Article: The Balancing Act- Relevance and excellence in the digital world

Employee Relations

The Balancing Act- Relevance and excellence in the digital world

While efficiency is no longer the mainstay of human excellence, excellence is being commoditized with respect to job performance. So what is more important in the digital world relevance or excellence?
The Balancing Act- Relevance and excellence in the digital world

Progress is an inherently forward-moving phenomenon and as ‘time waits for no one’, neither does innovation. Competitive professionals are always looking for distinguishing themselves in a way that gives them a clear edge over the competition, however, this itself is being challenged with the influx of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled entities in the workplace. Efficiency is no longer the mainstay of ‘human’ excellence as advanced automation and seamless autonomous functioning have steadily taken out the ‘committing of errors’ from the corporate equation. Consequently, excellence is being commoditized with respect to job performance and the notion of being relevant in the Digital world is gaining more traction. Let’s review some examples in the respective context:

There was a time when error-free fast typing was widely coveted as a key skill and competitive professionals used to proudly reflect their typing speed, on a QWERTY-configured typewriter, in terms of words/minute on resumes as a visible indicator of efficiency. However, as times passed and modern technology provided more options, a profound shift took place as typewriters ceded relevance to error-accommodating word processors that, in turn, are now steadily losing ground to speech recognition/hands-free software/devices, e.g., ‘Dictate’ by Microsoft. Consequently, error-free fast typing is rarely found or graded as a core skill in resumes and is now relegated to a general pool of basic skills that do not merit an outstanding feature on a resume.

Six Sigma Black Belt certification has been considered an epitome of excellence in process optimization expertise for quite a while. However, in an era of advanced robotics/AI-enabled entities doing the assigned jobs at several sigma levels higher than the previous machines and skilled professionals, the need for such expertise is diminishing appreciably. Modern tech is able to self-monitor and self-correct any deviations from the desired parameters with minimal ‘human’ supervision/maintenance. Therefore, excellence has been ‘ingrained’ into the job performance and the need for developing hordes of Six Sigma experts is not relevant for the future.

Using various mediums for conveying/sharing/disseminating information/views/perspectives/insights/knowledge, e.g., PowerPoint, in an effective manner during office meetings/speaking at professional forums used to be a highly desirable skill. Competitive professionals diligently adorned their resumes with evidence of such prowess in an effort to rise above their peers for talent-hungry employers. However, such expertise has increasingly gravitated from being ‘coveted’ to being ‘expected’ from incoming talent. Consequently, the ‘content’, ‘packaging’ and ‘timing’ of the ‘message’ configured for the targeted audience is now becoming a ‘standard’ feature of professional expertise.

The aforementioned examples provide a sample of transformations in skill-sets that are occurring in the rapidly evolving Digital world. Additionally, increasing incidences of disruptive innovations are also contributing to the shortening of the ‘lifecycle of excellence’ as customers/clients continue to exhibit a voracious appetite for emerging technologies that marginalize existing states of comfort and open the path to new levels of nirvana. This can be visualized by the following chart that depicts the ‘AI-Driven Talent Inflection Point’, beyond which, the need for ‘human’ talent decreases profoundly due to the ubiquity of the AI-enabled entities with the precarious promise of an ‘even-better’ tomorrow:

Consequently, it is driving the strategic imperative for organizations to innovate in a timely, effective and desirable manner. One of the key aspects in relation to this is sagaciously figuring out how to utilize/develop/engage the available talent in a way that facilitates the achievement of strategic imperatives as a win-win proposition for all the key stakeholders. Therefore, it becomes critical for astute professionals to be cognizant of their own relevance as the organization navigates the uncertainties of the Digital world. The above pyramid is being presented to aide in the respective self-assessment:

The aforementioned pyramid shows both the ‘Intrinsic’ and the ‘Extrinsic’ sides, with overlapping boundaries, of a professional seeking to gain a solid bearing on his/her relevance in the Digital world. This could be easily accomplished by using a checklist that consists of questions that the respective professional can ask himself/herself under the various components of the pyramid founded on five key pillars, i.e., Attitude, Motivation, Values, Talent, and Experience. For example:

