Executive need to listen

 COLUMN | January 26, 2023 | 4 min read

How tech will impact the world of work in 2023

Technology can help organizations through uncertain times. Here are five trends to watch.

By Dave Wright, chief innovation officer at ServiceNow

It may be cliché, but “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is an apt mantra for 2023, as economic and geopolitical instabilities abound.

Now, I consider myself an optimist—and there are plenty of reasons to hope for the best. However, as business leaders, we also need to prepare for what’s ahead, which is why technology predictions are so helpful. Here are the challenges—and the opportunities—that I see on the horizon in the world of work.


Top leadership priorities in 2023

In 2023, every company, regardless of industry, will need to formulate a vision and strategy to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into their work. AI is already used to strengthen cybersecurity, optimize work processes, and deliver customer service. It helps managers maximize sales and improve supply chains, while programmers are using the technology to, well, create more technology. As the popularity of ChatGPT, DALL-E, and other large language model-based systems has shown us, the public is intrigued by AI and is more willing to welcome it into their daily lives, including at work.

From customer buying patterns to supply chain disruptions, AI will help business leaders identify changes when they happen and even anticipate them. And the more it’s used, the more its quality will improve just yet. To be sure, a lot of legal and governance issues still must be worked out first, and adoption will happen unevenly. Still, AI should be a vital part of any enterprise’s survival kit in uncertain times like these. Only companies that are making smart and significant investments in AI will emerge as winners.

AI is accelerating another trend: total experience, or TX. TX refers to a holistic approach to interactions a company has with its employees, customers, and partners. It also encompasses every interaction people have with a company’s customer service reps, corporate services providers, social media channels, and more.

In 2023, leading businesses will recognize the importance of TX and see quantifiable results from doing so, including an improved bottom line. By tapping into the power of AI, companies will scale and perfect personalized experiences. This will, in turn, raise the bar: If you can’t deliver a seamless and satisfying TX, your customers and talent will find competitors that can.

The importance of experience is a major reason why the metaverse will struggle to take hold despite all the buzz. The metaverse, in its fully realized form, will be a physically persistent place where virtual worlds, augmented realities, and the internet converge.

Even tech-native Gen Z consumers have been a lot less enthusiastic than companies about immersive virtual environments. There are quite a few reasons for this, but it comes down to experience. The wearable and tracking technologies used to create the virtual reality (VR) experience are clunky at best and nauseating at worst. The companies boosting VR as the next big thing are either engaging in metawashing or confusing the metaverse with a poorly designed virtual experience. That erodes the public’s trust and interest in the metaverse and those promoting it.

Every company will need to formulate a vision and strategy to incorporate AI into their work.

Ultimately, the metaverse is not the destination. When it does come to fruition, it will be the layer that brings our digital lives closer to the real world. There are already industrial applications, such as manufacturers using digital twins to test out new products before creating the physical versions, that hint at the great things to come. The technology will continue to evolve quietly. But this year, I’m afraid the metaverse will remain a fragmented and lackluster experience for users.

Eventually, we’ll have technologies that transform the experience of remote work to boost collaboration, including a metaverse that provides a virtual space where people around the world can interact in real time. But not in 2023. That’s why remote work will become even more polarizing among business leaders than it already is.

While remote work has become commonplace, too many employers haven’t improved the actual experience of how we collaborate remotely. (After all, Zoom is Zoom, with or without filters and emojis.) So it’s understandable that many company leaders are mandating that employees return to the office, having concluded that physical presence is important for company culture.

At the same time, other employers are doubling down on keeping a 100% remote workforce, using its flexibility as a competitive advantage. These companies have access to a wider talent pool—not only in terms of geography, but also because remote jobs attract seven times more candidates than on-site jobs, some of whom are even willing to take a pay cut in exchange for flexibility.

It seems not a week goes by without another company announcing large-scale layoffs. Yet unemployment is at record lows in many countries. How is this possible?

Many business leaders have conceded that they hired too many people over the last few years. That’s because tech talent is always in short supply—which also explains why such workers find new employment quickly.

In 2023, I think we’ll see a shift toward upskilling and away from hiring sprees. Onboarding new employees is costly; engaging consultants, even more so. Usually, economic downturns bring cuts in areas like training and development. This year, companies should be prioritizing employee training.

We now have technology to make upskilling a reality. Through remote work, companies have already started supporting the professional development of their employees without in-person training.

In the future, companies will use AI to not only offer personalized development to employees, but also match skills to specific tasks. Business leaders will have better visibility into the kind of talent they have within their companies. That’s why I believe companies that prioritize learning within the enterprise will come out ahead.

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Dave Wright, Chief Innovation Officer_08667

Dave Wright is the chief innovation officer at ServiceNow.

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