Now that the vaccine is starting to take hold and restrictions are being gently lifted, the majority of businesses returning to the office are adopting a hybrid working model. Numerous household names have declared support for more flexible working patterns, with many pledging to reduce their office space. Big tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed employees to work from the location of their choice. While telecommunications company, BT, has reduced office footprint from 300 to 30 offices.
Sherif Choudhry is a Managing Partner at BCG Platinion.
What is clear is the way industries and businesses operate has changed indefinitely - and some organizations would claim for the better - as a result of changing working models.
Though, juggling a hybrid workforce will present a new set of challenges and preserving the benefits of remote working as offices reopen - without institutionalizing the downside of virtual models - is the question facing many business leaders. However, a number of different technologies around automation, data and many other areas are there to support the transition to hybrid working.
The fear of automation
When looking at the technologies which will enable remote working, many businesses are turning to automation to lighten employees’ workloads. However, automation has long been accused of affecting industries, eliminating jobs, and – yet – is also responsible for creating tremendous value, earning a dual reputation as both a villain and savior.
Despite these concerns, many organizations have asserted that automation has boosted productivity and efficiency over the coronavirus pandemic. But many individuals still feel increasingly uneasy over a changing work environment. Over 40% of those surveyed are anxious about automation potentially impacting their role and 43% shared concerns over being monitored by their employers when working remotely.
However, the notion that machines will take over most facets of work as a result of automation is misplaced. A 2020 report by The World Economic Forum forecasted that global AI jobs would see an upsurge, with new vacancies per 10,000 jumping from 78 to 123 by 2022.
Automation is not shrinking the human workforce; it is allowing us to do more with the same number of people by not automating jobs, but by instead automating certain skills.
When viewed from this angle, automation presents opportunities to process more mundane and time-consuming duties. This will be essential when moving into a hybrid working model. As the technology removes the burden of people having to complete manual tasks, employees when in the office can be empowered to dedicate more time to customer service or employee development through training.
Business should embrace automation as a technology, to boost productivity and allow human resources to be spent elsewhere. However, organization have a duty to lead the way with strong change management programs and investing in upskilling and reskilling.
The Human-centric approach
Underpinning automation is the successful implementation of an effective data strategy. Data informs automation and has the ability to measure almost anything - as a result, countless businesses have been relentless in their pursuit of a data-driven approach. Data has also been integral to organizations' successful pivot to fully remote working. In unprecedented times data offered clarity by giving leaders crucial insight, highlighting customer gaps that needed closing and directed IT in delivering solutions that greatly improved employee experience and maintained productivity.
In a 2020 IDC report, many companies emphasized the significant role investment in data management and analytics played in driving revenue, customer satisfaction, loyalty and even employee retention.
With digital adoption taking a quantum leap at organizational and industry levels, the role data occupies has no doubt increased. Having said that, data falls short in capturing the nuances of human behavior or the underlying dynamics that cause a situation to unfold in a certain way.
By bringing behavioral analysis alongside a traditional data-driven approach can enable businesses to understand the motivations of customers and the nuances of their behavior. With the correct behavioral analytics tool, employees can gain the actionable insight needed to answer difficult questions. Alongside a traditional data-driven approach, data can be leveraged in ways that are vastly different to only one method.
Building customer relationship
Knowing the intricacies of customers motivations and behavior, displays an understanding that can lead to the formation of stronger affinity consumers have, with the organization being interacted with.
We have seen a radical shift in the way we live our day-to-day life – particularly how we interact with each other and customers online – and organizations must react by implementing technologies that can cope with such changes.
Those businesses that are combining behavioral analysis with a traditional data-driven approach, better understand the nuances of customer behavior and in turn, improve winning margins and forge stronger customer relationships.
Transcending this data-driven viewpoint can help develop a more sophisticated understanding of people’s needs within a given market. As many companies move to a hybrid working model, unaddressed needs will appear from this unprecedented situation. With the right technology in place, decision-makers can help develop innovative technology offerings that are easy to use.
Businesses must make these kinds of investments in digital infrastructure to get the most value out of a flexible working model and employees. The challenges that organizations will be presented with are real, but so are the opportunities to supercharge productivity and develop a new level of customer intimacy.
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