People and robots: The future of workplace culture and collaboration

April 2, 2019

There’s a quote, attributed to the famous management theorist Peter Drucker, that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, which is a fancy way of saying that it doesn’t matter what you want your business to achieve if your people’s behaviours and beliefs aren’t aligned with the strategy.

Even though, in an ideal world, culture and strategy nurture each other, Drucker’s comment highlights the supreme importance of culture in business success. You must have the right culture to enable you to implement your strategy successfully.

Getting culture right is hard enough with a conventional workforce – the dangers of siloes, for example, or poor communication or a reluctance to collaborate – but how much harder would it be in a workplace that is optimised for technology and where people work hand in hand with robots and Artificial Intelligence?

We have conducted ground-breaking research into this transformed world of work, and the questions it raises for organisations around culture and collaboration, reward and recognition, diversity and inclusion, and talent mobility. Human to Hybrid: the next workforce frontierdelves into the implications for people of the advancements in technology, particularly the widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation, into the workplace.

These advancements will dramatically alter the way that work is resourced within organisations, and the shape, structure and function of human workforces. Technology and robots will take on more of the repetitive and mundane work, and human employees’ skills, vision and rational and creative thinking will make the difference.

Businesses will need to compete on customer experience, innovation, and their ability to respond quickly and agilely to an ever-changing environment. Success will depend on their access to a highly-skilled, motivated and agile workforce, which can work alongside and exploit technology to drive performance and growth.

Creating the right culture, in which human employees can collaborate with one another and with their robotic colleagues, have the skills they need to take on higher-level tasks, and are agile and eager to keep learning, is also vital.

Our research has shown that UK workers mainly feel positive about working within a hybrid workforce, believing that it will give them more opportunities to enjoy interesting, meaningful and varied careers. But they are uncertain about how this future will play out, since they have no control over it and little understanding about how their employers will approach the transition to a hybrid workforce. This has given them concerns about their job security, the cultural impact of such a major change, and what skills they will need to thrive.

So business and HR leaders must start now to think about how they can best protect, prepare, excite and empower their people during and following the transition to a hybrid workplace. They must take a people-first approach: listen to their employees and have meaningful conversations about these future workforce dynamics, be open about their plans, engage their people with the opportunities they will have and motivate them to grab those opportunities with both hands.

To create a culture in which human employees can fulfil their full potential – and enable the business to do the same – organisations must focus on developing the right skills and learning in their people. According to our research, 60% of the business leaders who took part cite improving learnability at all levels of their organisation as vital to maximising the benefits of a hybrid workforce and 42% believe that upskilling employees in new areas and emerging job categories is essential.

Other key success factors include re-thinking loyalty and how to develop and reward it, building processes that allow for more fluid relationships with employees, and communicating with employees more transparently.

If employers act now to put these measures in place as they transition to a hybrid workforce, culture and strategy will be able to sit down and enjoy a hearty breakfast together.

What is Human to Hybrid?

For the purposes of this research, we defined 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”.

Get your copy of the whitepaper here

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