The digital transformation dilemma: UK employees want pandemic-era tech to stay

digital transformationAs the UK prepares to return to normal in the coming months and industries reopen, research from The Workforce Institute at UKG claims that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 87 percent of UK workers have been propelled into the future of work by accelerating their digital transformation projects. Furthermore, 86 percent are enjoying the benefits of these new technologies, and 38 percent are fearful that their organisation will go back to the “old way” of doing things post-pandemic.

The global research commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence dissects the feelings of nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders across 11 countries to understand what digital transformation initiatives took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, how leaders and employees felt about these new technologies, and what they hope to see in the post-pandemic world of work.


Accelerated digital transformation

The vast majority (87 percent) of UK decision makers said that digital transformation projects were sped up as a result of the pandemic. When asked to what degree they felt the pandemic accelerated these projects, 75 percent said between 1 to 3 years

This is evidenced by more than three quarters (76 percent) of employees saying that they used at least one new technology or application during the crisis. Of those new technologies, more than a third (36 percent) started using mobile applications to complete some work activities and nearly a quarter (24 percent) were empowered to leverage more self-service solutions.

Reflecting on their preparation, leaders are varied on the actions they took during the crisis, with 34 percent accelerating a critical technology deployment, 30 percent deciding to replace a software vendor, and 29 percent saying that they “found” budget to pursue a technology improvement that was previously thought to be too expensive or unnecessary.


Employees welcomed new technologies

These new technology implementations were well received, with 86 percent of UK employees giving their organisation a passing grade (A, B, or C) for its use or deployment of new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic to help them do their job more safely, efficiently, or from an alternative location.

However, almost half (44 percent) of all UK workers regardless of level said that their company’s pandemic response would have been smoother if they had implemented modern technologies as part of their standard strategy instead of waiting for the crisis to occur. And 42 percent feel that their organisation was slow to embrace new technologies prior to the pandemic.

Looking to the future, employees hope to keep these technologies in their arsenal to better perform in their roles, as 60 percent hope their organisation keeps many of the technology and policy changes that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic response. However, 38 percent believe their organisation will roll back the changes, going back to the “old way” of doing things.


Modern technologies show benefits

Despite fear of rolling back technological improvements, UK workers remain optimistic about potential business benefits, with about half or more hoping their company’s digital transformation efforts:
• create a better customer experience (54 percent)
• create a better employee experience (51 percent)
• improve decision making (44 percent)

Though they see barriers to these benefits, with more than one third feeling that their companies main challenge to selecting or implementing new technologies is:
• budget restraints (40 percent)
• security and privacy concerns (34 percent)
• culture change and employee adoption (35 percent)

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”One year later, organisations are seeing the fruits of their digital transformation labour”[/perfectpullquote]

“COVID-19 turned the world of work upside down and clearly forced the digital transformation hand in a very short period of time,” said Peter Harte, group VP, EMEA, UKG. “Some organisations were simply trying to survive – and still are – but others have been thriving. One year later, organisations are seeing the fruits of their digital transformation labour and it’s now imperative to have a technology roadmap to aid them in thriving throughout the remainder of 2021 and into the future to keep pace with developments to not only protect their bottom line, but also meet the needs of their people and customers.”

Image by Karolina Grabowska