Companies are adapting their offerings to accommodate the future of work as more businesses consider returning to the office. But organizations are split on what hybrid means and what the future will look like.
Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America, and Prakash Kota, CIO at Autodesk, differ on their vision of the next iteration of the workplace. Their conclusions, though, are the same: employers will have to prepare to support in-person and remote employees, a consumer mindset will be applied to the enterprise and automation will help — not hurt — existing employees.
Customer and client needs will shape the future of work, according to Bessant speaking at the 2021 Forbes CIO Summit Series – Episode 1. Organizations will pivot toward digital adoption to handle digital demand from customers and align the workforce to deliver services accordingly.
Employees don't settle for the speed of the enterprise because they're accustomed to the speed for consumers. "The key drivers are: what does it take to service the marketplace and what does it take to be great for customers in every customer moment," Bessant said.
Autodesk also builds its employee experience by following consumer playbook. Employees frequently have trouble starting up at new companies as they learn the tools, processes and procedures. More understandable systems with full access ease some of those burdens.
"Each employee has a profile, and we understand what tools are needed for them to ... do their job," Kota said. Autodesk plans to help by recommending tools based on what employees in similar positions use.
At Bank of America, executives believe that returning to in-person — not hybrid or remote — will be better for the workforce. "Certain elements of human interaction cannot be substituted for by virtual reality," Bessant said.
In onboarding and brainstorming, physical presence creates more organic human interaction, according to Bessant.
Half of companies have eliminated or loosened location requirements in all new hiring, according to data from iCIMS, signaling less prioritization of in-person work.
"I am not in this camp of 'all the jobs can be done remotely,'" Kota said at the same panel during the Forbes event. But flexibility to accommodate remote and in-person workers helps ensure that new employees understand the culture no matter where they are starting from.
As organizations enable hybrid work environments, the relationship between humans and machines will have to become more seamless, according to Kota. "Machines and humans will need to know how to operate with each other" to ensure a seamless environment between in-person and remote workers, Kota said.
Beyond the balance of in-person versus remote work, businesses are facing another disruption to the workforce by introducing automation into work processes. The future of work will be the integration of employees and automated efforts supplementing their jobs.
"It's not [that] jobs are being taken away through automation, but more jobs and opportunities will be created," Kota said.
Only 32% of employees believe automation could take their jobs, according to a SYKES survey of 1,500 employed U.S. adults. Closer to two-thirds (63%) of employees expect automation will help them do more in less time.
Still, Forrester predicts automation will cut jobs 29% by 2030. Automation will only contribute to new job creation by 13%.
Bank of America has leaned in to automation as a part of its digital delivery — but people aren't left out of the process. "As we move forward what they do may be different … but automation is nothing new," Bessant said.