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Staying Ahead of Disruption with Workforce Sensing.
By Daniel Roddy (Human Capital Research and Sensing as a Service Leader with Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP ) and Chris Havrilla (HR Technology & Solution Provider Research Leader with Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP)

Plug the word “disruption” into Google Trends and you’ll get a jagged line tracking 15 years of peaks and plunges in search frequency. But for all the short-term variation in the chart, the long-term trend is steadily rising: there are nearly three times as many “disruption” searches today as there were in 2004.

The steady rise in searches reflects a reality that won’t surprise most leaders. They face a host of disruptions—social, demographic, environmental, economic, technological, and geopolitical. Not only is it their job to make sure that their companies don’t get blindsided by these breakpoints in the status quo, but they also must be able to respond to them quickly and agilely in order to transform these disruptions into competitive advantage.

Sensing is the foundation on which an organization’s ability to identify, pace, and respond to disruption is built. In hindsight, disruptions seem obvious. By the mid-2000s, it was clear that streaming movies would decimate the video rental industry. But to have realized that a decade earlier, when the MP3 format first emerged for audio, and acted upon it is another matter entirely.

The ability to sense disruptions in their nascent stages and predict how they are likely to affect a company and its stakeholders is crucial to success in business today. This is especially true when it comes to sensing disruptions in the workforce.

The human face of disruption

Every disruption has human dimensions. Today’s technological disruptions, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous machines, promise to reweave the fabric of work and alter the composition of the workforce. In remaking social norms, the emergence of political and cultural movements also demand the renovation of corporate cultures and managerial behaviors. Already, growing activism in arenas such as politics and climate change are giving rise to a new kind of company — the social enter-prise, whose mission combines revenue growth and profitmaking with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network, and includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world.

The ability to sense the disruptions that matter and pinpoint their anticipated ramifications on the workforce helps leaders become more strategic, outcome-oriented, and human-centric.

  • It offers leaders a leg up as they seek to incorpo-rate disruptions into ambitious visions for the future of their companies.
  • It enables them to harness disruption in the quest to drive productivity and other business outcomes.
  • It allows them to reframe disruptions into a more human-centric approach to work itself—one in which meaning and purpose are embedded in every job, and every employee, on and off the payroll, can contribute in the most positive, supportive, and personal way.
A granular approach to workforce sensing

Disruptions don’t stay neatly within industry lines. They affect companies across industries and geographies. For instance, voice computing, which is a mashup of artificial intelligence and natural language processing, is a global disruption that will change how business is done in every industry in every geography. But for company leaders, the relevance of voice computing and indeed, every disruption, is always local.

Take age demographics and climate change. They already — and will continue to — affect companies globally, but they have specific effects that are relevant to the oil and gas (O&G) industry. The workforce in O&G is aging out and many younger people think the industry is as fossilized as its products. Meanwhile, climate change is driving a shift from a brown to green economy—affecting O&G’s lifeblood. What effects will these disruptive trends have on the workforce of an oil major? An independent E&P company? An oilfield services company? A refiner?

Key to capturing the benefi ts of workforce sensing is understanding the specific effects of a disruption within your industry and your company.

Already, growing activism in arenas such as politics and climate change are giving rise to a new kind of company — the social enterprise, whose mission combines revenue growth and profi tmaking with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network, and includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world.
Workforce Sensing-as-a-Service

To sense — and to make sense of — the workforce ramifications hidden within disruptions, leaders need a unique combination of research radar, crowdsourcing, and on-the-ground insight. In response, Deloitte has created a service that uses these capabilities to actively sense tomorrow’s workforce disruptions, not just broadly, but also at a granular level by industry, sector, function, and critical workforce segments.

Workforce Sensing uses topical and trends research, validation by crowdsourced, industry-aligned expert panels, and Deloitte’s extensive consulting network to deliver daily micro-insights. These insights are aimed at helping leaders understand the external factors that could disrupt their workforce and their business.

By analyzing the ever-increasing inundation of data the refl ects our fast-paced and fast-changing world, parsing it to reveal its human face, and making its workforce insights accessible and meaningful, our goal is to equip leaders with the ability to know, not guess, what tomorrow holds in store. It’s the only way to eff ectively transform disruption into competitive advantage.

Daniel Roddy
Daniel leads a team using Bersin’s proven research and sensing methodologies to provide the C-suite with a continuous, customized advisory service focused on sustaining and extending organizational performance. Daniel brings a wealth of global experience to clients in large-scale workforce and talent initiatives, both in North America and across Asia Pacifi c. His areas of specialty include human capital research and thought leadership, as well as global HR, organization, and workforce transformation. His cross-industry experience spans mobile telecom, manufacturing, consumer products, airlines, media, technology, retail, fi nancial services, banking, and engineering and construction.
Chris Havrilla
Chris leads the HR technology and solution provider strategy and research practice for Bersin—helping to demystify the ever-changing HR Tech landscape for their corporate and solution provider members. She has worked diligently through her career with business and HR leaders—both as an internal HR & HR technology/strategy practitioner or as a consultant/adviser—on radically improving talent strategy, technology, and lead-ership—as well as the vendors who serve them. With a unique blend of technical, HR practitioner, business and vendor experience, she laughingly describes herself as a bit of a talent, HR Tech and Future of Work “whisperer.”
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