The march to a worldwide digital workforce proceeds unabated, as industries realize their survival depends on how well they navigate the move to a digital economy where knowledge is king, and where people and robots work together from anywhere on the globe.
The number of mobile employees is projected to grow to 1.87 billion people by 2022, or 42.5% of the global workforce, according to a report from Strategy Analytics. That's up from 1.45 billion, or 38.8%, in 2016.
This trend will only accelerate, as aging workers are supplanted by Millennials and those even younger than them, generations who have spent their entire lives learning and now working in mobile, digital environments.
This dynamic, ever-changing workplace requires new skills--and new ways of applying old skills--and organizations and workers alike realize they need to change to stay current.
A survey from Accenture earlier this year found 95% of respondents said they will need new skills to stay relevant at work, while a report from Deloitte this past summer found 91% of employees work outside their designated functional areas, highlighting the importance of being nimble and the ability to learn new skills, or to apply existing skills in new ways.
It's not just employees who need to adapt; organizations must learn how to best transition to digital, and to do so in ways that are not disruptive to operations but are supportive to employees as they make the journey.
While change brings disruption, it offers many opportunities to strengthen an organization's culture, and offers innovative ways to amplify messages about compliance and good behavior, said Sunil Bheda, chief product officer at LRN.
"With this new proliferation, mobile apps can provide a more proactive approach to ethics and compliance by leveraging a device's geolocation and auto notifications to provide users with information they need based on regional and/or activity risks," said Bheda.
For example, a sales team traveling to Latin America can receive a message upon their arrival, reminding them of gifts and entertainment limits in the countries they are visiting. Or an executive headed to Eastern Europe can receive a reminder about ethical guidelines when interacting with government officials, or third-party agents acting on a government's behalf.
A number of companies already use mobile apps to deliver their codes of conduct to their global workforces, allowing their values to be accessed at any time of day, anywhere, and in the local language. And more are making the move.
"In almost every conversation I’ve been having with partners and prospects around codes of conduct, they are definitely asking for mobile solutions," primarily because that is the way most people access information, especially younger workers, said Jim Walton, an advisor for ethics and compliance at LRN. The company is building momentum with its mobile platforms, allowing companies to easily make their code, policies and hotline accessible by any device.
"It’s more about getting the ethics and compliance message out and making it easier for people to access the information and ask questions when they are unsure," said Walton.
While digital offers more effective methods to deliver ethics and compliance messages, organizations often put E&C at the end of the line when it comes to updating their mobile capabilities, said Shuba Balasubramanian, a risk and financial advisory principal with Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP, in a Deloitte-sponsored article earlier this year.
This is because the C-suite places a higher priority on transforming areas of the business that more directly affect profits, such as sales, supply chain, R&D and other parts of the operation that can improve return on investment, said Balasubramanian.
"Compounding the problem, compliance and internal audit groups may not yet grasp the speed and scope of digitization underway in the organization," she said.
A key is not to feel overwhelmed by the task, and not to try to do it all at once, she said. Take advantage of work already being done in the organization regarding the move to mobile, strengthen relationships with IT and continue to make the case that compliance needs to be modernized for today's work world as much as any other function.
“As digital technologies take on a larger role in the way organizations conduct their business, compliance and internal audit have no choice but to join in the transformation," said Balasubramanian.