expertise to complex tasks that require it.

It’s not just work that will be transformed. As more domestic tasks are delegated to digital tools, new products and services will emerge to help people manage their lives, save time, and focus on the things that matter to them. Already, IoT-enabled fridges can remind owners when they’re running low on products. In future, connected appliances will help automate chores like shopping, maintenance, and household management, underpinned by workflows that link people and providers in new ways.

As businesses digitally transform to survive, time is everything. With a shrinking labour pool and scarce talent, boards and employees will increasingly measure C-suite leaders on how effectively they engage people in productive, meaningful work that delivers satisfaction for workers and great products and services for customers.

2. Management ladders will flatten

Skills-based project teams value contributions over hierarchy. The post-COVID workplace will reward those who can best get the job done. These simple truths will reshape our view of management structures in the 2020s.

For decades, business has been organised around reporting lines, departments, and clear hierarchies. This is a wartime legacy that has run its course. In recent years, a new generation of workers and new business models have started to move the leadership dial toward more collaborative ways of working.

Departmental silos are increasingly giving way to flatter, interconnected, task-oriented groups formed to find and deliver solutions.

The next frontier for the C-suite is total experience (TX), which involves combining employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) teams into a unified TX practice. It’s still early days, but the runway is ready. Many companies are finding that as they convert more manual processes into digital ones, CX and EX become interdependent. According to a recent ServiceNow survey of 900 business leaders across five industries in 13 countries, the benefits of a total experience approach include better decision-making, higher revenue, and increased market share.

3. More skills, fewer silos

The pandemic proved that Australian workers can be productive without co-locating, elbow-to-elbow, in a city office five days a week. At the same time, Australian companies need ever-increasing levels of resilience and agility to be successful. The ability to tap into talent unrestricted by location or time zone will fuel Australia’s next wave of innovation.

By 2030, leading Aussie workplaces could become centres of fulfillment and personal growth.

Salt predicts that in the work-from-anywhere world, work is more likely to flow laterally around skills and competencies, rather than being disseminated from the top down. Going forward, this will require new levels of connection across teams, functions, and organisations. These new connections will radically reshape how work gets done.

Teams will assemble for discrete projects based on capability and camaraderie—and disassemble just as quickly when a pivot is required.

WFH has accelerated investment in new technologies that enable fluidity in the delivery of workplace value. The goal is to increase accessibility, so that employees can get to the tools and services they need, whether they’re at home, in the office, or out in the field. As disparate departments and data sources are connected, significant value will be unlocked. The consolidation of processes and elimination of unnecessary admin will allow people to focus on more productive and engaging tasks.

By 2030, leading Aussie workplaces could become centres of fulfillment and personal growth, places where skills are honed, relationships formed, and technology used in the service of people.

Forecasting Australia’s frictionless future: Five ways digital workflows will shape the next decade

1). Citizen problem solvers: The rise of low-code/no-code platforms will allow employees throughout the organisation to build apps to fix everyday problems that stifle efficiency or degrade customer satisfaction. Digital workflows will democratise problem solving and unleash a new wave of workplace creativity.

2). Digital delegation: Coinciding with higher levels of trust in technology, Australians will rapidly accelerate adoption of voice-activated and app-based services to complete domestic chores such as grocery shopping, appointment booking, and home maintenance.

3). Productivity puzzle: Task automation will help drive the next wave of productivity growth. Employers will look for ways to automate monotonous, low-value activities such as approvals, compliance, routing and logging, and endless email chains. As a result, employees will derive greater productivity and fulfilment from their work.

4). Rich learning experiences: The rise of company classrooms and access to leading experts will transform learning and development programs. With virtual recruitment and onboarding already the norm, emerging technologies like VR and AR will be embraced more widely to connect disparate employees in more meaningful ways.

5). Deepening the retailer-consumer relationship: Retailers will use secure technologies like blockchain and advanced analytics to build a single view of customers across digital and physical stores. AI-powered workflows will advance the use of data to create highly personalised, immersive in-store experiences. Digital wallets will evolve to become digital data banks.