Which laws around the world are reshaping how we work?

Societal, political, and ethical forces are reshaping the world of work.

To get a handle on some of the changes, a slew of laws have been introduced. Some of them have been passed to tackle cultural trends that have arisen since – or been expedited by – the pandemic. Others are more freestanding.

When considering how the laws that have come into force – or are due to be passed soon – since the start of the pandemic will shape the future of work, a quotation attributed to American-Canadian writer William Gibson, father of the cyberpunk sub-genre of science-fiction, comes to mind. “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Here are five new laws that will affect how work is done in the specific nations in which they have been inked:

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in July 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

Which tech has the greatest potential to transform banking?

A whole array of emerging technologies could grant a crucial edge to banks that can apply them successfully. How do their innovation specialists go about finding a winning combination?

In the long shadow of the 2007-08 global financial crisis, concurrent advances in three technologies – smartphones, 4G cellular networks and cloud computing – sparked an explosion of innovation in financial services. Their convergence enabled mobile banking: the sector’s most significant development in generations.

Just over a decade later, the industry is again “on the cusp of another inflexion point”. That’s the belief of Prakash Pattni, MD of digital transformation at IBM Cloud for Financial Services. He predicts that progress in tech including 5G, blockchain, artificial intelligence and quantum computing will trigger “another spurt” of innovation. 

“People talk about data being the new oil,” Pattni says. “Well, blockchain is the new oil rig, and AI is the new refinery. The coming together of these things makes it an exciting time to be part of the industry.” 

Given that R&D is notoriously costly and success is never guaranteed, how do banks approach experimenting with tech that might just as easily fall by the wayside as revolutionise their industry? 

As head of innovation, global functions, at HSBC, Steve Suarez is particularly well qualified to answer this. He believes that the secret to successful innovation is to stay focused on “how to make things cheaper, faster and frictionless for people”. The bank is “constantly scanning the horizon to see how we can apply new technologies. We want to gather data that enables us to personalise banking and give our customers what they need, quickly but also securely.”

The London-based American applies what he calls a “three horizon” approach to innovation. Horizon one concerns “the stuff that we already know well and will incrementally improve things in the short term. Horizon two, which is about two or three years from now, concerns technologies that are fairly new to the industry – blockchain, for instance. We look at how we can provide use cases with these to make the bank better.” 

He continues: “And then there is horizon three, which is about the long shots. Right now, they include the metaverse and quantum computing, which could turn out to be a game-changer for financial services.” 

The possibility that a horizon-three punt might come off is clearly exciting to Suarez, but he’s careful not to get too preoccupied with the potential benefits of such tech. 

“We’re all betting on these technologies to achieve an advantage. There are huge opportunities, but we also need to look at the risks from a security perspective and work out how we might need to structure ourselves,” he says. “As we process 1.5 trillion transactions a day, we understand our great responsibility to protect all customers.”

HSBC’s recent horizon-three R&D activities have included hiring experts in quantum computing and announcing a three-year collaboration with IBM to explore applications for this nascent tech and so ensure its “organisational readiness” to take full advantage of it. 

The bank has also bought a plot of virtual real estate in an online gaming space called The Sandbox, marking its first significant foray into the metaverse. 

People talk about data being the new oil. Well, blockchain is the new oil rig and AI is the new refinery

The term ‘metaverse’ was coined by sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. He was referring to a digital realm in which humans, avatars and software programs could interact and where property could be purchased. Suarez indicates that HSBC intends to stay loyal to Stephenson’s original meaning. 

“We will be building on our plot, putting in virtual stadiums and working out how to better serve our customers,” he says, hinting that the bank might seek to engage with sports and e-sports fans in the metaverse.

Jehangir Byramji is senior innovation manager and fintech lead at Lloyds Banking Group. He also revels in exploring potentially transformative emerging tech and “analysing weak signals from other markets and regions that the bank can use in the future”. 

Byramji’s approach is slightly different from that of Suarez, though. He organises the bank’s IT innovation work into three broad categories: data; AI (particularly machine learning); and Web3 (tech based on decentralised systems such as blockchains) and the metaverse. 

