UK firms struggle to foster 'hybrid workforces'

05 December 2019 3 min. read

Almost three-quarters of organisations believe combining automation with human labour is one of the biggest challenges they face, according to a new study. The report from Capita also discovered that more than half of staff would leave their job if their bosses do not manage the transition to hybrid work properly.

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has brought with it the potential for improved efficiency of resources, heightened productivity in manufacturing, and even the potential for low-cost medical care in the developing world. Adopting such revolutionary technology into the heart of firms will not occur effectively without some significant structural changes, though, and firms would do well to look before they leap in terms of investment.

Many businesses are simply concerned with investing for the sake of it, driven by the dreaded FOMO (or “fear of missing out”), according to a new survey by professional services firm Capita. According to the poll, the majority of UK businesses fear becoming ‘irrelevant’ within the next five years through failing to make a successful transition to an automated workplace. 67% fear their organisation will face such a fate if they fail to transition to a hybrid workforce – where workers work alongside automated machinery.

UK firms struggle to foster 'hybrid workforces'

Business leaders see the transition as the biggest challenge their organisations will face over the next five years (72%). The potential risks involved are illustrated by the threat that firms could be overtaken by competitors, and subsequently risk losing out on employees – with 51% of staff stating they would leave if their organisation does not manage the transition to hybrid work effectively.

At the same time, firms are dragging their feet when investing in the very staff who will have to work with automated technology. A hybrid workplace still depends on the human traits of creativity and critical thinking – freed up by the machinery now taking on repetitive tasks – and so without investing in the up-skilling of workers who will have to work alongside automated processes may well cancel out the perceived benefits of the technology.

In order to combat these concerns, Capita established five automation ‘guiding principles’ to encourage governments and businesses to adopt a responsible approach. First, the firm encouraged businesses to set out a clear vision for automation. Then, they should work to build a shared base level of digital understanding across their workforce. They should help their people identify how technology could improve their jobs to get them on board with the adoption process, before designing automation strategies catering to these varying needs. Finally, companies must foster collaboration to tackle the huge scale of hybridisation.

Jon Lewis, Chief Executive Officer of Capita, said, “It is crucial the adoption of new automation technologies is carefully managed to ensure the advantages are felt by everyone. This can only be achieved through open dialogue with employees, close collaboration between government and business, and honest conversations which result in policies that ensure society reaps the benefits of automation.”

Capita itself aims to be a leading player in automation across the UK and has recently set up a new dedicated automation practice at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham to deliver technology solutions for its clients. With this focus on automation and the technology being introduced right across Capita’s services, the company is working to actively engage with colleagues about what automation is, how it works, the types of business processes it can be applied to, and what it means for their job roles in the future.