72% of businesses lack clear hybrid work strategy

A woman working remotely with her laptop.

72% of businesses lack clear hybrid work strategy Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

The vast majority of businesses lack a detailed hybrid work strategy, according to a study by telecomms firm AT&T and Dubber, a provider of cloud based call recording software.

The State of the Industry: Future of Work survey was created to gain insights from senior executives regarding current and future work models, challenges posed under new working models, and technology accelerants to aid change in the way that businesses conduct work out to 2024.

The research shows hybrid work – a mixture of onsite and remote work – will become the standard operating model across industries by 2024. Results included:

  • 72% lack a detailed strategy and 76% don’t have the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to support hybrid working models
    Hybrid work the default by 2024, half of work performed offsite: 81% believe hybrid work will be the foremost working model by 2024, with 56% of work done offsite
  • Tension between what employees want and what organizations prefer: 86% believe their employees prefer a hybrid work model but 64% believe their organisation prefers an on-premise work model
  • 100% of respondents believe a hybrid work model will help attract young talent
  • 2021 was identified as a redefining year in how companies conducted business with just 24% of respondents’ employees working onsite. Before COVID-19, these non-traditional work models were more likely to be viewed as employee perks.

Lack of workplace innovation, insufficient oversight, and cultural shifts were identified as three barriers to successful hybrid work, but participants believed they were not insurmountable. With investment in strategy, building culture remotely, and the application of technology – specifically AI – in critical business use-cases, firms can transition to a successful hybrid-first work environment.

The top challenges to effective hybrid work identified by CXOs include: maintaining employee oversight, losing institutional/tribal knowledge, and sustaining company culture – all traditionally highly associated with in-person work. Mass adoption of new work models has shown to be partially effective, with 79% of firms believing that employees have been productive, although not without resulting challenges, with only 45% confident in employee innovation throughout the period.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) were identified as the top transformative technologies in the survey, with their intrinsic value identified specifically in the areas of employee training, intelligent enterprise search and learning, and conversational help.

The research shows that while employee productivity is maturing, with high analytics adoption, other areas like revenue leakage and employee retention require further investment. A need for deeper analytics and insights – driven by AI – into both the customer and employee can be accomplished by mining and transforming data from remote conversations and interactions – to build new models of operation in targeted business functions.

Alicia Dietsch, senior VP, AT&T business marketing, said: “There’s been a non-reversible shift in the way business is done thanks to the constraints of COVID-19. It’s clear that a successful talent program now requires a hybrid work policy, but that policy needs to be supported by a strategic tech-first cultural reset, to ensure business growth and competition. Firms need to ask themselves if they have the in-house expertise to achieve this, or whether it’s now time to go beyond a partner in remote infrastructure rollout to a partner in tech-first remote business strategy.”

Steve McGovern, CEO, Dubber, said: “We’ve taken the first steps into a ‘work from anywhere’ world. Removing employees from the workplace was necessary but creating distance wasn’t.

“Our technology is served directly from AT&T’s networks as part of an AT&T service enabling organisations to capture every conversation and turn them into data and seamlessly share insights as desired. Knowing and understanding how employees are performing and, indeed, their general welfare can have significant impacts on how businesses manage this hybrid workplace environment. This can be achieved via immediate customer insight including, for example, real-time sentiment analytics. AI makes it possible to mine this vast treasure trove of information.

“Businesses moved with urgency to distance employees. Now they need to do the same when it comes to deploying the tools needed to overcome distance. Closing the gap between a business and their customers and employees should be a priority for every executive and, it’s available directly from the AT&T service.”

The Future of Work study highlighted that while many firms responded to a shift in working models as needed, this largely resulted in “band-aid” solutions to enabling hybrid work, with the majority lacking a detailed strategy to support it. The resulting length of time working remotely is now driving a cultural and technology reset in business – to which AI and ML will be critical in delivering advanced functionality to drive innovation and collaboration.

Additional research highlights include:

  • Hybrid work to advance diversity: 91% believe a hybrid work model will improve workforce diversity.
  • Cultural shift required: 58% believe they don’t have the culture to sustain a hybrid work model.
  • Hybrid working is impacting innovation and collaboration: 79% believe hybrid working is effective in driving productivity, but 45% feel it does not support innovation and 54% see it impacting collaboration.
  • Conversational help: 71% believe that AI and ML in conversational help will have an important business impact.
  • AI & ML in conversational insights is transforming work: With the tech having a high impact on Employee Productivity, Customer Intelligence, Attracting New Talent, Revenue Leakage, Call Centre Intelligence, and Retaining Talent.

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