Hybrid workforce: Humans and automation tools

April 1, 2021 | David Daly 5 Mins read

Before the world got swept up in a global pandemic, there was considerable debate around the future of the workforce -where the majority of the work would happen and what the mix of technology and humans would look like.

The pandemic has introduced a new twist into this argument -with the vast majority of office-based workers currently delivering services from home, there is really no longer any doubt about the ability and capacity of modern technology to facilitate remote working.

Thoughts are now turning to the right blend and mix of technology and people for the future delivery of services both on site, and in a remote environment.  Plans are already in progress at some of the biggest and most widely known brands in the corporate world so it is inevitable that many other international organizations will follow suit and develop a series of projects around introducing new practices in the workplace.

In this article, we will take a look at one likely development for the future of work -that is a broader mix of automation technology being introduced to several business-critical delivery services. We will examine what a hybrid mix of human workers and automated technology could look like and what the implications are for business functions in multinational organizations around the world.

Where it is needed

An early step in this human and technology hybrid process might be to examine the various business departments where it might be needed or where it could be successfully deployed relatively quickly.  This is something that digital transformation project managers and heads of departments will have a keen interest in.

Any automated technology or digital automation tools that can make a service delivery process faster, more accurate and more efficient is something that will be too good to ignore.

Immediate thoughts turn to those departments where repetitive or recurring data driven business processes currently exist. Such processes are relatively common across human resources, global payroll and financial services. HR administrative tasks can be repetitive in nature, financial services invoicing and processing is similar and it is widely known that global payroll processing contains a number of repeatable data entry and validation processes that would benefit hugely from automated technology.

So, the question of where a hybrid process is actually needed is pretty straightforward to answer -the next area of consideration is about getting the balance correct -what mix or percentage of the workloads should be automated and what amount should be delivered by the professionals working in that department?

How will professionals react?

It is always important when implementing a new technology or process to get the views and insight from the actual people on the ground who will be using these new processes.

Essentially, this means treating the end users of the technology as key stakeholders in the process and ensuring that communication flows accurately and captures their feedback at regular intervals.

Getting the balance right and introducing the correct hybrid of automation and human work will involve a certain amount of listening to the end users and understanding their specific needs. Taking this approach will go a long way to addressing any concerns or fears that professionals may have around being displaced by technology. A human/tech hybrid is an initiative that has a focus on optimizing business processes and leveraging existing human skills together with innovative digital technology to ensure that a business-critical service his delivered in a faster, smarter and better way.

When professionals fully understand that this is the goal of the process and they can see clear evidence that supports this goal, then there is a much greater likelihood that they will commit to this new way of doing things with energy, focus and enthusiasm. Ultimately, the introduction of new technologies must enable and empower these professionals to execute their daily duties in a better way.

Can it make things better?

Yes it can, human professional experience, know-how and expertise optimized via the intelligent leveraging of next generation technology and digital tools is an attractive scenario for service delivery across a range of departments.  Who wouldn’t want to have their best professionals working with the best available technology? Who wouldn’t be interested in technology that can support human thinking and innovation or technology capable of helping an organization pivot in another direction if they needed to at short notice? New technologies can take over repetitive tasks and time-consuming data entry which can be very high-volume- this liberates human employees to focus their time on higher-value work.

A hybrid of cutting-edge technology and human skills may represent the future of office life for this very reason- there is so much scope for process improvement and creating time and space for qualified, experienced professionals to focus on high priority work or alternatively, place their attention on being creative and innovative, safe in the knowledge that there is a technology stack in place to support them and help make their ideas become a reality. This makes for an improved employee experience, better staff retention rates and solid use cases for new technologies.

It is also a winning scenario for leadership teams -they will have strong ambitions and want to gain traction in new markets and territories quickly. They have every reason to be confident that they can achieve their strategic objectives if they are certain that a hybrid mix of next generation technology and excellent human resources are at their disposal to deliver what they need. The hybrid model will allow them to put in place the foundations for success – the right mix of people, technology and processes to deliver innovation, progress and first-rate end user products and services.

A natural evolution

When you consider the pace of technology change over the last decade, a hybrid workforce model consisting of human resources and state of the art technology should not take too many people by surprise – this is something of a natural evolution and even those people who may be a little resistant to technology could have seen this one coming down the line!

There was simply something inevitable about people working alongside Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, machine learning and robotics tools- you know that those organizations with a technology mindset and a reputation for innovation will look to lead the way in these developments in the coming years.

Natural evolution or not, there are significant implications for HR teams -as they will be tasked with ensuring the technology skills in the workforce are consistent with utilizing and getting the best out of next generation digital tools. A hybrid workforce is expected to be agile and innovative by nature, so the professionals within an organization need to be evolving and learning alongside technology, keeping pace and moving in sync with it so as to optimize it in the best way.

With the right approach, a hybrid workforce of automation tools and human intelligence has the capability to unlock the potential of the workforce and result in measurable productivity and innovation gains. Huge strides can be made in a relatively short amount of time as this hybrid environment is designed to maximize both creativity and productivity- this is the sweet spot that many organizations are keen to get to.

That said, natural evolutions don’t happen overnight and there are still many organizations out there who would be interested in putting in place this kind of hybrid workforce but are unsure how to go about making it happen. A few questions to consider are:

Is your current technology stack capable of supporting a hybrid workforce model?

Have you created a business case for the investment needed to create a hybrid workforce culture?

Which specific departments need automation right now?

To make something a hybrid workforce like this work in a way that satisfies all stakeholders then you need the right mix of people and technology solutions to ensure collaborative and productive work on a consistent basis.

 

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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

Payslip as a technology platform has added a missing piece in our payroll set-up. As an international company with offices in 16 countries, it’s important to us that every employee at GetYourGuide has the same great experience when accessing their pay data.

At the same time, we work well with smaller local payroll providers, supporting us with direct local expertise in their countries. We were able to combine those two elements by placing the Payslip platform in the middle, to simplify reporting and communication with local providers, and to have one simple employee-facing solution across all locations.

Julian Fichter

Head of HR, GetYourGuide

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest