Lack of confidence in long-term ability to implement digital processes adds to lockdown headaches for UK businesses

ServiceNow research highlights opportunities for organisations to boost productivity as today’s new pace of working creates the perfect environment for innovation

Legacy technology is causing UK businesses additional concerns during lockdown, according to new research by ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW), the leading digital workflow company that makes work, work better for people. Prior to the announcement of a second national lockdown, both C-Level leaders and employees had low confidence that they would be able to adapt to another major business disruption.

The Work Survey gathered opinions from 900 C-suite leaders and 8,100 employees across 11 countries, including 100 C-level executives and 1,000 office workers in the UK. It found that, despite 96% of UK leaders and 87% of UK employees stating that their company transitioned to new ways of working faster than they thought possible during the initial lockdown, many departments would not be able to implement new digital processes within a month in the event of another major disruption, such as the one we are facing now. Only a minority of UK leaders believe that customer service (37%), finance (38%) and IT (39%) could introduce new workflows within 30 days.

This challenge is exacerbated because most businesses still have a digital disadvantage, with 98% of UK C-level leaders admitting to still using offline processes. These include:

“Organisations innovated rapidly, and initial sprints enabled them to react to the immediate COVID-19 challenges,” said Chris Pope, ServiceNow’s VP Innovation. “Some decisions made were knee-jerk and rapid, but at what cost? There may be good short-term gains, but are they ‘match fit’ for our new ways of working? For organisations still struggling to integrate and implement a fully integrated workflow system, the future of work will not arrive, and soon they’ll fall behind.”

Worker safety is paramount

The survey also showed there are doubts when it comes to workplace safety from both UK leaders and UK employees. 

Almost a third (31%) of UK leaders and 51% of UK employees are concerned their company will prioritise business continuity over safety. In addition, over a quarter (26%) of UK leaders and 40% of UK employees agree that their company will not take all the necessary steps to keep employees safe when returning to work in the office.

“The critical challenge for UK organisations will be balancing the immediate need for business continuity with the personal needs of their employees,” said Pope. “2020 has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Many have seen restrictions over the past several months, which look set to continue through the winter. Businesses need to lead with compassion and combine empathy with meaningful action to help their employees navigate the months to come. In this distributed working environment, how organisations handle the moments that matter, from when a hire joins to when they leave, not only determines talent retention but will also contribute to overall business continuity and success.”

Business leaders split on return to office preferences

UK business leaders are also divided on how to keep their company most productive. While 49% want to maintain new ways of operating once the crisis subsides, 51% are keen to return to business as closely as it was prior to COVID-19, indicating a divide in approach.

Despite 57% of UK employees feeling they now have a better work-life balance, both UK leaders (99%) and UK employees (80%) have concerns about how remote work will impact their business moving forward.

The research indicates that leaders are prioritising speed of business while staff care about the human side of working. In terms of the largest challenges posed by remote work, UK leaders are most concerned about extended timelines for new releases or innovations (48%). Conversely, UK employees see reduced collaboration (48%) as their largest worry.

More information about The Work Survey can be found by accessing the survey findings slide deck and infographic.

Survey Methodology

Wakefield Research fielded an online quantitative survey in September 2020 to 900 C‑level executives and 8,100 office professionals (employees) from companies of 500 or more employees in the following countries: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. While Wakefield surveyed across industries, the findings highlight meaningful differences from employees in the following five key industries: financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications, and public sector.

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