The connected worker

Charging up the business services workforce

Technology is changing the world of work and it’s having an impact on business services. Can the sector become more productive by moving towards a digital workplace?

What is a connected worker?

A connected worker is any person whose working life is changing due to digital and other technologies. The business services sector has been suffering from poor productivity growth in recent years, and while companies in the sector operate in different ways, they all employ a large number of people to carry out often labour-intensive, manual tasks. Our connected worker series is designed to shine a light on the future of work for the business services sector. Our research is based on interviews with business leaders and a survey of 640 business services workers in the UK. 


Margin pressures and talent challenges

One of the biggest challenges facing the business services sector is the growing pressure on profit margins. Based on a selection of 20 major business services companies operating in the UK, the average operating profit margin for 2016 was just over two per cent. This pressure doesn’t just stem from the rising cost of people; the sector is also facing pricing struggles as clients demand more value for money from the services they buy.

While the business services sector is a major employer in the UK economy, many parts of the sector have seen a reduction in productivity growth. Sectors such as food services and waste and water services have seen productivity fall over the last decade as fluctuating demand has left businesses less able to match that with the right level of staffing. A key reason for weak productivity growth is the limited use of technology and portable devices in routine work, as many processes are still manual or paper-based.

Key findings from our connected worker report

  • 13 per cent of business services workers report that they are not using any digital devices for work purposes.
  • Workers are compensating for the lack of technology by using their own devices at work, with eight in ten workers already using their personal smartphones to make their jobs easier.
  • 49 per cent of workers waste an average of 10 minutes per hour, with the main reason being issues with technology, such as non-working or a lack of devices. This translates to a productivity loss of nearly three hours a week per worker.
  • Continuing pressure on margins, competitors disrupting the market and the challenges of attracting new generations of workers mean business services need to improve productivity and efficiency to be profitable in future.
  • It’s predicted that 25 to 31 per cent of the 3.3 million business services jobs are at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

Case studies

Charge up your business with your technology to do list

Improve your decision-making with data - examine what relevant data is available to analyse productivity problems and identify what data should be collected by new technologies
Connect your workforce with technology - identify technologies that can address pain points and discuss with employees how they would like to use technology to improve their efficiency at work and then pilot the technologies
Collect evidence and scale up - use data from piloting technologies and where it’s successful in addressing efficiency problems, implement it at a larger scale to see the impact on overall business performance

Previous edition

The connected worker 2017

Clocking in to the digital age