Legacy tech adds to management headaches in dealing with new normal

Concerns raised over post-Covid return to the office, with virtually all C-level leaders admitting to still using offline processes and significant numbers believing their company will prioritise business continuity over safety

With companies around the world still dealing with the ramifications of the Covid-19 crisis, research from ServiceNow has found that both C-level leaders and employees have low confidence that they would be able to adapt to another major business disruption, as dealing with legacy technology is still causing UK businesses concerns during lockdown.

The digital workflow company’s Work survey gathered opinions from 900 C-suite leaders and 8,100 employees across 11 countries, including 100 C-level executives and 1,000 office workers in the UK, from 1-10 September 2020. As well as the UK, the survey covered the US, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and India. Industries highlighted in the analysis included financial services, healthcare, telecoms, public sector and manufacturing.

The survey found that despite 96% of UK leaders and 87% of UK employees saying their company transitioned to new ways of working more quickly than they had thought possible during the initial lockdown, many departments said they would not be able to implement new digital processes within a month in the event of another major disruption, such as the current one. Only a minority of UK leaders believed that customer service (37%), finance (38%) and IT (39%) could introduce new workflows within 30 days.

Worryingly, the survey showed that such challenges were being exacerbated by most businesses still having a digital disadvantage, with 98% of UK C-level leaders admitting to still using offline processes. These included using offline workflows such as document approvals (59%), security incident reports (41%), performance reviews (39%) and leaving requests and processing (37%).

UK business leaders were also divided on how to keep their company most productive. While almost half (49%) want to maintain new ways of operating once the crisis subsides, slightly more (51%) were keen to return to business as closely as it was before Covid-19.

Also, despite 57% of UK employees feeling they now have a better work-life balance, both UK leaders (99%) and employees (80%) said they still have concerns about how remote work will impact their business moving forward.

Perhaps indicating problems ahead, the research showed that leaders are prioritising speed of business, while staff care about the human side of working. In terms of the biggest challenges posed by remote work, UK leaders are most concerned about extended timelines for new releases or innovations (48%), whereas UK employees saw reduced collaboration (48%) as their main worry.

“Organisations innovated rapidly, and initial sprints enabled them to react to the immediate Covid-19 challenges,” said Chris Pope, VP innovation at ServiceNow. “Some decisions made were knee-jerk and rapid, but at what cost? There may be good short-term gains, but are they ‘match fit’ for our new ways of working? For organisations still struggling to integrate and implement a fully integrated workflow system, the future of work will not arrive, and soon they’ll fall behind.”

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As regards the future workplace and the new hybrid way of working that is likely to be the norm, the survey revealed doubts over workplace safety from both UK leaders and employees. Almost one-third (31%) of UK leaders and 51% of UK employees were concerned that their company would prioritise business continuity over safety.

Also, more than a quarter (26%) of UK leaders and 40% of UK employees thought their company would not take all necessary steps to keep staff safe when returning to the office.

“The critical challenge for UK organisations will be balancing the immediate need for business continuity with the personal needs of their employees,” said Pope. “This has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Many have seen restrictions over the past several months, which look set to continue through the winter.

“Businesses need to lead with compassion and combine empathy with meaningful action to help their employees navigate the months to come. In this distributed working environment, how organisations handle the moments that matter, from when a hire joins to when they leave, not only determines talent retention, but will also contribute to overall business continuity and success.”

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