Robot Wars or Automation Alliances? People, Technology and the Future of Work
17 December 2019
At the end of November, Capita published a new research report ‘Robot Wars or Automation Alliances? People, Technology and the Future of Work’, in collaboration with Professor Lynda Gratton and BritainThinks.
‘The Future of Work’ has been much discussed, with general agreement that technology is progressing faster than ever, and that automation will bring about fundamental changes to how we live and work. At Capita, we wanted to consider how we can unlock the full potential of automation, while also ensuring that the benefits are harnessed in a way which is responsible toward our stakeholders, colleagues and wider society.
What is significant about our report is that – for the first time — the employee voice has been bought to the fore of this debate. To make this research meaningful, we felt strongly that it needed to be grounded in reality by listening to the views of people who already work with automation every day. We talked to people across the country who told us how their jobs have changed and shared their own experiences of automation.
We also held workshops with our employees, including colleagues at Capita’s O2 call centre in Leeds who use automation to help them accurately and efficiently handle complex customer queries. They described how automation is enabling them to provide a more human service to customers, telling us “now I can speak to the customer rather than filling in the form.”
Over the past six months, we have sought a range of business, government and employee perspectives which provide new insights into a complex topic. What emerged is that a new type of critical interdependency is forming between business and employees, people and technology.
We heard that although automation anxiety is common in the workplace, this can be effectively tackled with strong leadership and engagement. This new world of work will require different ways of thinking about skills and career pathways; and new ways to empower people to co-create opportunities for automation.
One message that we heard loud and clear is that Capita’s colleagues want to be part of this journey. Increased automation will mean that jobs will be different for all of us. We need to be open and honest about this transition, share our strategic vision and be clear about the benefits that automation will bring for our clients, customers and for our colleagues. As one participant from our workshops told us, “sometimes it’s important to be told exactly why [automation] will be useful and how it will help.”
Our research led us to a new framework of five ‘guiding principles’ to encourage the responsible implementation of automation; leadership, skills, curiosity, inclusion and collaboration. A clear direction emerged for government, policy makers, organisations and employees themselves to ensure that automation is given the best chance possible to deliver on its potential in a way that benefits everyone.
For Capita, our commitment to be a truly responsible business – and therefore a responsible employer — is something we take seriously. This year, we became the first FTSE company since the 1980s to appoint employees to our board and announced that we’ll be paying all of our UK employees a minimum of the Real Living Wage from April 2020.
Automation forms an integral part of Capita’s multi-year transformation programme and is something we will do as a company together. We need to understand how automation is changing work for our own colleagues and ensure that we support them in the right way.
This research is the start of our own automation journey, and will form the basis of ongoing conversations with our stakeholders, clients and colleagues over the year ahead.