ServiceNow Research Assesses Impact of Digital Transformation on Employees

New research from ServiceNow, a leading enterprise cloud based provider of digital workflows, reveals employees in EMEA companies, embracing workplace automation, report greater job satisfaction (62%), customer satisfaction (71%) boosted productivity (72%) and increased time for creativity (62%). Two thirds say workplace automation improves their organisation’s financial performance and nearly half believe they benefit from job creation.

EMEA employees express that the rise in digitisation enables them to benefit from automating menial tasks, subsequently improving their opportunities for advancement (64%) and more meaningful work. Yet fewer than one in three (27%) of companies studied (27%) have automated the processes with which they work, leaving over two thirds of work processes with substantial manual activity.

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Employees worry more about change than fear of machines

There has been much rhetoric around ‘fear of machines’, yet employees studied worry more about change than robots taking their jobs:

  • 31% are concerned about learning new skills or processes and 28% worry about changing the way their job is performed
  • Only 17% worry about losing their job
  • Employees in highly digitised companies report they benefit from increased job creation (42%) as opposed to only 23% in less automated companies (23%)
  • 86% view AI technologies as the future of work
  • Under a fifth (16%) fear being told what to do by a machine

Employees have a desire to learn and improve digital skills

  • 66% of employees have a desire to learn or improve their digital skills
  • 15% say their job requires advanced digital skills
  • 75% believe they have the digital skills required to perform their job well
  • Only 18% find adapting to digitised work processes difficult

Increased financial success

Employees in ‘highly automated’ organisations are more likely than those with less automated processes to report that their firms have high revenue growth, exceed financial goals and are much more profitable than competitors.

  • 55% of those in highly automated companies see higher profitability than their competitors, compared to only 31% in less automated companies
  • In highly automated companies, 21% see ‘much higher’ profitability vs. 5% for others
  • 36% of highly automated companies report that they exceeded their financial goals compared to just 16% for others

“Highly automated companies are making use of digital workflows to simplify complex tasks, respond rapidly to users’ needs and take a predictive approach to maintenance,” says Chris Pope, VP Innovation, ServiceNow. “Automation enables employees to reclaim time spent on unfulfilling tasks and refocus it on more meaningful work. The result is significantly greater efficiency, productivity and job satisfaction compared to companies with more manually-led operations.

“Activities such as resolving customer issues are critical to customer and employee satisfaction, so they should receive more focus from an automation standpoint in the future. The question businesses need to be asking now is how they can make the necessary changes to realise these benefits,” adds Pope.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Are Soft Skills Winning?

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The whole debate about soft skills versus hard skills sounds like a relatively modern debate, right? Not at all. The debate has been raging for many years – as far back as last century even. In 1918, Charles Riborg Mann, a physicist, engineer and civilian adviser in the US War Department, published research that discussed the importance of soft skills versus hard skills in engineering disciplines.

Within the study he asserted that: “personal qualities such as common sense, integrity, resourcefulness, initiative, tact, thoroughness, accuracy, efficiency and understanding of men are universally recognised as being no less necessary to a professional engineer than are technical knowledge and skills”.

Research by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center built on that 1918 study, leading them to conclude that only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge. What does the other 85% come from? Good, well-developed soft skills of course.

So the debate about soft skills versus hard skills is nothing new. However, thinking tends to fluctuate over which skills – soft or hard – are most important when hiring. At the moment, the swing is definitely towards soft skills and it has been going that way for some time.

Why? For starters, there is the undeniable fact that hard skills date very quickly now. What was relevant and required five or even two years ago is soon redundant. Skills and knowledge regeneration is constant and employees need to have the right mindset that enables them to keep learning, keep developing and keep moving forward.

As a result, employers place less importance on what employees already know. They want to know what employees are capable of in the future, what their aptitudes are and how well placed they are to apply the skills needed today and the skills needed tomorrow.

It’s all about agility. It’s a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that we live and work in and if organisations are to be agile, as they need to be, then they need agile employees. And being agile requires employees to have a whole host of personal attributes that fall into the soft skills category – flexibility, adaptability, creativity, dynamism, connectiveness, emotional intelligence and so it goes on.

There is lots of research that says that these are the skills that employers want now and will want even more in the future. A survey by Talent Q, part of Hay Group, for example found that nine in 10 employers think graduates with soft skills will be increasingly important as globalisation continues to gather pace. But those graduates are already in high demand – 81% of employers say they face strong competition for graduates with people skills.

A report carried out by Grant Thornton, a professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms, shows just how much value is placed on soft skills in the modern workplace, even in a profession that is all about numbers. The report, called ‘The Evolving Accounting Talent Profile’, said this in its executive summary: ‘Today’s CFOs find that technical skills are a necessary, but not sufficient, competency among accounting professionals. As they and their staff become more engaged in organisational decision-making, soft skills such as critical thinking and communication are increasingly important”.

Another report, this one carried out last year on behalf of McDonald’s UK, called ‘The Value of Soft Skills to the UK Economy’, states that soft skills are worth over £88 billion in gross value added to the UK economy each year, underpinning roughly 6.5% of the whole economy. That figure is expected to rise considerably over the next five years. The report predicts that by 2020, the annual contribution of soft skills to the economy will have grown in real terms to £109 billion and to just over £127 billion by 2025. Soft skills are worth a lot.


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