Ben Laker - Henley Business School Finland

The rise of machines sits squarely upon human shoulders

‘The greatest challenge concerning the digital revolution is that external change is always faster than the organisation perceives it to be,’ says Ben Laker, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School. ‘Organisations are having to play catch-up.’

With a well-established thought leadership role with media outlets such as Sky News, Bloomberg and Harvard Business Review, Professor Ben Laker recently spoke to a Helsinki business audience as visiting lecturer. He made a strong case for acceptance of technology in the workplace and the development of workable strategies by business leaders. This is necessary to ensure continued engagement of the workforce in a post digitalisation world.

World Economic Forum research emphasises his point, indicating that by 2025, 58% of workplace resources will be human-led vs 42% led by machines, built on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

According to Laker, the speed and rate of technological change are putting organisations at odds with their existing strategies and corporate cultures – and in the end, their ability to achieve ‘buy-in’ at all levels.

He points out that the challenge for leaders is to understand that, technology aside, managing behavioural change is a more significant determiner of success in any strategic implementation.

‘Any successful transition to this new mode of working is dependent upon a leader’s ability to prepare their current workforce for cooperating with automated systems,’ Laker points out.

By 2022, a minimum of 54% of employees will require significant reskilling or up-skilling to achieve a smooth transition from a human-led to a digital organisation. Looking further, Laker envisages the management of a hybrid workforce as a default setting for any business in the future. Leadership should frame digitalisation not in terms of technology but as a process of behavioural change.

Laker refers to the necessity of continuous scrutiny and mapping of the process leading to an evolved hybrid organisation. Change management is a cyclic and holistic process founded upon continous learning and development.

Fear and resistance are normal in times of rapid change. These reactions need to be taken seriously to achieve compliance with the change management process. Emotions that are appreciated and acknowledged are essential in successful transformations.

‘It’s a workforce issue, not an IT one,’ he says.

Laker emphasises the importance of efficient internal communications abandoning monolithic email and intranet systems. He recommends switching to informal but powerful messaging platforms that reinforce natural information flows.

‘We need to get past the “depths of despair” phase where many organisations find themselves presently and move on to the building and developing phase,’ he says. ‘People will need to be brought on the journey of transformation, together with the executives.’

Ben Laker - Henley Business School Finland

Professor Ben Laker

Ben Laker is a renowned scholar and university educator who provides academic direction and leadership to research, executive development and education within the subject area of leadership at Henley Business School. He is highly experienced at leading engagements with executives of Fortune 500 firms, having served clients including Apple, American Express, Cisco and Lloyds Banking Group for more than a decade. His scholarly output appears in world-class academic and practitioner journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Washington Post, informs government policy, and shapes how thousands of organisations around the world are managed and led. He is retained by the BBC, Bloomberg and Sky News to provide expert commentary on business, economic and political affairs.

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