UK employees’ adaptation to Covid workplace creates digital transformation dilemma

Research finds nearly two-fifths of UK employees fear the ‘old way’ of doing things will return after the pandemic

Research from The Workforce Institute at UKG has revealed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, UK workers have been propelled into the future of work by accelerating their digital transformation projects and such workers do not want to go back to the bad old days and ways of doing business.

The global research, commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence, was intended to gauge the feelings of nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders across 11 countries to understand what digital transformation initiatives have taken place during the pandemic, how leaders and employees felt about these new technologies, and what they hope to see in the post-Covid world of work.

One top-line finding was that after adopting remote working and adapting to the new hybrid model of working, 87% of UK employees have been propelled into the future of work by accelerating their digital transformation projects and 86% said they were enjoying the benefits of these new technologies.

This was evidenced by more than three-quarters (76%) of the employees surveyed saying they had used at least one new technology or application during the crisis. More than one-third (36%) started using mobile applications to complete some work activities and nearly a quarter (24%) were empowered to leverage more self-service solutions.

When asked to what degree they felt the pandemic had accelerated these transformation projects, as many as three-quarters said by between one and three years.

Reflecting on their preparation for the new working environment, IT leaders’ responses varied on the actions they had taken during the crisis, with 34% accelerating a critical technology deployment, 30% deciding to replace a software supplier, and 29% saying they had “found” budget to pursue a technology improvement that was previously thought too expensive or unnecessary.

Yet despite this optimism, almost two-fifths (38%) were fearful that their organisation would go back to the “old way” of doing things post-pandemic. And 44% of all UK workers, regardless of level, said their company’s pandemic response would have been smoother if they had implemented modern technologies as part of their standard strategy instead of waiting for the pandemic to unravel. Just under the same percentage felt their organisation had been slow to embrace new technologies before the pandemic.

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Despite these fears, UK workers were generally optimistic about the potential business benefits of their company’s digital transformation effort. Just over half (54%) thought it would create a better customer experience, while 51% thought it would create a better employee experience and 44% thought it could improve decision-making.

However, workers also worried that their company would face challenges such as budget restraints (40%), security and privacy concerns (34%), and culture change and employee adoption (35%).

“Covid-19 turned the world of work upside down and clearly forced the digital transformation hand in a very short period of time,” said Peter Harte, group VP, EMEA, at UKG. “Some organisations were simply trying to survive – and still are – but others have been thriving.

“One year later, organisations are seeing the fruits of their digital transformation labour and it is now imperative to have a technology roadmap to aid them in thriving throughout the remainder of 2021 and into the future to keep pace with developments to not only protect their bottom line, but also meet the needs of their people and customers.”

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