Oliver Wyman on the need for job redesign in the digital era

The need for reskilling and upskilling are not a challenge created by the digital era, and are easy to deal with.
12 March 2020

Retail is an example of how automation is creeping in and changing the jobs market. Source: Shutterstock

When organizations change the way they work, they need to train their staff to be able to either do things differently or do different things.

In the digital era, it’s usually the latter that causes managers to be concerned, because teaching staff to do something different (fit for the technological age we live in) requires more skill.

Anything from automation engineering to artificial intelligence takes patience and hard work, plus a lot of dedication and commitment.

That being said, the reality is that a majority of businesses using new-age processes tend to only need staff to do things differently. 

Take a retail store, for example. With cashless checkouts, fewer staff are needed to run a store (that means more stores can be opened without hiring new staff) and those people only need to perform certain tasks such as ensuring systems are running smoothly, IDs are checked where needed, that there are no electronic or system errors, and so on. That’s the extent of the job in the future.

That means staff need jobs to be redesigned for them, consciously, to continue to stay employed in the digital era and benefit the organizations all the same.

Oliver Wyman’s team recently put together a whitepaper on job redesign and pointed out that the process where tasks assigned to roles are realigned to ensure that work is aligned with the organization’s future strategy, easy to perform and productive, and engaging for the individual.

Since outlining the organization’s future strategy is part of the job redesign process, it is critical to involve senior management so that upskilling and reskilling programs created match the upcoming needs of the business and help absorb staff in new, relevant roles.

In the earlier example with automated checkouts, staff at stores have new tasks to perform but they’re almost as easy and productive to do, if not more — which is why they create better results for the organization.

Finally, the jobs must be engaging for the individual. At a time when optimization, efficiency, and productively are measured rigorously, if jobs are redesigned but not engaging, they’ll be ineffective as the organization risks hemorrhaging staff despite its efforts. That’s not ideal.

According to the consulting giant, the retail industry is redefining jobs at an accelerated pace — and others could take a cue from them in mapping the transformation of their own human capital.

Given the nature of Oliver Wyman’s work, it notes that retailers are being disrupted by technology quickly, and therefore need to proactively think about ‘job redesign’ as a concept. The sooner this is done, the better it is for the business.

“Initiating a job redesign plan enables the organization to proactively take stock of work being performed today, understand inefficiencies, and realign work in accordance to the organization’s future operating context. 

“There are many instances where the job redesign committee has eliminated obsolete operating processes, some of which have resulted in productivity savings by up to 50 percent.”

Job redesign is important. It’s something that will help organizations a great deal, whether in retail or not. 

However, to be truly successful, Oliver Wyman suggests ensuring that managers encourage and motivate staff to participate once the new training programs have been developed and deployed.