“On the data pillar, there’s this whole idea of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ identities. Younger people are more worried about losing their social media profile than their passport,” he says. “They are more likely to embrace machine-to-machine payments. As a bank, you therefore need to think about non-traditional ways of processing their data.” 

In this category he also places digital twins – virtual representations of real entities “to help you understand both your own organisation and its customers and clients”.

But Byramji is most enthused by the latest developments in machine learning. “You’re going to see more intelligent agents, just as much in the physical world as in the data realm,” he says, adding that the internet of things will play a key role in this field. “Some of our clients have connected factories or farms – the latest combine harvesters are covered in sensors, for instance – so we’re asking how we can use the data these smart machines gather in an intelligent way and work with clients to better serve them.”

Given the sheer range of possibilities, banks must remain focused on use cases that are most likely to benefit the customer, Byramji stresses. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time, money and effort. 

“We’re starting to see quite gimmicky AI, with deep-fake videos and things like that,” he says. “While they are interesting developments, we have to remember our first principle: better serve our customers.”

That said, Byramji can’t help but be fascinated by the longer-term potential offered by Web3. 

“Banks are unpicking blockchain technologies more effectively than they did a few years ago. We are starting to understand smart contracts and other capabilities that minimise risk and build trust,” he reports. “With these related technologies, I think we can form relationships with fintech firms, build ecosystems, develop new markets and unlock some exciting opportunities.”

This article was first published in Raconteur’s Future of Banking report in May 2022

Business leaders’ latest headache: Supporting staff through cost-of-living crisis, while staying profitable

The unholy trinity of rising energy, fuel and food prices is forcing U.K. residents to sacrifice luxuries — and even necessities — in a cost-of-living crisis that is already far worse than many predicted earlier in the year. Things are similarly bleak in the U.S., where inflation hit 8.6% in May, and the Federal Reserve has responded by raising interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point — the sharpest hike in 28 years.

Granted, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation. But with inflation now at 9.1% in the U.K. and the Bank of England, which raised interest rates to 1.25% in mid-June, predicting that will increase to 11% in the fall, plus almost daily record-high petrol and diesel costs, things are unlikely to improve any time soon.

In response to all of this, employers on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing through new policies to better support their employees.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

Future of banking: what next-generation operating models are required?

Composability, partnerships with fintechs, and meeting customers on their preferred channel are all vital, according to a roundtable of experts. Watch the full roundtable here

Financial services operators were, according to ServiceNow’s Keith Pearson, “the white knights of the pandemic”. They came to the rescue of people and businesses stricken by the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. But, with the global economy in peril, they must saddle up again. 

And yet, despite being saviours for many in the last two-and-a-half years, there is an incredible demand for banks, in particular, to evolve rapidly and offer personalised services and an omnichannel customer experience to rival the best in other industries. 

To gallop along with change, steer clear of disruption, and continue to fight the good fight, those wishing to lead the way in the future of banking must partner with fintech experts, argues Pearson, AVP of financial services industry go to market at ServiceNow. 

He points to a recent Gartner report, 2022 CIO Agenda: A Banking and Investment Perspective, which captures the challenge. “We are in a time of indefinite volatility, making it difficult for banks to plan for an indefinite future,” it reads. “Mastering business composability prepares banks to maximise business value regardless of ongoing uncertainty.” 

Fay Wood, head of retail strategy at Natwest, sets the scene. “There is a looming cost-of-living crisis after unprecedented events – a global pandemic and a war in Europe – that few would have predicted three years ago,” she says. “Money management and supporting customers with budgeting and financial tools will be critical for the industry. As a result, these services are becoming much more embedded in people’s lives.”

Increased duty of care 

Concurrently, regulators argue there is a greater responsibility on regulated firms to hold customers’ hands, metaphorically, and support them. Interestingly, some new financial terrains, whether it’s cryptocurrencies or buy now, pay later products, for instance, are not yet regulated. 

Indeed, the Financial Conduct Authority’s final regulations on its new Consumer Duty will be available at the end of July and, following consultation, appear likely to force regulated firms to deliver “the best outcomes” for retail clients, says Wood. As an example of how NatWest better educates customers, the recently acquired Rooster Money app, with a pre-paid pocket-money card for those aged three and up, is currently free to access for the bank’s 17 million customers. “We wanted to do more for children,” she adds, highlighting the role acquisition is playing in the future of banking. 

