The arrival of technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence are not just enabling companies to automate more of their work. They are also freeing them to rethink their entire approach to human capital, from redesigning the jobs humans do to employing new ways to find talent, share knowledge and continuously train workers.
Workplace innovation also poses regional questions. How does Greater Philadelphia ensure that its students and population are ready for the digital age? How do we make the future of work inclusive?
To explore these challenges, Deloitte and the Philadelphia Business Journal brought together Steve Zarrilli, CEO of University City Science Center; Vince Amatulli, chief technology and operations officer of FS Investments; Frank Leto, president and CEO of Bryn Mawr Trust; Jim Cleary, executive VP and CFO of AmerisourceBergen; and Margaret Dinneny, CPO of Wawa.
Sandy Smith, market president and publisher of Philadelphia Business Journal, and Robert McNeill, Greater Philadelphia managing partner, Deloitte LLP, moderated the discussion.
How are future-of-work technologies like automation and artificial intelligence changing your jobs?
Amatulli: We are always looking for ways to technically help our business execute its mission and operate efficiently. When you think about the broader workforce, technology is more an opportunity than it is something to fear.
Cleary: By applying advanced technologies to the healthcare space and pairing them with expert human intervention, we can drive faster speed to therapy and provide a more seamless experience for patients. For example, we have initiated an electronic benefit verification process in our patient support service programs to help patients access their therapies faster. This process leverages a proprietary artificial intelligence technology to automate what has been a manual and time-intensive process.
Do associates believe what you are telling them when you say you are not looking to eliminate jobs but just change the types of jobs being done?
Leto: Yes, I believe our employees understand, because they are heavily involved in the implementation of our technology. In our experience, for the best results, technology and human capital work must continue hand-in-hand.
Zarrilli: Many companies think technology will displace human input. What we’re finding is that it’s actually an assisted intellectual endeavor. It’s not displacing critical decision-making. It’s just better informing those who have to make decisions with data that is credible, timely and ever-changing.
McNeill: When it comes to how jobs are changing, we could see the rise of whole new job categories, including “hybrid jobs” and “super jobs,” that blend roles from different areas of the enterprise. Technology is allowing job descriptions to cross boundaries in a way they couldn’t before.
How are you handling the hiring and reskilling to support a new job environment?
Dinneny: We are focused on our existing team first. For example, as part of our digital transformation, we are working with our IT team to assess their base skills as well as the skills we will need going forward and providing training on both fronts. At the same time, we are bringing in new talent and skills to supplement the team. It is a multi-pronged approach.
Amatulli: For us, it’s more about continuous education as opposed to a specific point in time employees need to be trained. We’re always trying to teach as we introduce new technologies and concepts.
Zarrilli: At the Science Center, we’re trying to figure out how to help pre-college students find a potential passion in science and technology, and work with those who don’t have a college degree find ways into our innovation economy. One STEM education program brings middle and high school students to our facility to supplement their classroom work in the areas of science and technology. Another program, in partnership with Drexel University and the University City District, focuses on matching employment opportunities in our science and technology communities with our local workforce in West Philadelphia and University City.
What needs to change in the U.S. education system and its role of developing children today for up to 40 years in the future?
Amatulli: If you go back to middle school and high school, overweighting the focus on the STEM disciplines would be a way to encourage activity and participation, particularly for women. Then we would potentially end up with more candidates to go into the discipline and eventually apply for that two-year degree or trade-level schooling.
Cleary: As a father of two daughters, I believe it’s critically important to give young women access to these courses. I’ve seen firsthand how engagement in STEM can give young women the confidence they need to be successful.
Zarrilli: If we compare Philadelphia to other economically vibrant communities, what we’ll find is that we can’t always compete with the kind of intellectual talent found elsewhere. Our local educational environment needs to remain nimble to properly educate our youth so they can participate in an ever-changing world. Not everyone desires or can afford four years of college. Supporting alternative training and educational environments to address this wide range of interests and talents should be one of our highest priorities.
McNeill: Indeed. We may very well see our colleges and universities morph into new models that align more directly to these concerns. Today, we have the four-year degree, but in the future, we may have the 40-year degree: Universities and companies are coming together to help workers learn continuously throughout their careers.
Does the growth of the “gig” economy seem like a permanent change or one driven more by business cycles?
Amatulli: Anyone that thinks any change is permanent is probably a bit naïve. The one thing that’s constant is change.
Dinneny: In general, people are looking to be more entrepreneurial. If you ever listen to the NPR podcast How I Built This, it’s all about how different companies were founded and the entrepreneurial nature of the work it took to launch a company. People hear these stories and decide they want to do something entrepreneurial. In today’s fast-paced world, we can appreciate the ability of the gig economy to help accelerate innovation, but for Wawa, our focus will always be on long-term relationships.
What are best practices when more work is done in teams while there is also a more mobile workforce?
Leto: Providing an environment that allows collaboration through technology. We have multiple campuses, branches and road warriors who are out working with clients. The old-fashioned conference call, mobile phone and voicemail still have their place, but enhanced communication tools like work-sharing platforms and video conferencing lead to better connectivity and collaboration.
Cleary: At AmerisourceBergen, we have 150 offices across the globe, so fostering remote collaboration and teamwork isn’t an option for us – it’s essential to our success. We’re bullish on selecting the right technologies to ensure positive collaboration. In addition, more and more companies are creating amazing work environments. We’re in the process of building our new headquarters in Conshohocken and we’re excited for all the amenities that space will offer our associates here in the greater Philadelphia region.
Dinneny: It’s about providing our store associates a company and a position that makes them want to come to work. I recently met a customer service associate who worked for Wawa for 20 years, and she told me that her job was her calling. It’s fulfilling moments like this that we want to preserve.
Several companies are now asking employees to come back to the office and work regular schedules. Is the traditional work environment returning?
Leto: Today, I do not even know what a traditional work environment looks like because we have so many office setups. Unlike some industries, we have traditional core hours that need to be maintained to service clients, but other functions can have more have flexibility. It all comes down to balancing demands of the market with the needs of a modern workforce.
Cleary: When I think about flexibility, it’s not just about working from home, it’s about creating a benefits package that associates value and want. Things that come to mind include summer hours on Fridays and a parental leave policy that doesn’t require associates to exhaust their PTO.
How are changing demographics and family structures impacting the future of work?
Dinneny: They have a big impact. At Wawa, we value diversity as it’s important to have different teams and perspectives at the table because it strengthens your organization’s ability to grow and fulfill lives.
Zarrilli: There is an ever-evolving need on the part of businesses to provide flexibility to their workforce. However, with flexibility comes potential abuse. Certain employees at all levels will take advantage of an ill-defined environment. That doesn’t mean we have to define a strict environment, but we should provide the necessary guardrails — flexibility but with some structure. No prescribed model can uniformly work across every business model. The folks around this table today all represent businesses that are so different. But the reality is we are all struggling with issues as they relate to flexibility, accountability, and the future of work. Every leader ultimately has to understand their organization, its own definition of flexibility, and the policies needed to provide those guardrails to keep employees in an environment that will allow them to succeed.