Professional Drive

1. Do I feel happy/energized in coming to work?

2. Do I have to push myself every day to meet job expectations?

3. Do I care about the quality of my work?

4. Will I go beyond the call of duty to help customers/clients/peers?

5. Can I be easily enticed by a competitor to switch jobs?

Professional Integrity

1. Do I have a strong understanding of professional ethics?

2. Do professional ethics frequently conflict with my sense of righteousness?

3. Will I be willing to compromise my core beliefs to be a good ‘team’ player?

4. Can I be held liable for any of my key principles pertaining to maintaining a high professional standard?

5. Will I take a stand against a majority in the workplace when my veracity is challenged?

Professional Savviness

1. Can I easily discern the right way for me to proceed with the accomplishment of my professional goals?

2. Have I been judicious in the utilization of my skill set?

3. Do peers respect and recognize my views/perspectives/insights during teamwork?

4. Do I have the trust and confidence of my supervisor(s) pertaining to assigned work?

5. Do I volunteer for ‘high exposure’ assignments to create strong ‘visibility’ for my talent?

Professional Competence

1. Am I preferred by my supervisor(s) for completing challenging assignments?

2. Do peers confer with me when they are stuck in their assignments?

3. Have I been justly rewarded and/or recognized for the high quality of my work?

4. Am I proactive in upgrading my skills/expertise even in the absence of any formal training/development assistance provided by my employer?

5. Have I been approached by high-profile competitors of my employer to work for them?

Professional Focus

1. Am I easily distracted by corrosive organizational politics?

2. Do I need to recalibrate my priorities periodically?

3. Is there ‘internal harmony’ within me in terms of reconciling the realities of professional work with my core principles?

4. Do I frequently have ‘guilt-trips’ on my past achievements?

5. Am I determined to reach my ‘professional’ destination?

Professional Astuteness

1. Can I develop a clear roadmap for sustainable career progression?

2. Am I open to conferring with a good mentor?

3. Do I actively engage in proactive professional networking?

4. Do I take advantage of promising training and development opportunities offered by my employer that may or may not be directly related to my current job?

5. Have I volunteered or maneuvered myself into a situation where I was chosen by my supervisor(s) to give an important presentation to the top management?

Professional Capability

1. Am I comfortable in taking up challenging assignments that are generally avoided by my peers?

2. Does my employer feel compelled to retain my services even in precarious economic times?

3. Have I benefited my employer in terms of facilitating major expansion initiatives?

4. Have I significantly helped my employer in key cost savings?

5. Have I been firmly identified as a future leader for the organization?

Professional Readiness

1. Do I welcome the prospect of engaging with AI-enabled entities as coworkers?

2. Can I easily align my personal ambitions with the strategic imperatives of my employer?

3. Am I comfortable in taking a higher level of responsibility in the absence of my supervisor(s)?

4. Is my current skill set primed to meet the evolving needs and expectations of my functional role?

5. Can I provide innovative and practical views/perspectives/insights in professional forums pertaining to my field?

Professional Competitiveness

1. Do I feel at ease during my discussions with the supervisor(s) on performance parameters?

2. Am I frequently asked to lead teams comprising of my peers?

3. Have I created and/or developed any tools/techniques/approaches that have significantly enhanced the quality of my work?

4. Have I worked with peers from different organizations on visualizing and creating effective strategies for the ‘future of work’ in my field?

5. Is my work ‘referenced’ by others in their initiatives pertaining to challenging assignments?

Subsequently, the responses to the questions can be tallied under each category with a corresponding ‘Yes/No’ answer to qualitatively assess the relevant ‘reinforcement’ strength of the ‘tributary category’ to the ‘culminating category’. Ultimately, this provides an astute professional with the robustness assessment of ‘Professional Relevance’ that he/she currently possesses with the incentive of developing a viable strategy to overcome any tributary deficiencies in a proactive manner before the bandwidth of desired talent narrows and the competition becomes, even more, fiercer among peers due to the increasing reliance/dependency on AI-enabled entities in the workplace. How relevant are you…? 

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Topics: Employee Relations, Performance Management, Life @ Work

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