Metro Bank’s David Thomasson, managing director of digital and products, concurs that banks have to support customers better, whether online or offline, and build on the trust generated in the last two-and-a-half years. “Now, more so than before, they need to talk to somebody at the bank,” he says. “While digital is clearly becoming more important, seeing someone face to face is also vital. Our data shows that customers might not use a Metro Bank store for two months or even two years, but knowing that there is someone in a trusted environment nearby who can speak to you at a time that suits you is crucial.” 

You must be prepared to think differently about your organisation’s structure and operating model and follow that through with your technology investment

It is not just individuals who crave that support. Thomasson states that 80% of Metro Bank’s business customers gained since the start of the pandemic operate within an eight-mile radius of a branch. “This shows the importance of the bank within a community,” he continues. “A service-led proposition and being there for communities will differentiate financial services organisations going forward.” 

Banking in the metaverse 

The “big difference” identified by Nadya Hijazi, global head of wholesale digital channels at HSBC, is that banks have to go to customers, not vice versa. In March, HSBC revealed it had bought a plot of virtual real estate in The Sandbox, an online gaming space, marking the bank’s first significant foray into the metaverse. She says: “It’s about ensuring your services are available wherever your customer wants to be, whether that’s in the metaverse or using WeChat in China. You must embed your services and be at the heart of the community.” 

Banks can’t afford to ease up on innovation, and a mindset change is required to develop products and services that don’t need to be fixed, per se, Hijazi warns. “When you’ve got a revenue stream, there is no driver for change,” she says. “Usually, things change because something is not working. But now it’s dangerous to be complacent because if you don’t keep improving, then you will lose connectivity with customers.” 

This concept chimes with Jasmeet Narang, chief transformation officer and head of operations at Santander UK. “Customers want choice and convenience, not just a load of off-the-shelf products,” he says. “The old stack-them-high and sell-them-cheap approach doesn’t work anymore. Instead, you have to understand customer needs, and most critically, you have to have that human touch.” 

He stresses the importance of collaborating across the business and “organising design around the customer”, using their predicted wants and requirements as the guiding star, and justification, for any innovation. “Otherwise, you’ll always function in silos.” However, humans must be involved in the service, whatever technology is used. “It is those touch points with customers that are gold dust and will define the winners and the losers in the future of banking.” 

Culture conundrum and composability 

Narang says leaders have to activate a cultural change to drive innovation. “Top-down sponsorship is essential,” he adds. “Once you have that and a clear, long-term structure, other things follow. Also, you have got to be true to your convictions. The world will throw pandemics and wars at you, and at times you might have to be agile and flexible, but those that will succeed will keep the overall destination in mind.” 

Yorkshire Building Society’s chief commercial officer, David Morris, believes the “evolution of banking distribution models is going to have quite pronounced effects, whether that’s embedded finance or banking in the metaverse, among many examples. New entrants, whether challenger banks or technology companies, will find ways of competing in the value chain in different ways. Therefore, that’s going to have big implications for business models.” 

He continues: “How do you make sure you’re not left behind or not investing in the wrong technology? And how do you build that in an environment where you have to handle legacy infrastructure, macroeconomic uncertainty, and evolving regulations? Running an enterprise and building something different is incredibly difficult, and requires careful prioritisation and creative solution design.” 

ServiceNow’s Pearson counters that bold banking leaders who look to partner with fintechs, use the agility of the cloud, and are willing to rip up old plans will triumph. “You must be prepared to think differently about your organisation’s structure and operating model and follow that through with your technology investment.” 

He suggests the quicker banks can focus on building “composability” – essentially, a system design principle that deals with the interoperability of components – at scale, the better. “That’s what the future of banking will look and feel like,” Pearson concludes.

To find out how ServiceNow can enable digital transformation and improve experiences in your organisation, visit your.servicenow.com/businessinsights

This article was first published in Raconteur’s Future of Fintech report in June 2022

Sales talk: how conversational AI can win over customers

Conversational AI can mimic human interactions. With today’s consumers turned off by the hard sell, the technology holds strong potential for businesses

When it comes to sales, businesses should reverse Elvis’s famous advice: a little more conversation and a little less action, please. 

