Swiss business leaders expect automation to impact workforce by 2020

05 July 2018 7 min. read

Technological pressures, alternative workforce arrangements, and changing attitudes around corporate citizenship are having a profound effect on human capital. In its ‘2018 Human Capital Trends’ survey, Deloitte Switzerland examines the most important trends identified by Swiss business leaders and human resources executives.

Not since the first industrial revolution has there been such a mismatch in desired human capital and the looming robo-revolution. Back then, owners of capital needed factory workers when all that the labour supply could provide were farmers. Now, businesses want data analysts and robotics programmers and, apparently, workers that will interact and work with automated colleagues – instead of an ageing labour supply composed of factory workers, ‘routine-task’ labourers, and white collar employees with misaligned skills. How well governments and the private sector skill and re-skill workers as automation proceeds will determine whether the next twenty years are a slightly painful transition, or an agonising one.

In this anxious environment of challenging demographics, skill gaps, and furiously advancing technology, Big Four accounting and consulting firm Deloitte has released the 2018 edition of its annual Global Human Capital Trends Report, titled ‘The Rise of the Social Enterprise.’ In Switzerland, the most important trends identified by business leaders and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) were ‘the connected workplace’ (86%), ‘integrating people, AI, and robotics’ (85%), and ‘data as opportunity and risk’ (also 85%).

The workplace is becoming hyper-connected, with 79% of Swiss respondents believing that online collaboration platforms will increase in the next 3-5 years. Workplaces are seeing a ton of new communications tools being introduced that supposedly improve productivity, including work-based social media. However, firms will have to decide which tools to integrate, and whether to bring them aboard at all.

Top 10 Swiss human capital trends for 2018

The next most identified trend relates to people data, and the risks therein. As the aggregation and analysis of vast data sets helps companies improve their performance, it also raises the risks related to consumer data security and transparency about collection methods. However, Big Data and analytics is still in its early adoption phase as pioneering firms take the initiative. Only 18% of Swiss respondents said that they leverage advanced analytics, while 8% said they used predictive analytics (for future planning).

Perhaps the most critical human capital trend identified in Deloitte’s report is the integration of AI and automation into the workplace. A staggering 91% believe that AI will have some or a significant impact on the workforce by 2020. However, a full 42% of survey respondents said that their organisations do not yet have a plan to cultivate the human skills required by AI implementation. The report notes that the introduction of AI and automation will require ongoing reskilling for humans to give them the needed skillsets in the new workplace.

Collaboration for improved productivity

Next on the list of top trends was C-suite collaboration, which was identified by 83% of Swiss survey respondents. Deloitte relates that companies where C-suite executives regularly collaborate are one-fifth more likely to be growing than companies where executives only partner on certain ad hoc projects. Despite the importance Swiss business leaders and CHROs place on C-suite collaboration, 70% say that their executives do not regularly collaborate.

Another important trend was ‘well-being as a driver of productivity,’ identified by 82% of respondents. Over 66% of organisations globally say that well-being programmes are critical to their brand and culture. However, only 7% of Swiss respondents said that their firms offer extensive well-being programmes and actively analyse their impact on employee productivity. However, 63% said their firms offer healthy snacks in the office, and 38% said they have yoga or mindfulness training.

82% of respondents also identified ‘21st century careers’ as an important trends. According to Deloitte, the traditional career model is being scrapped, with 55% of Swiss respondents saying they think building new career models and skills is important. However, more than 57% have no programmes in place to build ‘future skills,’ and only 25% give workers the opportunity to actively develop their career and create ‘new pathways.’

Next on the list was ‘citizenship and social impact of firms.’ Corporate social responsibility is a hot touchpoint for companies that want to do more than generate profit, and instead be moral corporate citizens that do good for their local communities and the wider world. Though 67% of respondents said that they would prefer to work for socially responsible organisations, only 23% said that citizenship and social responsibility were top priorities reflected in corporate strategy at their firms.

With life expectancies growing longer, firms are thinking about how to tap into an older, ‘golden age’ workforce, while also shifting their attitudes towards older employees. 80% of Swiss respondents said that ‘age/generation’ was part of their organisation’s diversity strategy; however, only 8% said that they have already created targeted roles for older workers to utilise their expertise.

Anticipated use of each labour type in 2020 relative to today

69% of Swiss survey respondents identified ‘making employee rewards personal’ as an important trend. The authors report that rewards are shifting from standardised ones to personalised ones, and that reward strategies aligned with organisational goals were most likely to anticipate growth of 10% or more. However, this area is a less pressing one to respondents, with only 21% saying their reward programmes are out of date and need attention, with 57% saying that their firms have a typical rewards programme.

The rise of the gig economy

Lastly, 61% of Swiss respondents identified hybrid workforce management as an important human capital trend. Alternative work arrangements and the ‘gig economy’ are becoming more common, with HR leaders rapidly trying to evolve their workforce ecosystem. By 2020, 57% of respondents expect an increase in freelancers, 44% in gig workers, 38% in contractors, and 31% in crowd workers. In sum, most people expect less-stable employment in the years to come.

Switzerland is performing well in adapting to the new ecosystem, with more than half of the firms saying they’ve established policies to manages the new hybrid workforce. In contrast, only 16% of global respondents said their firms had put in place hybrid workforce management policies and practices.

“The challenge is not just the tactical one of finding enough of the right people to execute particular tasks at particular times,” said Myriam Denk, Head of Human Capital Consulting at Deloitte Switzerland. “To drive real value through the new workforce ecosystem, organisations need to understand how to appeal to and engage with workers of all kinds.”

“HR and business leaders should proactively form new leadership alliances to develop integrated workforce strategies and programmes that can help an organisation take advantage of the breadth of workforce options available today.”