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Deloitte, Google highlight 3 workforce trends for 2021

Executives from Deloitte Consulting and Google Workspace discuss how workforce trends that emerged during the pandemic will gain momentum in the year ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an expansion of technology use as organizations sought to keep remote workers productive, efficient and collaborative. According to Deloitte and Google, the workforce of 2021 will seek to augment its technology toolsets even further. What started as short-term technology solutions are now evolving into new approaches for the way companies work.

Tom Galizia, chief commercial officer for Deloitte Consulting's Alphabet/Google business, and Jose Pastor, Google Workspace vice president of product management, highlighted three 2021 workforce trends for channel firms to watch.

Greater reliance on technology

Channel partners can expect to see organizations rely more heavily on technology that enhances employee productivity, Galizia and Pastor said. Employees are facing regular deluges of information and need tools, such as smart suggested action items and AI-driven recommendations, to stay organized and on track.

Tom GaliziaTom Galizia

There is already evidence on how AI can help employees work, starting with simple tasks like helping prioritize their email inboxes and keep spam out, Pastor said.

Google Workspace, an online productivity suite launched in October, is getting better about delivering the right information, he added. "It is shortening the amount of time spent to find something and improving the efficacy of those returns."

Pastor said Google Workspace will continue to evolve during 2021 with richer integrations. For example, users can expect improvements to the search functionality as well as time management features. Pastor called the integration of the features "an important next space in our vision."

More real-time collaboration options

Channel partners may also see increased demands for real-time collaboration across all mediums, including text, video and voice. According to Deloitte, real-time collaboration options have become critical for remote workers.

Jose PastorJose Pastor

Pastor said this workforce trend is influencing the direction of Google Workspace's product development. As employees return to the office at least part-time in a hybrid work model, Google Workspace will look to enhance collaboration experience. "We will make a … richer experience in chat as part of that integrated workspace and a place where teams can get more work done," he said. "The kinds of things you'll see are places where you go to collaborate with your teammates, including integrations that deliver salient information to teams about projects with direct links" to all the documents they need, such as videos and pictures.

"In today's world, we set up a meeting and get on, and it's a separate island from the rest of work," Pastor added. "With a rich, collaborative experience, you have your documents present" and people will not only be able to co-edit them, but "push a button to see reactions in a much more human way."

A push toward a more sustainable workplace

The third workforce trend that Deloitte and Google Cloud highlighted is an increased awareness of environmental issues. They predicted environmentally conscientious organizations will shift toward using more sustainable workplace technology.

One of the few silver linings of the pandemic was that "COVID gave Mother World a breather" and deepened awareness of how humans affect the environment, Galizia said. "We have a real opportunity to understand that we have collapsed 10 years of technology adoption [in a short period of time] and … shouldn't go back to the way it was with the [large] number of physical meetings," he said. 

Galizia noted that Google has been focused on using AI in sustainability initiatives for some time now. The company has been carbon neutral since 2007.

"[Google's] commitment is clear: Sustainability has been core since our founding," Pastor said, adding that Google is currently the largest purchaser of renewable energy.

There are two dimensions of Google's focus on sustainability: what it does as a company and what it enables for other companies, Pastor said. "We will see more hybrid work and a reduction in travel that will help Mother Earth not just next year, but in the coming decade."

Investments needed for change

As organizations adapt to employees staying dispersed, they will need to make financial and change management investments to achieve this new normal, Pastor said. He added that the technology is available and people have learned to use it, but now organizations have to think about how to adjust to the hybrid work model and achieve "collaborative equity."

Every corporation on the planet is looking at its commercial real estate contracts and asking, 'Do I need as much physical space?'
Tom GaliziaChief commercial officer, Deloitte Consulting's Alphabet/Google business

Deloitte is seeing strong interest among its customers for pursuing a hybrid work model. "Every corporation on the planet is looking at its commercial real estate contracts and asking, 'Do I need as much physical space?'" Galizia said. "The reality is [Deloitte's] customers want both" -- a "healthy mix" of physical and digital workspaces.

Deloitte itself is reassessing its physical office space needs for its 330,000 global employees. The company is seeking ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Additionally, Galizia said, Deloitte is studying whether the significant amount of travel to client sites is necessary going forward "in order to deliver projects sustainably."

AI will play a big role in supply chain efforts as Deloitte helps customers get products to companies around the world, he added. "We're actively working with Google to do that in a meaningful way. … There are some very basic things done by humans that can be converted through AI, and 30% of physical tasks will be automated so we can spend our time differently. It's a wonderful opportunity for any vertical."

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