The hybrid working pandemic

With coronavirus restrictions now lifted, there is no bigger trend than the shift many businesses make to a hybrid working model. Sherif Choudhry, a Managing Partner at BCG Platinion, looks at the fear of automation, the need for a human-centric approach, and how technology can foster new relationships.
With coronavirus restrictions now lifted, there is no bigger trend than the shift many businesses make to a hybrid working model. Sherif Choudhry, a Managing Partner at BCG Platinion, looks at the fear of automation, the need for a human-centric approach, and how technology can foster new relationships.

With a large portion of the UK’s population now vaccinated, businesses are now returning to the office en masse. But the world has moved on; the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the way businesses and industries function indefinitely, and some would argue for the better. Welcome to the hybrid workplace: a new reality for companies and one in which we will all need some adjustment. 

Many organizations have already outlined their working model policy, with most asserting support for a flexible working pattern and reducing office space. For example, big tech firms Facebook and Twitter now allow employees to work from a location of their choice while telecom giant BT has reduced their number of offices by a staggering 90%, from 300 to 30.

While upholding a hybrid workforce will undoubtedly present challenges, the most important task for business leaders to solve is maintaining the benefits of remote working without embedding the negatives of virtual models. Fortunately, many different technologies, including automation and data collection, are available and ready to help make this a seamless transition.

Automation – a dual reputation of hero and villain

Automation is many things to many people; with a changeable reputation, it is hailed as both a villain and a hero, with a reputation for eliminating jobs or transforming industries. However, as we resurface from the pandemic, many business leaders will turn to automation to reduce employee workload and enable remote working. 

Yet businesses are reluctant, no doubt due to an unfavourable reputation among workers. A recent survey highlighted that that 40% of employees were anxious about automation. More worryingly, a further 43% shared concerns over being monitored by employees at work.

Automation has consistently created a phenomenal benefit for copious businesses and organizations, with many leaders affirming a boost in productivity and efficiency throughout the coronavirus pandemic as a direct result of automation. Indeed, a World Economic Forum predicts that global AI roles will increase to 128 from 78 per 10,000 vacancies.

When viewed from this perspective, automation can empower both employees and management to dedicate resources to more worthwhile functions such as customer service or employee development through in-office training. In addition, if rolled out effectively, automation allows us to complete a greater quantity of work with the same number of people, automating monotonous tasks, rather than simply shrinking the workforce. 

When automation is a part of a company’s processes, businesses enable human resources to be spent elsewhere. But it is the duty of management to ensure staff are upskilled and reskilled and put in place strong change management programmes that explain the technology and benefits to existing staff.

Humans and data should go hand in hand

As data can capture almost anything and informs automation programmes, which is why for successful automation implementation, a successful data strategy is essential. As a result of this, many businesses have been crazed by a pursuit of a data-driven approach.

However, a 2020 IDC report alluded to the substantial investment in data management and analytics in increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, employee retention and revenue. Without argument, data has provided clarity through critical insight and, in doing so, spotted areas in customer gaps that needed resolving. In the same period, data has also directed IT by delivering solutions that have improved employee retention while maintaining productivity. The past 18 months have taught us that data is crucial, particularly in challenging times.

And at the hands of the pandemic, digital adoption has increased a rapid rate at both the industry and organization level. However, data can only go so far; complex human behaviour, often challenging for fellow humans to grasp, is far beyond the capabilities of data.

By combining a traditional data capturing model and behavioural analysis businesses can uncover those human intricacies and in turn, the motivations of their customer base. With the correct behaviour analysis tool and a traditional data approach, employees can access actionable insight for challenging questions. With both models working side by side, the data collated can be leveraged in a far more effective way.

Developing lasting relationships with customers

Businesses that understand their customers motivations and behaviours develop a stronger brand affinity with the organization consumers are interacting with. As a result of the current business climate, the way we all conduct ourselves day-to-day has changed indefinitely, particularly online, and businesses must adapt by implementing the technology that is able to deal with today’s demands.

The result of utilizing both a traditional data-driven approach and behaviour analysis not only betters the understand of their customers behaviour, and thereby also improve margins, but also the strength of that relationship. Applying this approach to capturing data can give the organization a competitive advantage by developing an understanding of people needs in different markets.

With most companies now operating a hybrid working model, different challenges will come to the fore that require solving. But the right technology can create innovative solutions that are simple and effective.

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With hybrid working certainly a feature of the foreseeable future, investment in digital infrastructure will be paramount to getting the best of this way of working. Organizations’ challenges are genuine, but so are the opportunities to increase productivity and build strong customer relationships.

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