Outsourcing innovation: how are new technologies changing job design?

At a time when technology is more advanced than ever before, AI and machine learning are transforming industries, and workplaces now exist in a virtual world, it is no surprise that job design is changing rapidly

Many routine, manual tasks have become automated, whilst more cognitive and social tasks are enhanced by the new technologies and tools that are becoming a part of everyday working lives.

As such, across many different industries there has been an increasing shift from the static hierarchical structures, towards networked organisations with virtual teams who are brought together for specific projects and outcomes. With a decreasing need for staff to do routine, manual tasks, job design is evolving to focus on collaborative work that can be completed remotely. Coupled with an increasing trend in outsourcing innovation -where companies use external parties to support idea generation or development strategies -staff are able to refocus on teamwork, strategy and continuous improvement.

COVID-19 impact on working environment

Over millions of years of evolution, humans have evolved to rely on face-to-face interactions as the most effective form of communication. Pre-COVID-19, with a smaller demand for remote working tools, desktop media failed to understand these evolutionary factors, making online meetings feel unnatural with documentation passed back and forth between colleagues over a long period of time.

According to HH Clark and SE Brennan, the more ‘natural’ an interface, the more likely it is to be used and the better the collaborative understanding. Unnatural meetings, such as those that use traditional video conferencing tools, go against how the human mind has evolved and as such require more cognitive effort. A recent survey by Actusalso found that one third of workers have suffered from ‘lockdown lethargy’ since the move to remote working.

With many parts of the world still in lockdown, and international travel remaining a distant reality, it is crucial for businesses to utilise virtual meeting media that simulates face-to-face interactions, rather than just showing faces on a screen.

Job design in a virtual world

Virtual meeting media is a crucial component of evolving job design in a remote world, by allowing teams to work together with a new generation of complexity. In our current, largely virtual, working world, asynchronous collaboration tools are not sufficient to achieve the level of communication that is needed to progress projects at the necessary rate to avoid downtime or additional costs.

Traditional desktop collaboration tools like MS Teams and Zoom have proven to be sufficient during this unprecedented time, but frequently employees are left frustrated, stressed and exhausted from the limitations of the asynchronous tools. There is now an urgent need for tools that enable virtual meetings to create an office environment where employees can work on complex tasks, have better team alignment as well as a more productive workflow. Business leaders need to adapt to the remote working revolution and invest in technology that allows employees to thrive.

Helping to simulate a ‘round table’ meeting -rather than just showing faces on a screen which is slow, rigid and often unproductive -virtual meeting media are now becoming increasingly available. Their effect is to create a very wide ‘cognitive bandwidth’, close to that achieved by face to face meetings with artifacts, which is especially important during these unprecedented times and beyond. Combining people’s interaction and enabling thinking in an environment designed to recreate a natural meeting will create a virtual space to work on complex tasks synchronously, allowing for improved team alignment and better productivity.

Networked organisations with virtual teams

As we move closer to a post-pandemic world, our ‘new normal’ will increasingly rely on networked organisations with virtual teams spanning across the globe. These lockdowns have proven that businesses can not just function, but still thrive in a remote environment, enabling business leaders to take advantage of a significantly wider talent pool.

By utilising effective virtual meeting media, these global teams can still work together as productively as they would be face-to-face. In a remote world, seamless communication is crucial and will cement the shift away from traditional, routine job style, to a more dynamic and agile workforce.

About the Author

Jocelyn Lomer is Chief Executive at nuVa Enterprises. nuVa Enterprises is run by a close knit team of experts that are passionate about what they do and want to improve the quality and understanding of collaboration worldwide. If you see nuVa you will instantly see that it is not only ahead of the game but the very collaborative environment you have been looking for since touchscreens became a reality.

Featured image: ©Kateryna