Investing in people alongside tech is crucial for digital sustainability

12 July 2018 3 min. read

Digitalisation is becoming an increasingly dominant force across all aspects of personal and work life. In today’s digital age, professionals are dialled on 24/7, and are expected to deal with all the consequences. So how can employers ensure that their people maintain a healthy approach? Jeroen van Duijvenbode, a partner at Korn Ferry, shares his vision.

There are varying opinions and research findings on the effect of digitalisation on job numbers. The CEO of Google recently said that a third of jobs would be completely replaced by technology, especially where repetitive work is concerned. McKinsey & Company estimates that even up to half of all routine jobs could be displaced by machines. The OECD is however more conservative – in a recent report the think tank suggested that only about 15% of jobs are on the chopping block. Meanwhile, a study by Korn Ferry found that 44% of the interviewed CEOs think that automation, robotisation and artificial intelligence will by and large make people redundant.

Digitalisation will definitely lead to certain jobs disappearing, but it also presents opportunities. New business models are being created, with new roles and functions. Digitalisation can also accelerate decision-making, for instance, enabling industry parties to swiftly act on the various changes that employers are facing. 

Digital Sustainability

Growing scarcity of talent

Employers that do not pay enough attention to their human capital may quickly end up in a problematic situation because the Netherlands – like the rest of the world – is already struggling with a growing scarcity of talent, which is only expected to increase further. This will raise a number of issues. As a company, how do you remain attractive on the job market? 

In the meantime, people will increasingly have to work for longer. That will again raise other challenges, such as: how do people remain employable and vital in the long term? And as an employer, how do you keep things affordable? 

‘On’ 24/7

Technological developments not only impact the number of available jobs and what those jobs actually entail, but also the way we work. The time when we used to dial up once a day to check our emails is long gone. Nowadays, we’re ‘on’ 24/7. Our brain is stimulated all day and barely gets time to rest. And we’re dealing with all that that entails, like a growing number of burnouts. 

Biorhythmic lighting

As an employer, how can you ensure that your staff stay physically and mentally fit in the 24-hour economy? Companies are paying more and more attention to the health and vitality of their people. Chip machine manufacturer ASML, for instance, adjusts the intensity of its lighting during the day to align with staff biorhythms. Supermarket chain Jumbo offers medical checks to improve staff health.

The value of people

These are inspiring examples of how employers are dealing with the changes that digitalisation is causing – especially because they show that they really appreciate the value of their people. That’s not a given: one of Korn Ferry’s own studies shows that many companies still underestimate the value of their people, when people are still much more important than technology. The trap here is that they invest heavily in technology, without investing enough in human capital too.

Companies cannot stick their head in the sand. Digitalisation of course requires investments in technology, but for real digital sustainability, investing in people is just as crucial.