The secret to success with today’s consumers revolves around small talk and a long-term approach. Direct approaches – seeking to add notches to the sales equivalent of a bedpost – are a huge turn-off for customers. 

Happily, so-called conversational AI is now mature enough to assist adroitly with the more mundane topics, enabling humans to enter the chat room later, at the most appropriate point.

Conversational AI refers to tech solutions such as chatbots or virtual agents that use vast volumes of data, machine learning and natural language processing to imitate human interactions. Businesses today must adopt the technology as a matter of urgency, with laggards likely to lose out.

Technology doesn’t have working hours like a human employee does, meaning that customers can gain the help they desire on their terms

Over 70% of customers expect conversational service, meaning human-like interactions – complete with emojis, gifs, images and videos – whenever they engage with a brand, according to Zendesk. But only 40% of businesses can deliver this successfully. 

Little wonder the global software-as-a-service company recently announced new capabilities for its Sunshine Platform, a customer relationship management service, including conversational automation via bot technology. The upgrade enables organisations to expand automation to messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and allows them to build and train custom bots to address common issues.

“A quick conversation can resolve most things in life,” says Matthias Goehler, Zendesk’s chief technology officer in EMEA. “Embracing advances in AI to deliver conversational exchanges with customers easily is a natural direction for customer experience (CX) teams to take.”

Resolving customer issues 

One of the most significant benefits of conversational AI is that all customer communications are retained, Goehler adds. This means a more complete picture is achieved, allowing businesses to understand people’s personal preferences better and enrich their experience. It facilitates a personalised, data-driven service, removing some of the burdens on human agents and empowering them to do more for the customer in less time, he says.

“A conversational approach makes interactions more informed – built with the context of the customer’s history. When done right, it can even help increase a customer’s spending with you by making useful and simple recommendations to purchase from within a chat.”

Katie King is the author of two books about AI for sales and marketing and a member of the government’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Taskforce for the enterprise adoption of AI. Companies that embrace conversational AI will charm employees and customers alike, she says. 

“Often, many of the queries that cross the service agent’s desk are frequently asked questions with simple answers,” she says. “While these queries might be easy to answer, they still take up valuable time and limit the agent’s capabilities to handle some of the more complex issues. It’s overwhelming and leads to faster employee burnout and potential staffing issues for the company.”

Conversational AI can help tackle this challenge, so appeals to many organisations, notes King. “AI can cut out that first step of the process by engaging the customer and potentially resolving their issue without human intervention,” she says. “Additionally, technology doesn’t have working hours like a human employee does, meaning that customers can gain the help they desire on their terms.”

When done right, it can even help increase a customer’s spending with you by making useful and simple recommendations to purchase

With the surge in energy prices, concerned customers of E.ON – the largest energy and renewable electricity supplier in the UK – have certainly wanted help. Conversational AI is easing the load. 

Nikolai Berenbrock is the company’s head of conversational experiences. He says the company currently has more than 50 conversational AI solutions across the group, serving customers and employees and covering about 30% of demand. “This has enabled us to offer a better customer service experience and a massive reduction in our operational costs,” Berenbrock says.

E.ON uses AI to automate repetitive tasks so that agents are “available to jump in where they can make a valuable difference”, he adds. The technology “allows us to scale our customer service in a location and time-independent way, so that we can be where our customers are by offering our service on our website in a LiveChat channel, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, telephony channel, etc, whenever they need us, 24/7.” 

Talking up the possibilities

Jason Costain is head of fraud prevention at NatWest, which serves 19 million customers across 12 banking and financial services brands. He offers another example of how conversational AI is being utilised. 

“Using voice-biometric technology, we’re building a clear picture of our customers’ voices and what criminal voices sound like,” he says. “We can detect when we get a fraudulent voice coming in across our network as soon as it happens. Using a combination of biometric and behavioural data, we now have far greater confidence that we are speaking to our genuine customers and keeping them safe.”

Demand for conversational AI isn’t limited to customer experience, says Goehler. “We’re seeing huge demand from companies using our solutions for employee experience, with tickets filled by corporate employees jumping 31% last year – nearly double the rates seen by customer-facing support teams at B2B and B2C companies,” he says, signposting the direction of travel.

