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19 March 2019

Organisations need to prepare for the new hybrid workforce

Businesses risk talent exodus and future irrelevance if they fail to manage shift to hybrid human-AI workforce.

Business leaders in the UK believe that the transition to a hybrid ‘human-AI’ workforce will be their biggest strategic challenge over the next five years.  And, as the adoption of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and automation accelerates across a wide range of industries, two thirds (67%) of business leaders fear that their organisation will become irrelevant if it fails to move to a hybrid workforce.

New research launched today by Capita People Solutions reveals that 72% of business leaders see the ‘human-to-hybrid’ transition as their most important priority, while 93% acknowledge that they need to start proactively managing the shift to a hybrid workforce this year. Interviews with 500 leaders of medium and large-sized businesses showed that the role of HR will need to radically change. More than 90% of leaders feel that improving a whole organisation’s ability to learn and change is important or extremely important, while 88% said upskilling their staff was a priority, including in entirely new job categories.

The survey of more than 2,000 company staff also shows that they cannot afford to fail – with more than half (51%) of UK employees reporting that they will choose to leave their organisation if it doesn’t manage the transition to a hybrid workforce well and continue to offer opportunities to progress.

The study defines Human to Hybrid as ‘the new dynamic where humans will work in a fully digitised and technologically-optimised environment, and increasingly work alongside robots and AI, over the next ten years’. It also explores levels of understanding, expectations and concerns around the shift to a hybrid workforce among both senior leaders and employees within UK businesses.

Clearly highlighted is the need for organisations to approach the Human to Hybrid shift in a considered and structured way, with leadership from the very top. It shows that 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.

The research uncovers that the biggest worry for workers is that working within a hybrid workforce will result in a lack of human interaction at work (46%). Other concerns include reduced opportunities to progress (26%) and the possibility of a less inclusive and diverse workforce (23%). However, most workers are 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%).

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.

Erika Bannerman

Executive Officer, Capita People's Solutions

While nearly all business leaders believe that a hybrid workforce will bring significant benefits, 98% of business leaders cite problems with the transition. These challenges include overcoming employee resistance and fear (34%), the need to re-skill people within their existing workforce (30%) and a lack of confidence in new technologies (28%). Almost a third (30%) of business leaders admit to a lack of knowledge around how best to manage the shift to a hybrid workforce and 28% point to a lack of leadership in their organisation in this area.

Indeed, such is the scale and complexity of the challenge, business leaders admit to needing greater levels of support and guidance, from both within and outside the organisation. Notably, 75% of business leaders would welcome greater advice from Government on how to approach AI and the hybrid workforce in a sustainable way. And as many as 94% acknowledge that they need practical support to build a vision and strategy for the integration of human and digital labor.

Erika Bannerman concluded: “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.”

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