Technology has changed the way we do things. Back when I first entered the workforce, I was one of the few employees who had Friendster, Multiply, Facebook, and Instagram accounts while still in school. As a millennial, it was easy to understand what these platforms are, and how to use them. As a marketer, it was quite observable how these platforms and technologies shaped user behavior. But in an office with more Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers, shifting to the digital age caused a lot of confusion. Suddenly, marketing and advertising changed. Ads were skipped. Content was consumed on-demand. Content creation was no longer exclusive to brands and publishers. Data-gathering and analysis became faster and more complex.
The democratization of technology caused a disruption in marketing. But it was not just marketing; the internal processes, employee hiring and management, and other aspects of the business – up to how we communicate with colleagues, were all affected by the fast-changing digital landscape. The social impact to the organization was further fueled by the growing number of millennials, or digital natives, in the workforce. At a BusinessWorld Economic Forum a few years ago, organized by Businessworld Xiklab Digital Founder, Arthur Policarpio discussed three trends that are changing the workplace.
1. The Rise of the Virtual Company
Alongside the increasing cost of having a physical office space, the rapid rise of collaborative software and cloud computing have given rise to virtual offices. For a knowledge worker, being physically in the office every day from 9 am to 5 pm is no longer necessary as certain tasks can already be done virtually. Now, some companies have changed their work set-up, allowing workers to have at least once a week work-at-home option. This has helped increase employee satisfaction as it allowed them to save a few hours that could have been spent commuting.
But aside from the work from home set-up, the concept of a virtual office also includes the outsourcing of freelancers online. In the U.S., 35% of the workforce are freelancers, mostly driven by millennials who crave for freedom and flexibility. Online freelance marketplaces, mostly in the form of websites, have made this bigger as they bridge companies who look for project-based employees and individuals who have the needed skills. This allowed companies to partner with talented individuals regardless of location.
2. The Internet-fueled Sharing Economy
Jumping off from the concept of a freelance marketplace, the digital age has enabled the growth of a sharing economy. According to Merriam-Webster, sharing economy is defined as an “economic activity that involves individuals buying or selling usually temporary access to goods or services especially as arranged through an online company or organization.”
The growth of the millennial workforce who wants freedom and flexibility, but grew up in a world that has higher living costs, led us to prefer sharing than owning. Transport Network Vehicle Services or TNVS are now common in urban areas, headed by brands like Grab. The company with the highest valuation in the Hotel Industry is AirBnb, and the company doesn’t even own a single bed. The world’s largest marketplace of advertisers and consumers, Facebook, is 32x more valuable than the largest advertising group, with 175,000 less employees. And all these businesses have transactions done globally and 24/7 online.
The internet-fueled sharing economy has enabled businesses to earn and become relevant without much investment on real assets. Companies who can capitalize on this have an advantage over the companies who are clinging on outdated processes.
3. Leaders have become Students Again
Parents are learning about the latest technology from their kids. It’s now common to see a Gen-Z or Baby Boomer parent asking their kids, “how does this work?” The same has been observed in offices. I have talked to a few executives who, once they find out I’m working for a digital agency, would say “Ah… Digital. That’s something I need to learn more about.”
This kind of humility and curiosity from the leaders of today allows them to become “business-model engineers” and maneuver their company to adapt to the fast-changing business landscape.
Among the three trends, virtual offices and the sharing economy can end up being the norm or outdated. Who’s to say? With how fast the landscape is changing, new trends will surely come up. But the last trend, in my opinion, is an important trait that we all need to have, whether or not we’re leaders.
New trends and technologies will always be a challenge to grasp, but as long as we are willing to become students again, we have a better chance of staying relevant and thriving in the Digital Age.
This has never been so true than in my line of work. All of us in our organization, from our founder down to our new hires, are always learning new ways of doing things to be able cater to the ever-changing market — we have monthly learning sessions, we regularly publish thought leadership materials, among others. Our work, which was focused on mobile & digital media in the past, has expanded to not just digital advertising, but in creating digital solutions for businesses and organizations. This allowed our organization to differentiate itself among other digital agencies and to stay relevant by providing what is really needed by our clients.
Technology has changed the way we do things and it will continue to do so. That’s why we all must continue to learn – to learn what’s new and what works. It’s a good way to move forward.