The Technation Future of Work conference series continued last Wednesday, as keynote speaker Ashok Krish, global head at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), shared his thoughts on the digital workplace and how workspaces would be impacted post-pandemic. 

Three points, in particular, stood out in Krish’s discussion relating to where life in the workplace appears to be headed and how shifting understandings of “the workplace” have already begun to rear their head.

The age of borderless talent is coming

Krish noted that while workplaces have continued to diversify in the period before the pandemic, the past fifteen months have truly invigorated and changed how teams are built in the workplace.

“There is an opportunity for companies to truly embrace borderless talent,” he said, noting that employees have opted to remain in their small towns rather than move to the large urban epicentres that house many major corporations. 

Ashok Krish (top left) joins co-panellists (clockwise from top right), Evan Hardie (IDC Canada), Tamir Bar-Haim (Amazon), Jenny Winter (CGI), and Jason Brommet (Microsoft). Source: The Technation Future of Work conference series.

Krish explained that due to this “de-urbanization phenomenon,” access to a more diverse and optimized workforce is achievable. And not only from the perspective of urban vs rural employees either.

Krish further emphasized that the digital workspace has provided more opportunities for women in the workforce, particularly in the technology sector. 

“Of the 20,000 employees [TCS] hired last year, 52 per cent were women,” he said.

Krish asserted that the flexibility of working from home, combined with notions of borderless talent, could mean that organizations would be able to assemble a team with exactly the right skill sets, regardless of who or where they came from.

Hiring employees is going to look different

One of the most concrete changes in workplace management, Krish said, occurred in the onboarding process of new hires. It’s clear that while the prevalence of in-person work has stalled, the hiring process certainly has not.

Krish highlighted the subtlety of the onboarding process before the explosion of work from home.

“A lot of onboarding in a physical workspace is…ambient awareness based. You come in; you see the workplace, you meet people…there is a period where you learn from others. That’s how you [were] mentored and how you get on board,” he explained.

With the lack of physical workspaces during the pandemic, however, the necessity to adapt has resulted in many changes to how companies now onboard their newest employees. “Once we figured out that we had to onboard people virtually and remotely…we started to discover that a large part of the onboarding journey [was] actually flawed”. 

He said that many companies thus took the opportunity to redesign their onboarding process, ranging from how they find talent, how they engage their employees, and how they integrate them into the culture and value system of the company. Specifically, Krish noted that companies had primarily moved away from the model that had relied on such strong implicit messaging to get new employees up to speed to much more effective solutions.

The hybrid model will rule, but maybe not how you think

The workplace has undergone several changes over the last number of years, from the closed and individual cubicle systems to more recent innovations such as open-plan workspaces.

Krish suggested that rather than entering the workplace from 9-6 followed by evenings spent at home, we are headed towards a “work-life continuum,” where the idea of work-life and home-life would begin to merge into a spectrum that provided employees considerably more flexibility.

In terms of collaboration in the workplace, Krish is predicting even more dramatic changes.

“There is now a high cost of collaboration,” he said. “The cost of coordinating with people remotely is high, [which is] why people like in-person teams.”

According to Krish, this factor, combined with the flexibility of work from home empowering some employees to begin quitting organizations that insist on a 5-day presence in the workplace, has made the two-way street of employee-employer relations even more integral to the hybrid model going forward.

Krish stressed that the in-person elements of the hybrid model would most strongly revolve around projects and program-oriented specifics and would be the determining factor in deciding the future of the workplace.

He elaborated that during collaborative tasks, when it made sense for people to be together in a workplace setting to brainstorm, pitch ideas, or otherwise participate in work best suited for in person, then the workplace could still serve an important purpose as a meeting ground. 

Contrastingly, Krish emphasized that “allowing people to go off and do their thing, then come back when necessary” would also be part of maintaining a healthy and efficient hybrid workplace environment. 

Ultimately, Krish concluded that maintaining this balanced workplace approach would result in the strongest and most efficient teams. 

“This kind of coordination is going to become a new [type] of project management skill in companies that want to retain the best kind of talent [going forward].”

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