Over a hundred HR leaders gathered in London on 26th June 2019 to attend the exclusive launch of the next phase in the Human to Hybrid programme, they also caught a glimpse of the future of technology in the workplace and how it can solve big industry problems with Capita’s digital innovation showcase.
Opening the morning session, Erika Bannerman, Executive Office Capita People Solutions, delivered her thoughts on the future world of work and how people will be augmented by technology.
“They’ll work in tandem with algorithms, robots and other technologies that will allow them to shine – they’ll be free to focus on work that has real meaning and purpose while Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation take on repetitive tasks that they can do so much more quickly and accurately, without ever losing focus or interest.”
Erika concluded “to be able to do what they do best in this new workplace, people will need an appetite for continuous learning, the right skills, agility and adaptability, and the ability to work with technology. In return, they’ll demand a personalised experience on a par with what they already enjoy in other aspects of their lives in a working environment that enables, recognises and rewards their critical contribution.”
DATA AS A STRATEGIC LEVER
This is where the power of data comes in. If employers are going to make the shift from a human to a hybrid workforce, they’ll need to use their employee data to create insight that will engage people and drive business performance. It has the potential to totally transform how they recruit, develop and reward their people – if they use it in the right way.
Doug Brown, Chief Data Scientist at Capita People Solutions, presented some key messages from the latest Human to Hybrid research, which highlights the challenges ahead and the views of 2,000 business leaders, HR leaders and employees of organisations across the UK.
Doug revealed that they saw the transition to a hybrid workforce as the biggest strategic challenge facing them. 72% of business leaders said it’s their biggest challenge over the next five years, and 93% said they must proactively manage it over the next year. 51% of employees said they’d leave their organisation if it didn’t handle the transition properly.
“This is a tangible and practical issue that everyone is facing now and knows that they need to do something about,” he said.
The world of work was changing, he explained, becoming less linear and more complex and confusing. In this world, relationships and networks would be critical to people’s wellbeing and success. People would also have to make decisions based on data created by technology.
Most organisations had lots of data already, which they needed to turn into useful insight. But the Human to Hybrid research revealed that HR was perceived by the rest of the business as being incapable of creating that insight, perhaps due to challenges ranging from not enough time, money and analytical skills to having disparate or fragmented data or just too much of it.
However, organisations had very clear goals for their data. 42% of business leaders wanted to be able to recruit more high performers, 40% wanted to predict skills gaps more accurately, 39% wanted to provide more personalised employee experiences, and 38% wanted to make their organisations more agile.
63% of employees expected a more personalised experience and were prepared to share data about their preferences, performance and personal aspirations to get it – they were less keen to share other information, such as their social media profiles and internet browsing histories.
“As we go forward, HR has a fantastic opportunity to turn data into business insights – it’s a challenge for everyone. There’s a lot to be done, though – our research highlighted some really strong areas for improvement in HR data.
“We have to understand the impact of [technology in the workplace] – we’ll augment humans with it, not replace them. We won’t necessarily be replacing jobs but replacing tasks within jobs [with technology]. But there will be rapid and dynamic change in people’s relationships with their employers, the workplace and technology, and that has opportunities and pitfalls,” Doug concluded.
HUMANS AND TECHNOLOGY IN SYMBIOSIS
Leading data scientist, mathematician and psychologist JT Kostman continued the theme of people’s relationship with technology in a future workplace. He echoed Doug’s message that supplementing rather than supplanting was the key to success and said that both humans and technology should be allowed to play to their strengths.
Technology had had an “extraordinary” impact on jobs in the USA, with five million lost to automation since 2000 and certain roles, such as driving, being taken over by robots. Financial services firm J P Morgan had recently introduced technology that could outperform its human experts by processing millions of pieces of data in a fraction of the time.
But JT emphasised that humans had strengths, just as technology did, and these would inoculate them against the threat of robots or AI taking their jobs. These were qualities such as curiosity, caring, judgement, wisdom and perspective – “simply being a human being” – that were vital in roles such as nursing and HR.
He suggested a partnership between humans and technology that played to both their strengths – a “symbiotech” relationship – and turned AI from Artificial Intelligence into IA or Intelligence Augmentation. “We should be working with machines, not against them,” he said.
This collaboration would help organisations get better insight from their data, with machines creating data and people using their knowledge and judgement to turn it into something useful.
AI expert Daniel Hulme was the final speaker and, in a very interactive session, got attendees to carry out tasks to demonstrate how technology can outperform humans in things such as multiplying gigantic numbers but how humans have the edge in tasks such as spatial awareness exercises.
He explained how AI had developed, from following rules in the 1960s and 1970s to deep learning and neural networks in the 1980s and 1990s, to the imminent arrival of a “super brain” that is “better than us in every way”.
He also suggested that humans and machines should work together, this time combining their intelligence to make decisions. He demonstrated how data allowed organisations to reject the traditional hierarchical structure and free people to do what they want, when they wanted, with technology accurately measuring their performance and output.