Despite the clear advantages of conversational AI and the momentum behind the technology, Goehler sounds a note of caution to business leaders who, to quote another Elvis song, can’t help falling in love with the technology. “While just over half of EMEA companies report that chatbots are becoming more human-like, AI can’t – and shouldn’t – be a 100% solution,” he says.

Zendesk research indicates more than 60% of customers will walk away after one poor experience – up 22% from last year. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, who can blame their suspicious minds?

This article was first published in Raconteur’s AI for Business report in June 2022

Why more companies are sending new hires straight to the metaverse for improved onboarding

What will you learn on your first day at work in the metaverse? 

This year, some 150,000 joiners will begin their careers at Accenture in the company’s virtual campus, called the Nth Floor, according to Allison Horn, the company’s executive director of global talent, based in Washington DC.

The Nth Floor is where new hires and existing Accenture staff “can have a more immersive experience for learning and networking,” said Jon Ayres, U.K. managing director for talent and organization at the company. It is one of a growing list of examples showcasing how employers are using pioneering technology to attract and retain top talent. 

Given the tussle for top talent and the need for greater connection with colleagues in the age of hybrid working, Ayres predicts that companies will “experiment with new technology so employees can collaborate in a more meaningful way, which will advance the virtual working tools used widely today.” His statement is supported by new McKinsey research, published mid-June, which calculates metaverse spending will hit $5 trillion by 2030.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

Flexibility is key to recruitment – and keeping your staff

Fallout from Brexit and the pandemic has led to more vacancies than applicants, but paying extra is not a long-term option

When the Office for National Statistics published its latest job vacancies data this week, it exposed the post-pandemic recruitment challenges facing most businesses. The number of unfilled positions in the UK increased by 20,000 between March and May to a record 1.3 million, while in the three months from February to April the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 per cent, the lowest since 1974.

“For the first time since records began there are fewer unemployed people than job vacancies,” said Jack Kennedy, a UK economist at the job-listing platform Indeed. “That marks a dramatic turnaround from last summer when there were four unemployed people per vacancy. It also highlights the extreme tightness of the labour market, which has been fuelling hiring difficulties across many sectors.”

Cleaning, construction, warehouse, manufacturing and hospitality roles are all receiving lower interest levels on average than before the pandemic, he added. Brexit is exacerbating the challenges for sectors that relied on workers from the European Union.

The lack of flexible working in these roles, in comparison with desk-based jobs, is another factor, as is the number of people opting for early retirement.

The pandemic “put the brakes on decades of improvement” in employment rates among those in their fifties and sixties, said Ian Nicholas, the global managing director at the employment agency Reed. “The number of people in this age group who are not even looking for work has risen by 228,000,” he said, adding that companies should encourage older staff to stay in work to share knowledge and engage with younger members of the workforce.

This article was first published in The Times in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE (note: it is behind a paywall).

‘A business imperative’: How Salesforce developed its employee-centric hybrid model

The truism that a happy worker is a productive worker has perhaps never been more closely scrutinized.

At Salesforce, it has become the motto that underpins the company’s entire flexible workforce structure, which it has rolled out for its 77,000 employees globally.

This ‘Success from Anywhere’ model, launched in 2021, was the fruits of two years worth of internal employee surveys the company ran to get a grasp on what employees want from their workplace and their jobs, post-pandemic.

The model has made it a popular place to work. Salesforce is one of only four employers that feature on all five country lists — the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France and Germany) in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2022. And in late April, it was ranked top in the “super large” classification – organizations with over 1,000 employees – of the U.K.’s Best Workplaces 2022, elevated from third place last year, according to management consultancy Great Place to Work.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

How switching to a 4-day week solved challenger bank Atom’s talent shortage

Six months ago, challenger bank Atom was in a tight spot: its growth tear was being stunted by a major talent shortage.

The company had 70 unfilled job vacancies and, in a tight labor market, was struggling to find the best talent to fill them.

To boost its visibility as a great place to work and attract top talent, Atom’s U.K.-based leadership decided to take the plunge and trial a four-day week, to see if it boosted the volume of candidates applying.

