Let’s start with the obvious: If you’re reading this – you’re online. Maybe it’s a traditional workday, maybe it’s the weekend. Perhaps you’re a freelancer, working in the middle of the night for a project that’s needed for a client where it’s already tomorrow in another hemisphere. You may be a millennial, or you may be in your 90s. In the former case, new research tells us that “digital natives” – those born in 1980 and after – spend up to seven hours a day online.
So, what does the ubiquitousness of digital media mean for the world of work? It’s no exaggeration to say that digital media is transforming the employment relationship and the very definition of a job. In fact, we see this as one of the major trends impacting work for the future.
Beyond seeing plenty of evidence from our clients around the world, we had the honor of partnering with the World Economic Forum (WEF) this year to explore the impact of digital media in shaping society. In fact, the WEF is sharing the findings for the first time this week at its annual conference in Davos, Switzerland. As part of this work, we engaged with employers and individuals from around the world, including surveying over 5,000 people aged 18 – 69 on their digital media use.
Our Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society endeavor sheds greater light on today’s media, entertainment and information consumer, and explores how digital media affects people, organizations and societies. It shares both opportunities and challenges arising from the growing use of digital media, along with ideas for how both can be addressed.
While our findings cover the broad spectrum of digital media’s impact and implications (you can read the entire report here), there are a few revelations that savvy employers should note for building an engaged and productive workforce.
Here are a few of these major implications.
- Digitization of content and data, as well as new digital communication technologies, have opened up novel opportunities for where, when, how and by whom work gets done. This is changing the nature of the employment relationship. Many jobs now can be done anywhere, at any time, facilitated by the availability of digital data, high-speed internet, and better messaging, audio and video technology.
- Jobs themselves are changing as digital media and advances in automation enable work to be increasingly fragmented into discrete tasks that can be performed more efficiently and effectively.
- Beyond enhanced productivity, the greater flexibility afforded by digital media allows for better work-life integration – a critical element in enabling workers to effectively juggle multiple roles as workers and family members.
- On a larger scale, higher work flexibility is helping to equalize and globalize work opportunities for people living in remote areas, those who are less mobile, or living in countries with less developed or struggling economies.
- Organizations can and should use digital media to communicate and engage with employees. Social enterprise tools are well suited for developing community within a company. Yet in a previous Willis Towers Watson study, only 56% of employers report using digital media to communicate with employees on topics such as organizational culture, team building or innovation.
- Respondents to our survey rate digital media as having an even bigger positive effect on their work lives than on their private or public lives, with particular benefits to their ability to find work, do work, develop professionally and collaborate with colleagues.
- The Implications of Digital Media Survey results show almost 70% of participants agree that the use of digital media for work-related purposes has already grown significantly and that it will continue to do so in the future.
It’s no understatement that digital media is changing the very face of work around the world. To read much more, explore the complete research report, posted here.
This post was co-authored by Anne-Marie Jentsch, a Senior Consultant in Willis Towers Watson’s Talent Management practice and Project Manager for the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society project.