Following the sudden and profound disruption of the virus pandemic in 2020, a new landscape is emerging. Hard-won lessons in adaptability, creativity, and resilience will continue to serve companies as they navigate ongoing change. No industry or firm will be untouched as ways of working, leading, and serving customers and employees are transformed. Below is Forrester’s prediction on the 2021 future workforce.
The physical, mental, and economic challenges that employees had to contend with in the face of the pandemic will extend into 2021, with many willing to overlook higher-order needs for self actualisation to avoid risk and maintain the status quo. This will result in muted workplace engagement that lowers productivity and discretionary efforts, especially in verticals such as retail or media and entertainment that already lag in employee experience efforts in Asia Pacific.
Business innovation will suffer and drop in 25 percent of firms in the region. Two factors compound the problem:
To encourage productivity and innovation, firms must not only enable employees via technology but also consciously inspire and empower them. HR leaders also have had to readjust to working in this new normal. The pandemic thrust HR into the middle of transformations that required coordinating remote-work tech with IT, rejiggering budgets mid-year with the CFO, and completely altering talent acquisition and training models. Newly emboldened, the best will use their improved connection to IT to ask for better tools for analysing and acting on workforce data. The best of the best will seek out AI-enriched tools that will inform workforce policy and guide specific employees to better outcomes.
Zero Trust in Asia Pacific has lagged its global peers but adoption is slowly but surely gaining traction. Most governments in Asia Pacific are still taking a wait-and-see approach, while agencies such as the US federal government and the UK National Cyber Security Centre have already adopted the Zero Trust framework.
The pandemic is accelerating cloud adoption and an explosion in remote work; evolving regulatory frameworks are driving improved data protection, while consumers are factoring data privacy into their purchase decisions and lagging security practices make the region ripe for a crippling cyberattack. Many governments in the region already use the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. Forester predicts that at least one government in the region will go further and require firms to transform their security services by adopting NIST’s new Zero Trust architecture standard.
Automation and AI have long been predicted to seize workplaces and 2021 might see a massive changed workplace, with 35 percent of companies will double down on workplace AI. In addition, over 48 percent of Asia Pacific managers surveyed during the pandemic anticipate a permanently higher rate of full-time, remote employees. Many firms will invest in conversational artificial intelligence, machine learning, and hardware advances to help smooth some of these workplace changes.
Work-from-home staff will see automation perform tasks that were previously done in the office or that held higher labour costs, such as employee self-service, customer service support, and document extraction. By the end of 2021, one out of every four remote workers will be supported by new forms of automation, either directly or indirectly.
The workplace impact of the pandemic reinforced the tremendous value and necessity of cloud computing to the world’s economy and workforce. Without cloud apps, tools, and services, businesses could not have sent millions of workers home, maintained global supply chains, or shifted entire industry business models in a matter of weeks. The rush to cloud during the pandemic also exposed stark contrasts between companies that embrace cloud technologies and those that have resisted or underfunded them.
The aggressive move to cloud, already proceeding at a healthy clip before the pandemic, will spike in 2021, yielding even greater enterprise adoption, cloud provider revenue, and business value in 2021. The changes brought about by COVID-19 forced companies to prioritise speed and customer experience over cost savings and efficiency, thus they flocked to public cloud services faster than ever.
5G will drive significant disruption across businesses although it has previously suffered from its lack of a proven return on investment. China will test and scale successful innovative business models in 2021, leading in 5G rollout for both carriers and users. Likewise, Asia Pacific business and technology leaders must be prepared to learn from China’s innovation around 5G, including advanced use cases in the manufacturing, financial services, and retail sectors.