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August 23, 2023

The future of hybrid work

Exploring the future of work beyond AI and automation

What is the future of work? We would all like to have a crystal ball to help us answer this question with certainty.

The pandemic marked a turning point, triggering the wholesale dispersal of the workforce to work from home (where possible). And all of a sudden we want everyone to be in the offices again. The most commonly accepted position is the hybrid and remote working approach. If we manage to land this proposal, we will find approaches to suit all tastes, with a clear and fundamental idea of promoting collaboration, especially in virtual spaces.

On this basis, there are those who focus on employee experience, others on automation (with more or less advanced levels of implementation of RPA solutions where it makes sense), and, of course, on the theme of the day: on the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into the workplace. We are committed to working better and creating more value and productivity, in a smarter way and, of course, from anywhere.

Are our employees trained in the new digital skills?

Before we go any further... let's see what our employees think. According to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Education and Training (CEDEFOP) study Moving Europe towards a digital transition, the majority of European workers lack digital skills.

Interestingly, Spain is one of the countries where there is more interest in training. No less than 47% of Spanish workers are looking to improve their skills, behind only Austria (52%) and Portugal (49%).

In Spain, the proportion of employees (33%) who have been trained in digital skills is higher than the European average (26%). And they do so primarily because of the fear of being displaced from their jobs by new technologies and automation, according to the same study.

Even so... Are we supporting the training of our employees in our company? If we make a comparison between Spain and our European counterparts, we are at the bottom of the pile. Company support for employee education and training is lower in Spain (59%), while countries such as Norway (89%), Estonia (88%) and Finland (87%) far surpass us in these employer-sponsored education and training policies.

A necessary shift in focus for transformation

Transforming organisations should not be reduced to simply changing IT systems, adopting new software tools (which, of course, will have to be done), or to thinking about use cases and solving them one by one in order to do the same things using technology. Clearly, we need to focus on other approaches also, such as rethinking workflows or redesigning the work experience in order to achieve greater agility and deliver more value. Moving from milestones oriented towards a gradual but specific transformation to the concept of continuous innovation. Focusing also on the human being and thus transforming the organisation itself.

Applying AI in the workplace, without realising it

The application of AI will help us to change our behaviour by helping us enter a cycle of constant evolution and innovation. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to be a co-pilot for the employees of the future, assisting them in their tasks rather than replacing them. There must be a reason why Microsoft insists on using the word "copilot" as a recommended and inseparable assistant in all its tools: we have Microsoft 365 Copilot (in Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint), present in Microsoft Teams (and more specifically in Viva), and in the Power Platform. There is also GitHub Copilot for developers.

The general idea is to use natural language and machine learning techniques to provide useful and personalised suggestions in real time while we work. And as AI progresses and our behaviours change, the workforce will enter a state of continuous improvement and evolution.

People and the importance of interpersonal connections

After this brief parenthesis devoted to AI and its potential, I would like to conclude by focusing on the importance of the "interpersonal" as a necessary ingredient when conceiving the future of work. I fully agree with what Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said at Davos 2023. It is not only about focusing on increasing our employees' technological skills, but also about going beyond. It is also about fostering people-to-people connections, which we will all have to learn to do, and to take the time to strengthen our soft skills. Because until people feel satisfied in their jobs, in terms of new skills they have acquired or reinforced, they will have no loyalty to the organisation to which they belong. That is what it means to really invest in your personal progress.

Interestingly, and now that there is so much talk about Artificial Intelligence, these are professional skills that can never be automated or generated by any kind of AI.

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