It worked. The company had a 500% increase in applications for open roles, according to Atom’s chief people officer Anne-Marie Lister.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

Why the U.K. is becoming a forerunner for a ‘worrying recruitment trend’

While all countries have to deal with the pandemic-induced change in the job market, Ian Nicholas, global managing director at employment agency Reed, believes that Brexit is an aggravating factor and means that the U.K. is a forerunner of a worrying recruitment trend. 

The break from the European Union has led to an “exodus” of lower-paid workers, with many industries – including construction, cleaning, manufacturing and hospitality – struggling to fill the vacancies, he added.

The deepening cost-of-living crisis is likely to make recruitment even more challenging. And it might mean organizations move abroad, Nicholas argues. “There must be a danger that some companies could relocate if they feel that they cannot attract and retain talent within the U.K. at remuneration levels that maintain their commercial competitiveness,” he said. 

While business relocation is probably not currently front of mind for most leaders in the U.K., there are signs that other less extreme contingency plans and innovative recruitment schemes are on the agenda.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

WTF is a digital HQ?

Pandemic-induced lockdowns forced many industries to dial up their digital capabilities rapidly. However, thanks to the marvels of technology, we learned that communication and collaboration were possible without being physically present with colleagues, even if “you’re on mute” was an all-too-familiar refrain.

But now that most businesses are firming up their post-pandemic strategies, with numerous organizations around the globe opting for a hybrid-working model, how can leaders strike the right balance between in-office and remote work? 

In a digital-first, post-pandemic world, the physical office is no longer the key place that people connect, it could be argued. Could the answer be a futuristic-sounding digital headquarters with no proximity bias, where communication is transparent and the culture thrives? What many are referring to as a digital HQ?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in June 2022 – to continue reading please click HERE.

Where should cash-strapped public sector organisations allocate funds?

Upskilling employees, smarter outsourcing and new technology could help reduce costs and reduce debt – and deliver better service

TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, published exactly a century ago, begins with the words: “April is the cruellest month.” One hundred years on, considering the exorbitant rise of energy costs for British citizens and businesses in April 2022, it’s hard to disagree. Unfortunately, it appears worse is to come, with many feeling the world will end with a whimper – so how can the public sector cope?

On 5 May, the Bank of England lifted interest rates to a 13-year high and forecast that inflation would soar above 10% in the coming months, warning that the surging rise in living costs could plunge the economy into recession this year. But it’s not only citizens who are squeezed; the public sector is already in the red – just as demand for public services is likely to reach unprecedented levels.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that total public sector debt stood at £2,344 billion at the end of March 2022. This is equivalent to 96.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a level not seen since the early 1960s.

Further, public sector net borrowing was £151.8 billion in the year to March 2022. This was the third-highest borrowing figure since records began in 1947, and is around 6.4% of GDP.

Given this gloomy backdrop, how should public sector organisations plagued by money worries invest in technology solutions that best serve struggling citizens? Granted, costly gambles on the metaverse and vanity projects are not a good idea right now, but what’s the best way to allocate funds?

Jon Crowcroft is a co-founder of iKVA, an artificial intelligence knowledge management company, chair of The Alan Turing Institute, and Marconi professor of communications systems in the computer laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He is well placed to answer these critical questions.

Investing in skills to address huge delivery challenges

“My advice would be to match the budget to the current skills base, or organisations will face the challenge of undertaking a huge retraining exercise that will overwhelm their resources,” he says. “Government departments such as transport, energy and healthcare are relatively technologically advanced and staffed by individuals who inherently use technology for timetabling systems, power grid maintenance and data analysis. Computing is embedded into job roles in these departments, particularly in healthcare.”

Other areas, such as the legal sector, have more limited skills, Crowcroft says. Their relative ability should inform where additional funds will be required to support the deployment of technological solutions. 

Alex Case is public sector industry principal at Pegasystems and a former senior civil servant at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, who recently oversaw cross-Whitehall Brexit delivery. He has also led large-scale public sector reform initiatives in the UK and Canada – and is in no doubt of the scale of the task ahead.

“The government continues to face huge delivery challenges, from coronavirus, Brexit, the war in Ukraine or the cost-of-living crisis, including dealing with backlogs, driving levelling up, getting the health service back on track, transforming social care and dealing with the safety of tall buildings. These need government operations to run effectively and efficiently and for the least amount of cost possible.”

