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Businesses must prepare for the oncoming hybrid working pandemic

By Sherif Choudhry, a Managing Partner at BCG Platinion

With more people now vaccinated and restrictions lifted, many businesses will be shifting to a hybrid working model as workers return to the office. Various organisations have already set out their policies with most declaring their support for a flexible working pattern and reduced office space. Big tech firms such as Twitter and Facebook are allowing employees to work from a location of their preference, while BT has reduced its office space from 300 to 30 offices.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses and industries operate forever – some would argue for the better – and adapting to this new working model is paramount.

Although juggling a hybrid workforce will present new challenges for businesses, safeguarding the benefits of remote working, without institutionalising the negatives of virtual models, is the question most business owners are looking to address.

Thankfully, there are different technologies around automation and data that can make the transition to hybrid working, a smooth one.

Automation, hero or villain?

Automation is a technology many businesses will implement to lighten employees’ workload and to enable remote working. But one of the biggest barriers to adopting automation is its reputation as a technology which threatens jobs. And this fear is still very much present.

A recent survey highlighted that 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.

Despite concerns, automation has created tremendous value for businesses and many organisations have asserted that automation has boosted productivity and efficiency over the coronavirus pandemic.  What’s more, The World Economic Forum forecasts predict that by 2022 global AI vacancies would see an upsurge from 78 to 123 per 10,000 jobs.

Automation allows us to do more with the same number of people by automating mundane duties, not shrinking the human workforce. In doing so, more time is freed up to pursue more worthwhile work experiences. When viewed from this perspective, automation presents an opportunity to empower workers to dedicate more time to customer service or employee development through training when in the office.

Embracing automation as a technology, businesses allow for human resources to be spent elsewhere through boosting productivity. Having said that, it is the duty of business leaders to put in place strong change management programmes as well as ensuring staff are upskilled and reskilled.

Data falls short in capturing human nuances. 

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In order for automation to succeed, a data strategy is essential – it can measure almost anything and informs automation programmes. Due to this, the pursuit of a data-driven approach has been ferocious by many businesses.

In fact, a 2020 IDC report emphasised the significant role investment in data management and analytics had in increasing revenue, employee retention, customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In challenging times, data offers clarity by providing crucial insights, highlighting customer gaps that needed filling and directing IT in delivering solutions that have significantly improved employee experience while maintaining productivity.

The rate of digital adoption at both organisation and industry level has increased rapidly at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic. But where data falls is capturing the intricacies of human behaviour and in some cases, the underlying reasons a situation occurred a certain way.

Introducing behavioural analysis together with a traditional data approach allows businesses to uncover the motivations of their customer base and discover those human nuances. Employees can access actionable insights needed for challenging questions with the correct behavioural analysis tool. With both data collection methods working side by side, data collected can be leveraged in a considerably more effective manner.

Developing customer loyalty.

What often occurs from businesses displaying an understanding of customer motivations and behaviours, is consumers develop a stronger affinity with the organisations being interacted with. The radical shift in the way we conduct ourselves day-to-day has changed dramatically – particularly how we interact online – and businesses must adapt by outing in place the technologies capable of dealing with the demands.

Businesses that are running a traditional data-driven approach and behaviour analysis, can better understand those nuances of customer behaviour which can lead to improved winning margins and forge solid customer relationships. Adjusting to this viewpoint on data can help organisations build more in depth understanding of the people needs in different markets.

As more companies move to a hybrid working model, different challenges that must be solved will come to the fore. However, with the right technology, business leader can carve out innovative offerings that are simply yet effective.

Ultimately, hybrid working model are going to be in place for the foreseeable future, which means investment in digital infrastructure is essential to get the best out of this model and employees. The tests organisations will be faced with are real, but as are the opportunities to develop strong customer relationships and supercharge productivity.


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