Tech, including automation, shall replace some job roles. But dynamic decision-making in unpredictable environments will always be difficult to be replicated by a machine.
Throughout history, disruptions in technology and socio-economic patterns have presented opportunities to the one who has been best prepared to take advantage of it. The current era of disruption marked by rapid advancements in computing (automation, AI, IoT) is a defining opportunity of our times. Like all other disruptions, the threat perception is high especially in terms of potential loss of jobs. To make sense of this opportunity, new-age corporations need to chart out an approach to cope with constant changes, enormous expectations and an unpredictable future.
Visualising the future: It is easier to plan and execute if the future is reasonably predictable. However, the exponentially increasing scope of AI and robotics is making it difficult to understand the scope of retraining or reskilling. Thus, the retraining schedule will have to deliver an on-demand, need-based, seamless and personalised learning experience. While lifelong learning has become cliché in HR circles, there is a need to break the psychological barrier and enable the trend of reskilling in mid-life professionals and entrepreneurs. This is not only to add value to the same job, but sometimes even reskill completely to shift focus to different areas during the 40s and 50s. Fortunately, we are seeing progressive corporations in our country spend time and resources to reskill employees in futuristic technologies.
Rise of new media: The rise in new media content is disrupting conventional learning styles, leading to a shift towards self-learning. Employees can see the possibilities it offers, and are taking independent decisions to get back into reskilling. This is why the traditional training paradigm is shifting to just-in-time transmission of skills and sharing of knowledge and information to boost employee performance. Most firms are focusing their L&D attention on the short term, but with the dramatic change propelled by technology, economic transitions, digitisation and ever-changing needs and expectations from the workforce, the employer-manager will not want to face 2020 with only a near vision.
Bringing the future to the present: Creating a talent strategy for 2020, and getting the right staff with the right mindset and skills, can hardly be overstated. To realise this, tough calls need to be taken by human capital managers.
First, the need to shift in attitude of having a job for life to developing an orientation to continuous learning at work needs to be drilled. The workforce of today can combat the skills crisis by adopting lifelong learning to remain as relevant and agile as the changing marketplace.
Second, workforce had to be fully prepared to negotiate change. The organisation needs to have the ‘agile human capital’ in place to quickly understand and deploy emerging technologies. It should be able to do this while you ‘keep the lights on’ at a fraction of today’s expense.
The organisation’s operating model, the human capital approach, and its ability to innovate and execute, has to be reviewed periodically. With the results of such a strategy, one will need to determine the skill-gaps.
It’s possible that advanced technologies shall replace some job roles. But dynamic decision-making in unpredictable environments will always be difficult to be replicated by a machine. As the ‘Future of Jobs’ report by World Economic Forum indicates, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, negotiation, creativity and emotional intelligence are a few skill-sets that will not be replaced in 2020 or beyond.
The future is uncertain, but we live in an age where we tend to discount everything—the sort of conscious being that makes rational decisions, forms opinions rather than insights and develops preferences rather than conclusions. Till the reality does not knock on the door, problem-solvers and smart administrators should be able to elevate human labour towards higher skilled work, deliver enhanced functions and act in collaboration instead of competition.
The author is MD & CEO, YES Bank, and Chairman, YES Global Institute