The difference between success and failure in the hybrid workforce

September 24, 2019 Elizabeth Eyre

Humans, robots and computers working seamlessly and harmoniously together, understanding and appreciating one another’s role and recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses – it sounds like something out of a Robert Heinlein novel or an edition of Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World, doesn’t it?

But this hybrid workforce isn’t the stuff of sci-fi dreams – it’s a reality that’s firmly at the top of the agenda for a lot of business leaders, and it’s driving a reappraisal of how organisations are resourced and how work is done. 

According to our Human to Hybrid research into the future of work, 72% of business leaders see the transition to a hybrid workforce as the biggest challenge that businesses are facing over the next five years and 93% believe that they need to start proactively managing this shift over the next 12 months. The organisations that can do that successfully will be the ones that thrive.

There’s no script for meeting this challenge – it’s huge and unprecedented – so knowing how to manage it, and where to start, is not easy.

But business leaders agree that they must focus their efforts to move to a hybrid workforce around three key pillars: Digital (having the right technology in place), Data (turning data into workforce insights that support decision-making) and People (developing the skills, culture and leadership needed for success). 

Organisations must focus on developing the right skills, learning and culture to get the most out of a hybrid workforce. 60% of business leaders cite improving learnability at all levels of their organisation as extremely important in maximising the benefits of a hybrid workforce and 42% believe that upskilling employees in new areas and emerging job categories is essential.

People’s roles and the type of work they do will change extensively over the coming years, and so will the skills they’ll need to do those jobs. Even more importantly, they’ll need to adapt to a new cultural environment in which they can operate effectively and harmoniously alongside the new technologies in a way that enables them to become more efficient, productive and fulfilled.
In the hybrid workplace, it’s people and skills, rather than technology, that will differentiate brands, drive innovation and deliver growth. Technology will become an ever more critical enabler for people, giving them the support, time and confidence to take on higher value, strategic work and to fulfil their potential, but it will be organisations’ ability to develop highly skilled, agile and engaged workforces, and to maximise their people’s creativity, vision and ambition, that will make the difference.

Our latest set of Human to Hybrid whitepapers – “The human difference” – examine people’s role in the future of work, highlighting how the shift to a hybrid workforce will have profound implications for employers and how they find and recruit talent, make sure their organisations have the right skills and capabilities in the right roles, and keep talent happy and motivated once they’ve recruited it.

As technology turns the world of work on its head, the role, shape and structure of the traditional human workforce will have to evolve rapidly. Within a hybrid resourcing model, working patterns and behaviours, skills, career progression, leadership, culture, and much else besides are all set to change. Organisations need to re-think how they deploy people to deliver value, and to create a thriving hybrid workforce.

In our new whitepapers, we explore how organisations are approaching the challenge of developing an optimal workforce; in particular, how they are attempting to identify the human skills they will need, and to engage and attract high quality talent as they move towards a hybrid resourcing model. We uncover some of their major challenges and the severe risks of falling behind competitors in the war for talent. 

We identify five critical success factors that HR and recruitment leaders need to prioritise and manage carefully to build an optimal workforce. Our research suggests that it’s not simply a case of optimising existing talent acquisition strategies and activities: the transition to a hybrid workforce requires recruiters and employers to adopt new approaches and behaviours, new organisational structures and processes and, most importantly, radically new ways of thinking. 

To achieve this future vision of work, employers must give workers the new skills and knowledge they need to thrive. This is not simply about hard, technical skills, such as coding and data analytics; there’s also an urgent need to develop softer skills and behaviours, such as leadership, agility and resilience, to prepare people for rapid change and to build strong cultures of engagement, inclusion and shared values and purpose.

Business leaders know they can’t simply ‘buy in’ these skills and behaviours – the skills shortage and subsequent war for talent that already hinders growth in many sectors will be exacerbated by the shift to a hybrid workforce – they’ll have to develop their people themselves.

According to our research, business leaders believe that learning is the principal factor in ensuring a smooth transition to a hybrid workforce. The vast majority say that improving learnability at all organisational levels (91%) and upskilling employees in new areas and emerging job categories (88%) is essential.

In our new whitepapers, we explore how organisations are tackling the challenge of upskilling workers to thrive in the future world of work and creating positive and sustainable cultures of learning within their workforces. We identify the critical success factors in establishing learning strategies that deliver the skills and qualities needed to create an optimal workforce. 

As organisations stand on the brink of a period of monumental change and disruption, the need to prepare, reassure and support workers, and to protect their wellbeing, as they adjust to this future world of work has increased dramatically. 

Many employers are now recognising that this shift to a hybrid workforce will put many of their employees under a great deal of pressure, especially those who are already concerned or anxious about their future role and prospects. Wellbeing has come sharply into focus within the UK recently and is now a top priority for the government, the healthcare system and employers.

In our new whitepapers, we focus on employee engagement and wellbeing during the transition to a hybrid workforce and beyond. We explore how wellbeing is becoming an increasingly critical factor in workforce engagement, retention and performance, and also a key driver of organisational productivity and growth.

We also explore how organisations can build and retain an optimal human workforce able to thrive in a hybrid world. We reveal HR and business leaders’ key challenges and priorities in supporting, preparing and rewarding their people at all stages of the employee journey. And we look at how organisations can create and deliver authentic employer brands to attract the high-quality talent they’ll need in an optimal workforce, and ensure their people are able to develop the skills, mindset and agility to thrive.

Register for The Human Difference to explore this further with our industry experts.

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”.


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