When you hear that AI and robots are becoming part of the future of teams in the workplace, you can’t help but let your mind imagine a sea of people-shaped machinery whizzing around the office. Or perhaps you start wondering whether in the not-too-distant future your own role will be replaced by one of these poker-faced robots?
But the reality of technology invading our working lives is far less threatening than we might imagine, and much more of a partnership that will transform our workplace in a positive way.
If the last two years have taught us anything in the world of work disruption, it’s that people and technology is not an either/or situation, or even a ‘versus’ conversation. We’ve had to rely on and work with technology to enable us to mobilize as remote workers.
We talked about the workplace ecosystem before, and how this is starting to look very different as we shift our thinking away from being rooted in one corporate office. But flexibility in this eco-system of choice can only come together and exist with the possibility of technology.
And if technology can work together with us to realise a more flexible working model and environment, then I guess who’s to say it can’t go a step further and become part of our workforce, or our teams in an entirely new way?
What is a SuperTeam?
While the word ‘Superteam’ might conjure up images of a perfect selection of superheroes…or more realistically a collection of the brightest and best people from across the organization, the concept is much more grounded in a transformation of the workforce. A ‘Superteam’ is defined as ‘the pairing of people with technology to re-architect work in more human ways’ – Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2021.
But what exactly does this mean? It means that organizations are shifting away from viewing technology as just an enabler, such as helping us to work remotely or collaborate better – and moving towards technologies such as automation or AI becoming an integral part of the workforce.
Instead of replacing roles, it’s taking away the repetitive, rules-based tasks and freeing up the team to work collectively on solving a problem.
While the adoption of AI in organizations is continuing to rise and it is agreed that there are clear competitive advantages, a global study found that only ‘8% of respondents report having deployed automation at a significant scale’. Even though Superteams have benefits that go beyond just performance, organizations are still finding there are barriers to fully integrating automation into their workforce.
So AI technologies being fully integrated into your team might still be a way off, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the concept of Superteams should be too.
In fact, if we really pick it apart creating Superteams is much more about reimagining the composition of a team, bringing together diverse thinking styles and elevating the value that they bring. It’s essentially a mindset shift from people working to complete all tasks, to intentionally bringing people together and giving them the time and space to use their real strengths…their human skills!
“Technology can empower teams, make work better for people, and make people better at work.” - Deloitte
Can technology help to create a more human workforce?
One of the ways Deloitte is helping their clients to think of these robots as part of their workforce, has been to give each robot their own name. Characterizing these ‘digital workers’ helps people to view the automation technologies as a transformation of their team.
The teams and the work are evolving…and now with the help of Bob the robot, you will be able to bring more value as a human!
As we see more automation being adopted into organisations, and the creation of these Superteams bringing both humans and technology together – you would expect to see a shift towards the need for more technical skills as people have to learn to work together with these robots. But instead, what the research is showing, and what is examined on Deloitte’s Humanizing the Future of Work Podcast, is that this integration of technology together with people, is actually opening up the opportunity to make work more human.
Automation not only brings to the team the benefits of speed, accuracy, consistency, efficiency, better predictions, and decision-making capabilities – it also removes the repetitive, rules-based tasks from people. Freeing up your workforce from the more menial and administrative tasks can allow for the people to focus more on human skills such as collaboration, building connections, problem solving and creativity.
An example Deloitte used in their podcast episode is when a customer service representative is assisted by a robot during a call. The automation system pulls up the right files and information as the customer answers initial questions or keys in certain numbers. This gives the representative time to focus on building rapport and fully engage in the conversation instead of spending time finding and opening the right files.
The creation of Superteams will not only give more time for the use of human skills, but also for the development of emotional intelligence too. For the people in a team to engage and use their collective thinking, they need to focus on building connections with each other and working together as an effective team.
Giving them more time to focus on developing human skills and emotional intelligence, can only help to build better performing and better-connected teams in the workplace.
“By hiring the right people and cultivating a culture of emotional intelligence, your team will not only be happy — they’ll also be more productive.” – Forbes
Five ways we can use ‘Superteam’ thinking to build better teams
Automation is already all around us. We experience it when we’re shopping online or trying to talk to customer service through a chat bot, or even on any of the apps we use on our phone. Most of us experience it in our personal lives daily without much thought to it at all.
But for many of us, seeing these robots as a new member of our team is potentially still a little while away (although not as long as we might think either!).
However just because Bob the robot hasn’t joined your team just yet, doesn’t mean we can’t take the ‘Superteams’ thinking and use this in our organizations. If we take the concept, peel it back, we can use it as a foundation to look at building better teams for the future.
These are some of the five ways we can use ‘Superteam’ thinking to transform our own workplaces:
1. Reimagine how teams are designed
Think about bringing together cross-functional, diverse teams from across the business. Or look at ways of bringing people together based on their capabilities, their style of thinking or their experience on a similar project. Focus on choosing talent over titles, or management levels, and go beyond just those immediate or familiar connections.
Superteams make use of different skills and thinking and brings these together to collectively achieve a goal. Look at new ways of designing your teams and how technology can be a part of them in the future.
2. Rearchitect the work they do
As well forming teams in new ways, we should start to think about their purpose and what they are going to achieve in new ways too. Bringing people together to solve a problem or achieve a goal without being too prescriptive can create new ways of team thinking and working.
Allow your Superteams to rip up the rule book or start from a blank sheet and encourage them to rethink how they can reach their goal collectively.
3. Focus on Human skills
Reskilling is likely to be part of the norm in the future world of work, but make sure you are also focusing on building the right skills in your workforce. The skills that are less likely to be replaced by automation, and those that will be most in demand are the human skills.
In the same way Superteams replace some administrative tasks with automation, you can look to incorporate tools and technology to give your people more time to use their strengths and skills better. Ensure you are building your teams to make time for, and focus development around, human skills to ensure the team can bring the most value.
4. Cultivate Emotional intelligence
A Superteam is still made up of individuals, and to encourage the team to engage and build connections well, it is imperative you help to cultivate emotional intelligence for the team.
Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social management are all key skills for both working in and leading a team.
Nurture and develop these skills in your people and you will find that teams begin to collaborate more effectively and are better equipped at dealing with team conflict or pressures.
5. Build a digital and learning culture
The key to your teams of the future embracing and working side-by-side with technology is having the right culture embedded in your organisation. Microsoft found that culture is one of the most important factors in people across the business being able to successfully adopt new technologies.
Ensuring you build a culture that embraces not only digital, but also learning and developing new skills, will set up your people and teams for success in the new world of work.