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Are You Prepared For Automation?

August 13, 2019

The Pathways to Digital Enablement survey from Willis Towers Watson reveals the drive toward digital transformation in the UK is showing no signs of abating as the number of UK companies using workplace automation is expected to increase in the next three years.

The research found the proportion of work completed by using automation among UK companies doubled over the last three years, from 5% to 12%, and is expected to almost double to 25% in the next three years. Additionally, 55% of organisations in the UK believe that automation and digitalisation will allow them to do the same amount of work with fewer employees in the next three years.

“Workplace automation has been growing in leaps and bounds, and all signs point toward continued rapid expansion in the coming years,” said George Zarkadakis, Digital Lead at Willis Towers Watson. “However, despite the push to digital transformation and the increasing use of contingent workers, many UK companies are struggling to integrate automation with their workforce.”

Globally, nearly all respondents (92%) expect to be using workplace automation, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, within three years. As workplace automation expands worldwide, employers expect to add more contingent workers and other “non-employee” talent to their workforces, while reducing their reliance on full-time employees.

According to the survey, free agent workers are expected to represent 5.3% of the global workforce in the next three years, an increase from 4.1% today. The percentage of workforces comprised of consultants, workers on loan from other organisations, or from free-agent platforms, is also expected to increase in three years. At the same time, full-time workers will represent 78% of workforces globally in three years, a decline from 82% today.

“As the use of contingent labor continues to evolve, it’s critical for companies to address the challenge of integrating those workers into their workforces to effectively compete for highly-skilled talent” said Zarkadakis. “We know from our research that organisations successful at integrating their contingent workers with automation and their teams are reaping benefits in the form of cost savings and less disruption in the short term.”

According to the survey, many UK organisations are advancing to a stage where they expect automation and digitalisation will have a significant impact on future job design and talent sourcing in the next 3 years. During this time, more than half (59%) also expect to redesign jobs so they can only be done by employees with more skills, while 48% expect to design jobs so they can be done by workers with lower skills.


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