AI and automation. Ready or not, here it comes

AI and automation. Ready or not, here it comes


We’re facing somewhat of a brave new world. Change is on the horizon, and it’s not that far away. Businesses are being called upon to embrace new technologies so that humans work in a fully digitized and technologically-optimised environment (such as working alongside robots and AI), in order to compete on the international business stage.

The future is all about change and transformation. The question is, at what cost? And are we prepared for it?

Capita People Solutions recently launched a piece of research ‘Human to Hybrid; The Next Workforce Frontier,’ which goes some way to probe how 2,000 business leaders and employees feel about the rise in AI and automation.

The results are mixed.

67% of business leaders fear that their organisation will become irrelevant if it fails to move to a hybrid workforce, meaning 72% of business leaders see the ‘human-to-hybrid’ transition as their most important priority. As such, 93% stated that they need to start proactively managing the shift to a hybrid workforce this year and 500 leaders of medium and large-sized businesses stated that the role of HR will need to radically change to facilitate this. What’s more 90% of leaders feel that improving a whole organisation’s ability to learn and change is important or extremely important.

88% of business leaders agree that that in order to drive a successful transition to more automated working they must invest in a three-pronged approach of developing: their use of digital technology; their use of data gathering and analysis; and the skills and capabilities of their people.

Yet, whilst they acknowledged the barriers to success, nearly all the business leaders believed that a hybrid workforce would bring about significant benefits. The main issue is that 98% of business leaders are worried about the transition to the point that business leaders admit to needing greater levels of support and guidance, from both within and outside the organisation. 75% of business leaders would welcome greater advice from Government on how to approach AI and the hybrid workforce in a sustainable way, whilst 94% said they needed practical support to build a vision and strategy for the integration of human and digital labor. 

As for the employees? Well they recognised the importance of the transition of adopting new technologies, with 51% of UK employees reporting that they will choose to leave their organisation if it doesn’t manage this transition to a hybrid workforce well. Also on the minds of 46% of the workers, is that they worry that a hybrid workforce will result in a lack of human interaction at work. 26% were also worried about reduced opportunities to progress, whilst 23% were concerned about the possibility of a less inclusive and diverse workforce. That said, most employees were positive about the prospect of working within a hybrid workforce, believing that it will provide increased opportunities to learn new skills (44%), greater flexibility (40%), and more interesting and varied work (32%).

Erika Bannerman, Executive Officer at Capita People Solutions, said: “The shape and make-up of workforces across all industries will change dramatically over the next few years and business leaders have to get on the front foot to manage this transition. Investing in AI and automation is not enough to build a sustainable or productive hybrid workforce; organisations also need to ensure they have the skills, cultures and processes in place to work alongside this technology. It has to be a people-first approach, where innovative technology is used to support, enable and empower a highly-skilled, motivated and agile human workforce to deliver higher value work. That means business and HR leaders listening to their employees and engaging in a meaningful dialogue around these future workforce dynamics, being open and transparent about their vision and plans, and motivating and engaging their people to thrive in this future world of work.

“Business and HR leaders are facing some important questions around the impact that a hybrid workforce will have on workplace culture and collaboration, recognition and rewards, and diversity and inclusion. The organisations that will thrive in the future will be those that can identify, recruit and retain the skills they need to compete, and develop learning cultures which ensure they have the agility and speed to adapt to changing market conditions and opportunities. This can only be achieved with the right learning cultures and an unrelenting focus on delivering a first-rate employee experience throughout the organisation.”

Despite concerns, both businesses and employees are keen to embrace the advances AI and automation could afford businesses. As ever, it’s all in the planning. And plan they must, for fear of being left behind.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

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