27 November 2019 | Marino Donati
Most UK businesses dread being rendered irrelevant within the next five years through a failure to transition to an automated workplace, suggests research by Capita.
A report by the global outsourcing and professional services company says that organisations need to collaborate with their workforces to embrace automation and artificial intelligence.
Seven out of 10 business leaders said they see the creation of a 'hybrid' workforce as their biggest challenge. Two-thirds fear their organisation will become 'irrelevant' if they fail to make the transition.
Robot Wars or Automation Alliances? People, Technology and the Future of Work, explores how the workplace is rapidly changing as automation accelerates, and outlines challenges faced by businesses and employees.
The research includes workshops with people from factory and call centre employees to logistics and public service administrators, whose jobs have already changed because of automation.
The report finds the most effective way to ensure successful workplace automation is to build new processes with employees most affected by it. This would create a 'hybrid' workforce combining the innovative thinking and 'soft' skills of humans with the accuracy and ultra-fast speed of emerging technologies.
Seven out of 10 business leaders surveyed said that creating this hybrid workforce was the biggest challenge over the next five years, while two-thirds were concerned that their organisations would become 'irrelevant' by failure to make the transition.
There was also concern expressed about 'automation anxiety', and the fear of being left behind in the automated, digital age.
The report concludes that five automation 'guiding principles' are needed for government, policymakers and businesses.
It recommends setting out a clear vision for automation through proactive, transparent communication with employees, as well as championing transferable skill sets and building a shared base level of digital understanding across the workforce.
Empowering people to identify the ways that technology could improve their jobs; automation strategies that cater to needs across the whole workforce are also suggested. Tackling the scale and urgency of the challenge with multi-stakeholder action is also a key point, says the report.
Jon Lewis, chief executive officer of Capita, said: "It is crucial that 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."