Most of us spend the majority of our time at work, and yet too many of our days are filled with routine and time-intensive tasks that impinge on our ability to do more meaningful work. Too much of our working lives revolves around meetings, emails, processes and systems that don’t work properly.
ServiceNow’s annual research study, The State of Work, substantiates this, finding business leaders spend two full days – or 15 hours a week – on manual administrative tasks, 91 per cent of whom say that skilled employees waste too much time on mundane activities.
This is bad for employees and businesses. One CIO we work with sums up the conundrum brilliantly as the 85 per cent/15 per cent challenge. As much as 85 per cent of what a company does drives little competitive advantage. The 15 per cent is where the magic happens – where innovation and ideas drive change and create differentiation, resulting in customer loyalty and employee happiness.
Unlocking that 15 per cent should be the goal of any business. But I also think that, as employees, we have an intuitive understanding of this fact – particularly as we become more used to digital experiences outside of work making our lives easier and more convenient. Why aren’t those experiences reflected at work? Why isn’t technology being used to liberate us from menial tasks and empowering us to be happier, more productive, more valuable employees?
Of course, this isn’t just about improving the employee experience, as important as that is. At a macro level sluggish productivity remains one of the UK’s biggest economic challenges. Productivity growth has averaged only 0.2 per cent per annum since the financial crisis, while the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that UK workers are 16.3 per cent less productive than those in other G7 nations.
It’s an issue that continues to puzzle economists, but one key barrier to better productivity growth is the poor adoption of new business technologies by many UK companies.
This has to change. And if we don’t, we all lose out.
Making work, work better for people
Putting people first is key to solving these challenges. Employees want to know that they’re realising their full potential at work, and digitising processes that make routine work simpler and faster frees up people to focus on the more challenging, essential and fulfilling aspects of their jobs. This is how value is created and productivity increases.
Crucially, it’s possible to achieve this digitalisation with technology that is available today. This doesn’t mean sophisticated “deep learning” or artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that are still many years from being a commercial reality for most businesses. In fact, in huge swathes of the economy intelligent, digital workflows can bring significant (and relatively easy to achieve) productivity gains.
ServiceNow’s own Now Platform enables digital workflows to be created to deal with all manner of repetitive tasks such as dealing with common customer enquiries, HR requests, filing and even basic issue resolution. Significantly, these functionalities can be built once and then reused across departments – enabling jobs throughout an organisation to benefit, including financial services, customer services, IT, legal, HR and facilities management. This strategy simplifies enterprise architecture, reduces costs and enables digital transformation to move faster.
A perfect example of how this works in the real world is our customer Alexander Mann Solutions, a talent acquisition and management specialist. The company handles more than 250,000 job interviews globally every year, but schedulers were relying on spreadsheets and manual processes to manage the recruitment process. By adding digital workflows to take on the repetitive and manual parts of its interview-scheduling process, the average time to schedule an interview was reduced from five days to just two.
This has freed up employees to do more meaningful work and evolve their role into high-touch recruitment facilitators and solution designers, offering a better employee and candidate experience. Indeed, candidate satisfaction has risen to more than 93 per cent as a result of these intelligent workflows.
The productivity dividend
This is particularly important as over the last ten years the UK’s growing knowledge economy has started to make a positive impact on multiple industries, according to the UK Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) from the ONS. Imagine if organisations adopted intelligent digital workflows to enhance their knowledge-intensive activities. The pace of development and change could be accelerated further.
Business leaders can create entirely new employee experiences and increase employee engagement. Because when technology is developed in the service of people, rather than the other way around, the magic within organisations can truly be unlocked.
In fact, based on the latest employment figures from the ONS, we estimate there are 5.7 million workers in the UK (16 per cent of the total workforce) who carry out roles in financial services, customer services, IT, legal, HR and facilities management, who could benefit from intelligent digital workflows.
Using quantified business outcome figures derived from methodology developed by Forrester Consulting, ServiceNow has proven that intelligent, digital workflow automation can deliver a 20 per cent productivity gain. Applied to those 5.7 million workers, this figure has the potential to boost the UK’s gross value added (GVA), a key measure of productivity, and enable the UK economy to benefit from a staggering £64.6 billion “productivity dividend”.
That dividend is entirely within reach – it just requires businesses to grasp the nettle. It’s why we are working closely with CIOs – listening, learning and building technology that addresses real challenges to ensure they’re achieving optimal employee experiences. It’s about having common goals and common values.
At ServiceNow we share the ambition of the CIO to create value and drive innovation, and we want to give them the support and guidance they need to act now and take on 2019 with a competitive advantage. Because ultimately there’s no time to waste – we need to make the world of work, work better for people now.
Philip van der Wilt is senior vice president, GM EMEA at ServiceNow
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