What Do Digitisation, Diversity and Innovation Mean for Business?
Bridget Gray is the Managing Director of Harvey Nash in the Australasian region. She leads Harvey Nash's global media, digital and communications practice, and aims to create valuable relationships in business to collaboratively find innovative solutions to challenges faced across the globe. She regularly contributes to the media on digital, talent, IT and diversity in the workplace, and we spoke to her on what she thinks technology, relationships and the workplace will look like in the future.
What made you enter the tech industry? Did you expect your career to head in this direction?
My father is an engineer and sparked a fascination about technology within me, and also generally about how things work. I've always been interested in science broadly, and have always enjoyed the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of the technology industry.
What are you looking forward to most in the next five years?
I love to consider the possibly of robotics, AI and VR and the way they can improve how we live and our quality of life. For example, we have huge, life-changing opportunities in healthcare, and I think that's really exciting. Technology is also becoming more and more intuitive. I think AI will continue to evolve and we will get better at interacting with machines, so they in turn can become more 'intelligent' and allow us to focus more on creative, strategic outcomes. We're going to see some big changes in the workplace, as routine, repetitive tasks are automated) and collaborative practices and tools and the gig economy continue to gain popularity.
What effect do you think technology has on human relationships, in and out of the workplace?
The positive implications of technology include connectivity and the ability to communicate anytime and anywhere. As travel becomes easier, our economy becomes more global and talent sees the world as borderless, many of us are finding ourselves with loved ones dispersed all over the globe. Technology is making people feel less isolated and giving us the ability to communicate with loved ones more regularly.
Tom Soderstrom of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (a fellow Gamechangers speaker) mentioned one of the biggest challenges in this age is finding the right talent to take on big opportunities. Do you agree? How can businesses work towards acquiring this?
Top talent have greater opportunities to pick and choose what they want to do with their time, so companies need to understand the need for a compelling, engaging employee brand. This is a two-way process and means that although we are striving to build diverse workforces, we need some commonality around our values so we can attract, engage and retain the right people who can make us the best of breed as a business. I also think we need to change the way in which we look at 'the organisation', and how we view talent. Organisations will need to be flexible in the way they attract and employ individuals and to remain relevant in the market.
We know that diversity in the workplace doesn't just mean social change, but also has hugely positive economic impacts on business. What are the best ways businesses can champion diversity?
Education and exposure are the best ways to promote diversity of thought. To truly create a diverse workforce, we need diversity to be demonstrated from the top down, and have champions seeded throughout the business. Hard numbers are hard to argue with, so it's important that you have that transparency within the workplace. I also firmly believe diversity needs to be about inclusion, and not purely focused on gender if we want to avoid group-think and ultimately create more positive and profitable workplaces.
What should businesses be doing now to prepare for the future?
I think smart businesses need to continually look to global trends and competitive threats. This is nothing new, but what is different is that to survive in the future you need to compare yourself cross sector and globally. Perhaps this means you need to compete with top technology businesses, not your traditional competitors. Businesses need to harness and promote innovation. There is no silver bullet here, but your business needs to create space for fresh thinking if you are to remain relevant and be a market leader in today’s fiercely competitive platform economy.
What's something you believe in that very few other people do?
I love connecting people, and truly believe that collaboration, partnerships and advocacy are some of the most powerful business tools you can apply. I meet some people who get it, but I do continue to be alarmed by those who do not. We need to think customer first and often that means a solution with some thought, creativity and collaboration with other business units, organisations or thought leaders.
What's NOT going to change about business in the future?
We are always going to need strong leadership. People stay with companies because of leadership and data proves that employees are likely to stay if they view leadership as fair, transparent and with a clear vision. If you throw some humility into your leadership team, then you have the makings of something truly special.
Bridget will be speaking at the Gamechangers Summit held in Sydney from 28 February - 2 March. Future Crunch's co-founder Dr Angus Hervey will be chairing a group of the world's leading innovators, scientists and experts in a discussion on emerging technologies.