As a worker in the modern digital society, you need to be able to tap into the knowledge and solutions available in your own professional networks but also to manage the ever-growing flood of information to cut through all the noise and get down to the essentials.
The digital revolution is having far-reaching implications for business, affecting not just strategies and decision-making but also organisational processes and the very people who actually carry out the work.
Our world is fast becoming more automated, highlighting the key role played by experts and specialists within the workplace. The ability to organise your own work and to communicate effectively with others is becoming increasingly important.
The winners in the newly digital world will be the people who can make use of the expertise, both their own and that of others, available to them and flexibly adopt different roles as required.
So what can you do to ensure your success in the brave, new, digital world? You won’t go far wrong if you turn your attention to these three things.
1. Start self-managing
As organisational hierarches become flatter, all members of staff will need to step up and make more of a contribution to joint decision-making. With new technologies, it is possible to do more things better and faster and, at this new pace, there is no longer time for bureaucratic and hierarchical decision-making processes.
Too much micromanagement will only stifle the innovative thinking that the self-management approach tries to induce. For staff to be self-managing, the employer will need to afford them a greater degree of freedom, while the staff will need to respond to the freedom by assuming more responsibility for taking control of their own work.
The key to self-management is motivation. Even if your work is interesting, it can sometimes be hard to feel enthusiastic about it. However, in order to succeed, you will need to be inspired by the actual process of carrying out your work. It is possible to adopt this mindset if you allow yourself to become aware of the wider context that gives meaning to the work that you do.
Filling out monitoring and evaluation forms might seem like a pointless administrative exercise. However, if you choose to look at it as an information sharing exercise that allows senior management to develop a clearer picture of what is happening within your organisation and gain a thorough understanding of how best to resource it, completing those Excel sheets will become much more meaningful.
The key to self-management is motivation.
In the modern workplace, you will need the widest possible skills base. Everyone, regardless of their position and title, will need to take an active role in updating their skills and determining new learning goals.
So don’t just sit around waiting for your employer to offer you further training. Be proactive and make sure you make those opportunities happen yourself.
2. Enhance your self-knowledge
As we hurtle into the digital era, we will all be presented with a challenge that was once reserved to senior managers and the self-employed only: How exactly do you go about drawing a distinction between work and leisure? As work no longer needs to be carried out in any one specific location, knowing exactly when you have “left the office” can become difficult.
You can only succeed in your career if you manage to achieve a good work-life balance.
This blurring of long-established distinctions can also bring new challenges, which may manifest themselves as stress or anxiety. In the absence of an actual, physical workplace and clearly-defined working hours, it can be difficult to put work to one side and give yourself permission to focus on other things instead. However, it is important to bear in mind that you can only succeed in your career if you manage to achieve a good work-life balance.
In the modern workplace, it is up to each of us to assume responsibility for finding the working methods best suited to us. You will need to work out where and how you find it easiest to concentrate and be productive. You need to have a sense of when you need to take breaks and for how long, and what is the best setting for each task.
However, it is also a good idea to give some thought to your own values; is it important for you to be able to set work aside in the evening and at weekends, and dedicate that time to friends and family? How much do you value your job in relation to all the other aspects of your life? For example, is it important for you to be constantly plugged into and responding to what is happening?
3. Understand other people
Discovering the right ways of working may be essential but, in terms of the bigger picture, it is also crucial that you are able to understand other people and their actions, values and ways of thinking.
Everyone who works will interact with others to some degree. In the future, the role of our interpersonal interactions is set to grow. As manual labour is replaced by automation, professional expertise and the social aspect of working will play an ever-greater role in the workplace.
The role of our interpersonal interactions is set to grow.
In social situations, whether they take place within the office or with clients, suppliers or any other stakeholder group, you need to be able to get on with all sorts of people. Today’s professionals will also need to be able to adapt to new ways of working and building their careers.
As the world of work shifts, all those in expert professional roles will have the opportunity to choose the working arrangements and patterns that suit them best. In this sort of setting, success means being responsive to other people’s working methods, valuing other people and accepting them for who they are.
The above may sound like an obvious truth but these things continue to present quite a challenge to some. The world of work is changing and businesses and their employees must be able to respond.
I would argue that this change is in fact an opportunity that presents all of us with the freedom to find a way of working that suits us best.
Further reading: Ellen Ernst Kosek has investigated the changing workplace and its impact on people, in Managing Work Life Boundaries in the Digital Age .
Anna Kilponen works as an Account Manager at Finland's leading social business advisory Dingle.