Low-code can revolutionise how government designs and builds IT. It can help a business to get what it wants and needs from a new system, not the system the IT team thinks the business needs

Low-code software development uses drag-and-drop features instead of extensive coding language to build applications. The result is that it is faster to complete and non-professional coders can use it. This makes it an excellent option to accelerate innovation and reduce costs, suggests Case. Its uses across government departments could include streaming and improving outdated and clunky customer service processes, digitising inefficient and complex programmes and back-office processes, and modernising debt collection while reducing fraud.

“Low-code can revolutionise how government designs and builds IT. It can help a business to get what it wants and needs from a new system, not the system the IT team thinks the business needs.”

Additionally, he says this approach can bridge the frequent divide between business users, subject matter experts, product owners, and the technical design and developer teams.

Where, though, should the public sector focus its investment now? Crowcroft contends that it is less where and more how the money should be spent, celebrating the increased adoption of AI. “During the pandemic, the public sector successfully used AI and automation to meet increased demand for services,” he says. 

“AI can automate bureaucratic processes that are currently resource-intensive, reducing the human workload. This will offer cost-savings, improve accuracy, and enable people to do other things that have a positive return for their organisations, such as analysing data to identify where other improvements can be made.”

An example of this is in the care sector, says Crowcroft. By automating some of the paperwork, the amount of time a care worker can spend with people in need increases. “The processes at the human level are reflected in documentation, and that shouldn’t be the case anymore,” he adds.

One obvious way for the public sector to reduce costs is by being smarter with outsourcing while improving in-house skills. For instance, the value of contracts awarded by the UK government and public bodies to consultants was £2.5bn in 2020-21, as organisations used the private sector to deal with the pandemic. 

“Consultants will always have a place in the public sector,” concludes Crowcroft. “But using technology to unlock data insights and training our people to understand the information – will improve confidence in their decision-making.”

Is low-code the answer to public sector worries?

“The government knows that low-code can help take the pressure off and has invited proposals for innovative platforms and software for digital public services,” says Mark Smitham, lead for public sector marketing at Mendix, a low-code platform. “Their shared vision is to deliver more user-centred, cost-effective, local public services through open, collaborative and reusable work.”

He suggests Knowsley Council is a prime example of a local service provider that used low-code to adapt to the increased demand from residents and local businesses. “In just 24 hours, the council built an application that enables Knowsley residents to request assistance or volunteer their services to support their local community,” Smitham continues. “This application connected people who need help with those who can help, providing support for 7,000 vulnerable residents.”

Elsewhere, a low-code platform is being used to address the growing issue of financial debt with core business transformation at StepChange, the UK’s largest debt management charity, says Alex Case, public sector industry principal at Pegasystems. “Additionally, low-code solutions are being deployed to tackle costly fraud and errors for the Department for Work and Pensions. It is transforming how the country registers land and property, and even supporting how the Ministry of Defence recruits essential skills to predict and deal with a fast-paced and changing environment.”

This article was first published in Raconteur’s Public Sector Technology report in May 2022

Responding with impact: How PepsiCo and others are empowering passionate employees to help Ukrainian refugees

It has been 90 days since Russian tanks entered Ukraine to trigger a war that has convulsed the world, traumatized global supply chains, and sparked an economic crisis. Although many news channels don’t lead with the horrors in Eastern Europe, organizations worldwide have created grassroots initiatives to try to aid those in Ukraine.

From the start of the conflict, on February 24, many companies have been inundated with passionate employee-led responses to aid those caught in the crossfire. For example, PepsiCo staff in countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland and Romania, are seeing first-hand the challenges faced by refugees. So the organization has taken a grassroots approach to empower staff to use their professional talents to take action in the crisis.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in May 2022 – to continue reading please click HERE.

WTF is an employee engagement platform?

Every successful company has realized that its people are its greatest asset for decades – if not centuries. Now, more than ever before in the history of work, employers have to understand in great detail what their employees want and need because of the seismic shifts happening. 

With most organizations figuring out flexible and hybrid working models, their employees are the most critical stakeholders. For this reason, to gauge their sentiments, companies are turning to employee experience (EX) platforms.

What exactly are EX platforms, and when did they become a thing?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in May 2022 – to continue reading please click HERE.

