Business Technology

Building the workplace of the future: What we can learn from Asian businesses

6 min read

07 June 2019

To stay competitive in such an agile working world, having a cohesive, well-defined digital vision and the strategy to properly implement it is essential.

Digital tools and devices are ubiquitous both in our personal and professional lives, and our dependence on technology to help us get things done in the workplace will only increase in the coming years.

Among these changes, increased usage of mobile devices for remote working comes to mind, as well as cloud-based office applications becoming the norm, and automation putting an end to cumbersome administrative tasks and processes.

European businesses are still trailing behind digitally – why?

Despite this, recent global research carried out by PerformanceWorks International and Bridges Business Consultancy has shown that European businesses are still behind the curve when it comes to putting a digital strategy in place. In contrast, our colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region seem to be doing considerably better in this respect.

So what can we learn from the digital successes of the APAC region?

What measures are they taking to embrace digital and how will this impact on the complexion of the future workplace?

Digital readiness

According to our research, just 51%of European organisations currently have a digital vision for the future in place. In contrast, 60% of those in Asia and 65% in North America are implementing this vision, immediately highlighting how Europe has some catching up to do.

When asked to rate how ready they are to digitally transform on a scale of 1 to 10 (where higher numbers represent a higher level of readiness), respondents from Europe averaged a score of just 5.1, compared with 6.0 in Asia.

It is clear from here that Asia is succeeding in putting together a digital vision and combining this with decisive action and the fostering of a digital-first culture, which will have a defining role in how the APAC workplace will operate and develop in the future.

What are European businesses doing wrong?

Europe, however, is risking stagnating in its digital development due to excessive red tape and a general resistance to evolution. Levelling the playing field Take China’s rapid move to becoming a cashless society as an example of effective future-thinking.

By innovating in this way, the country has levelled the playing field from a technological point of view and enabled itself to compete with more established economies in the western world.

As a result, apps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay are widely used, and the majority of payments in China are now made with smartphones. This digital-first focus is also permeating the working culture, and is paying dividends from an efficiency point of view.

Asian businesses go full steam ahead, let’s not get left behind

This is where European businesses need to take note, lest they remain hampered by bureaucracy, outdated paper-based processes and a reluctance to adopt new digital tools.

Catching up with Asia is about reforming organisational structures, creating a renewed sense of urgency to change, and embracing greater agility.

Cultural change

Building a future workplace where digital is the norm isn’t just about the technology itself. For digital evolution to be a success, employees at all levels of an organisation need to prepared to change the way they think and act.

Once again, Asia is well ahead of the game in this area. According to our research, when asked how enthusiastic staff are to embrace change on a scale of 1 to 10 (with higher numbers representing a greater enthusiasm for change), Asia scored 6.5 on average, compared with just 5.2 in Europe.

These numbers are a stark indicator of the work that needs to be done in Europe to nurture a culture that sees a digitally minded future as the norm, rather than something to be regarded with disinterest, immobility or suspicion.

– Asia has blazed a trail and is proving that the most adaptable organisations are the ones that will thrive.

Technology + hearts and minds = a successful future workplace

To narrow this gap, it’s crucial that European leaders conduct detailed evaluations of their organisational culture, with an emphasis on improving the human touch within digital transformation so that all employees feel they are part of the journey.

Without a willingness from employees to change the way they think and act, any digital vision is likely to fail. Winning hearts and minds in this area is about being able to connect with employees, communicate a vision effectively, and motivate them to embrace it on a long-term basis.

This means not just having a digital vision, but having the strategy to execute it and ensure that this evolution in culture filters down throughout the entire organisation.

Asia has set itself on a path towards a future workplace where digital tools and automated processes are part of the furniture. It’s now up to Europe to follow this example and make up the lost ground.