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Six digital trends shaping the new work ecosystem in Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific findings from the 2019 Pathways to Digital Enablement Survey

March 30, 2020

The 2019 Pathways to Digital Enablement Survey explores how organisations can successfully navigate today’s changing work ecosystem.
Work Transformation|Employee Experience|Ukupne nagrade

Digital is more than a buzzword, it’s a new reality: Three out of four organisations are developing new digital capabilities. As more organisations undergo digital transformation, they find themselves in different stages of maturity on their journey, but all are breaking new ground. In Asia Pacific, only 17% of companies are truly transformative — that is, further ahead of others in realising their digital ambitions. This is reflected in their financial performance: They are more than two and a half times as likely as emerging organisations to report being high performing relative to their peers.

Here are the six key trends in Asia Pacific shaping the new work ecosystem, based on our research.

  1. 01

    Automation continues to grow, expanding both its reach and penetration.

    Over nine in ten organisations anticipate that in three years, they’ll be using automation to get some types of work done. The proportion of work completed fully using automation more than doubled over the past three years from 8% to 20%, and is expected to jump up to 34% three years from now (Figure 1). The increase over the past three years is attributable to more organisations beginning to use automation as well as a greater uptake by companies already using workplace automation. During the next three years, the increase in usage will be largely due to greater use of automation by current adopters.

The proportion of work completed fully using automation more than doubled over the past three years from 8% to 20%, and is expected to jump up to 34% three years from now (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The proportion of work completed fully using automation

It is also notable that while most organisations are more likely to use automation and other technologies to support humans completing business processes, most transforming organisations use automation to create new types of work for humans or to autonomously complete work.

  1. 02

    Organisations continue to strive to develop new digital capabilities.

    While just one in five (18%) companies see digitalisation as a way to fundamentally transform their business model and who they are as a business, the majority (72%) understand that digitalisation can enable a range of value creation. Almost half of the transforming companies take a pervasive approach to driving digital transformation by embedding digital capabilities throughout the organisation, as compared to 23% of other companies that follow this approach. 27% of companies have a centralised and formalised digital function.

Digitalisation is a way to fundamentally transform our business model and who we are as a business.
Digitalisation is a way to enable our business strategy and provide better customer experience, drive innovation and improve productivity — but we are not changing who we are as a company.

The chief digital officer (CDO) plays an important role in the digital transformation journey, but only 18% of the respondents answered that they have a CDO. Transforming organisations understand this, and 42% of these companies have CDOs in place, to drive the ongoing development of digital capabilities needed to break new ground and shape unique work environments that engage all talent, helping to ensure the future success of the organisation.

  1. 03

    Automation and digitalisation will continue to impact jobs, work and talent.

    Automation and digitalisation are powering new combinations of work, talent, skill requirements and work relationships. In the next three years, more organisations expect to use more contingent talent and redesign jobs to both raise and lower skill requirements as they combine humans and automation, and deploy work to other locations.

Many organisations are planning to refresh their toolkits for job redesign and workforce planning.

To prepare for such change, organisations plan to refresh their toolkits for job redesign and workforce planning, which includes identifying where technology has the biggest impact on work, matching talent to new work requirements assessing talent to identify ‘skill and will’ gap, and enabling careers based on a more agile and flattened structure.1

About half of the HR functions at organisations in Asia Pacific are somewhat or fully prepared for two key changes:

Identifying the emerging digital skills required for the business as a result of digital transformation
Increasing team collaboration through new technologies

  1. 04

    As workplace automation expands and its impact on talent sourcing and job design increases, the talent mix will evolve.

    Free agent workers’ share of the total workforce is expected to increase by 1.3 percentage points over the next three years, while full time employees’ share is expected to drop 4 percentage points. Use of free agents on a talent platform (such as Upwork and Topcoder) will also increase dramatically by 84% in three years. As organisations have more diverse options to get work done, a key capability will be to effectively engage and manage this extended workforce; however, our research indicates that only 15% of companies are fully prepared for this.

    As organisations have more diverse options to get work done, a key capability will be to effectively engage and manage this extended workforce.

  1. 05

    Feeling the impact of automation and digitalisation, both employees and contingent workers are uncertain about their work future.

    From a talent perspective, the changes occurring in organisations and labour markets, and within society in general, heighten worker perception of job risk.

    The perception of job risk is highest among contingent talent followed by managers.

    Two out of five workers think their jobs are likely to be taken over by automation or offshoring in the next decade. The perception of job risk is highest among contingent talent (64%), followed by managers (40%), according to the 2019 Willis Towers Watson Talent Survey.

    Not only do senior leaders and HR need to orchestrate an ecosystem made up of multiple work options and communicate a clear path on how they will deploy technology, they need to be adept at painting a compelling picture of how human performance will be augmented, and not just replaced, by these changes.

  1. 06

    Organisations anticipate challenges with attracting, retaining and leading the talent of the future.

    Nine out of 10 organisations across Asia Pacific are facing challenges with both attracting (90%) and retaining (89%) digital professionals.1 Also, many organisations struggle to integrate contingent workers with specialised skills, and only 31% think they are effective at this.

Organisations recognise the need to step up their game with breakthroughs in key human capital areas. Our research indicates that these areas include:

Performance management:

To build clear goals and accountabilities, and to reward work effectively

Leadership development:

To build capabilities on leading the new work ecosystem and talent

Organisational structure:

To ensure that the organisational structure reflects business strategy, operating model and digital ambitions

Career management:

To refresh career management approaches by identifying future skills amidst job redesigns due to the impact of technology

How can employers start charting a clear course of action for driving digital transformation?

  1. Consider where you are on your journey by conducting a Digital Maturity Assessment. Identify which digital enablement levers to prioritise, as focusing on human capital levers can unlock value in your digital transformation.
  2. Develop a plan for a change that pulls the levers needed today and plan for those you will need to address over the next 12 to 36 months. Organisations should build a digital enablement roadmap, and develop a future of work strategy.
  3. Actively listen to your employees through pulse surveys and gauge progress along the way. An agile approach will provide quick wins and fast fails will help inform how to improvise your approach.


1 2019 Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey, Digital Transformation Practices Report – Asia Pacific

Contact our experts

Senior Director, Employee Experience

Adam has more than 17 years experience in culture, engagement, reward and people strategy consulting. He is currently the leader of WTW’s International region Organisational Insights and Change Community, responsible for the development and implementation of employee insights, analytics and transformation solutions tailored to market needs across APAC, LATAM and CEEMEA.

In his consulting work Adam leads client projects in the areas of Culture, Employee Experience, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Wellbeing, Future of Work, Reward Strategy & Job Levelling and Merger and Acquisition integration. Adam is passionate about ongoing research and innovation and speaks regularly on topics including future of work, culture, psychology of reward, employee wellbeing and employee experience.

Leader, Talent Line of Business, Taiwan
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