Fast-track to remote-first success: Experienced experts reveal their tips so others can accelerate their journeys

When Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky unveiled the company’s remote working policy at the start of May, in only 105 words, there was much to admire about its boldness and simplicity. However, one detail concerned Paul McKinlay, vp and head of remote for Cimpress/Vista, which implemented a similar strategy two years ago. It was Chesky’s comment that remote working “will become the predominant way companies work 10 years from now.”

The Airbnb boss’s prediction is supported by electronics firm Ricoh Europe’s research, which polled 3,000 employees in the U.K. and Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands last month. Almost half of the respondents (47%) think we’ll all work remotely in a decade’s time and that the traditional office space won’t exist.

But for Boston-based McKinlay that timeframe isn’t nearly fast enough. He warned that global leaders need to “act much sooner” and develop fully-fledged hybrid and remote-friendly working models for the benefit of their team members, shareholders and business results.

WorkLife spoke to a range of execs from different companies, which have already implemented successful hybrid and remote-first models, for tips on what to focus on. Here’s what they had to say ….

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in May 2022 – to continue reading please click HERE.

‘It’s going to get messy’: How rising generational divides could kill workplace culture

Intergenerational divides are more expansive than ever, and if left unchecked could quickly lead to toxic workplace cultures, experts warn.

Opinions on post-pandemic work values vary wildly across generations, according to a report from London-based global recruitment firm Robert Walters published in early March.

Some 60% of the 4,000 U.K. office workers surveyed reported a rise in “new challenges” when working with teammates from different generations. And 40% of respondents are “annoyed” at the post-pandemic working values and global-minded outlooks of colleagues in other age ranges.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

Unpacking which harmful work practices the pandemic exposed, and which are — hopefully — banished for good

It’s crass to argue “the pandemic has been good for humanity.” It has, though, effectively taken an X-ray of society and highlighted where sickness lies. And, most agree, much remedial work is required to restore total health.

Whether acute areas are treated — or, indeed, treatable — is a matter for incumbent politicians and business leaders. In this article, we turned to the latter cohort to reflect on what harmful work practices were exposed by the coronavirus crisis and how they’ve evolved as a result, for the better.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in February 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

Mojitos in the metaverse? More companies take to hosting team happy hours via virtual reality headsets

Before the pandemic, U.S. marketing agency The Starr Conspiracy’s employees would enjoy Olympic-like competitions in the office car parks and revel in regular in-person, happy-hour meetings. However, with the fun tap turned off by the coronavirus-induced restrictions, company bosses sensed disconnection and isolation were growing for remote-working staff. So they reached for virtual reality headsets.

Now, all 72 employees have Oculus Quest 2s, which cost about $300 per set, and join in for happy hours and quiz nights in the metaverse. But, aside from the obvious practical issues — it’s hard first to locate and then swig a mojito while wearing an obstructive plastic mask — will employees swallow such activities, and can they genuinely re-engage staff?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in February 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

‘It’s central to the future of work’: World’s first coordinated 4-day week pilot begins

Determining what successful hybrid working looks like is a priority for most business leaders in 2022. But as employers grapple with shaping a system that works for both them and their employees, could it be that a better solution is operating a four-day working week?

A growing number of people seem to think so. In the U.S., 30 businesses will kick off four-day week trials across industries including manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, recruitment, and technology, on February 1. The six-month trials will be overseen by not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global — a community created to support employers that want to shift to the shorter workweek and ensure productivity remains high.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in January 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

‘Imagine a corporation without a CEO’: Why the concept of a DAO is gaining traction in the business world

Until recently, the only time most people had heard of “dao” was in the context of East Asian philosophy. The word translates from Chinese as the “way.” Now, though, another DAO — an acronym for a decentralized autonomous organization — is entering the mainstream of business consciousness. Many progressive people, especially cryptocurrency supporters, believe it might even be the way to a more equitable world.

ConstitutionDAO sparked global headlines in November 2021 when it tried to buy an original copy of the U.S. Constitution at a Sotheby’s auction. For the bid, more than 17,000 donors had contributed to raising $47 million worth of Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Ultimately, the group failed in its attempt, with a cash offer of $43.2 million preferred. 

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in January 2022 – to continue reading please click here.