Future Workplaces, Future Workers: Innovative, Intelligent and Agile

By Archana Jerath August 7, 2019

Article based on a Panel discussion at SHRM HR Tech APAC 2019 moderated by Dr. Shalini Lal, Founder, Infinity OD; Rajeev Mendiratta, Global Head, Resource Management Group, DXC Technology, Kyle Legunas, Talent Experience Expert, Chaitanya Sreenivas, VP HR & HR Head, IBM India South Asia & Amit Arora - MD India, Egencia.  

Digital transformation: Signals for the Future from Current Organizational Adaptiveness

"The modest mobile phone is becoming key in shaping the world we live in. Uber, for example, would not exist without mobile phones. New Age businesses are largely technology-dependent or technology-enabled," shares Rajeev Mendiratta.

Many sectors like BPOs will see a huge reduction in the workforce in the next five to ten years. Countries like India will have to grapple with the problem of how we redeploy the workforces at risk.

"When digital transformation happens in these sectors, it will create both opportunities and threats to the workforce," says Mendiratta. "A large number of businesses are still not digitized or continue to use legacy systems in industries like retail, insurance and BFSI. Low labor-cost countries like India also see huge employment in sectors with repetitive and manual work like the BPO industry."

According to the World Economic Forum's 'Future of Jobs' Report, 75 million jobs will be displaced by technology and automation while 133 million new jobs will be created by 2022. There will be a massive demand for roles such as data scientists and data analysts, software and applications developers, e-commerce specialists and social media experts.

New jobs will be created for high-end technology such as AI-ML architects and specialists, automation path designers, digital transformation specialists, information security experts, UX designers, human-machine interaction designers and Block Chain specialists. There will also be a big demand for jobs that need social and human skills, such as organizational development specialists, sales and marketing professionals, learning and development professionals, CX experts, culture experts and innovation managers.

One of the biggest examples of an industry shift towards digital transformation is the travel industry, which is leveraging automation, digitization, AI and ML to re-invent itself. Unlike 20 years ago when travel consultants had the cumbersome job of remembering preferences and needs of regular business travelers, today the industry has leveraged intuitive technology to simplify this process and remove the possibilities of human error directly impacting the nature of jobs in the travel industry.

Automation will affect entire sectors: What will the workforce of 2030 look like?

"2030 is a very long way off," says Chaitanya Sreenivas. "About 40-50% jobs that exist today did not exist 4 years earlier. In the next 4 years, the other 40-50% will change too. Jobs will undergo a 100% change in a very short period, and some jobs that exist today will go away while some will be redefined. A host of new jobs will get created"

There is a pressing need for continuous reskilling, re-learning and adaptability to change. The workforce and the workplace are going to get defined by this. With the gig economy picking up steam in India, Chaitanya predicts that employees will demand multiple roles and jobs. This will mean the rise of full-stack skills as opposed to narrow, deep skills.

"In this new disruptive world, it will be very common for people and teams with different skills collaborating rather quickly, addressing an issue and disassembling as quickly," shares Chaitanya. Due to the need to continuously reskill and upskill the workforce, the ability to learn will be another key skill. Chaitanya Sreenivas notes that "the ability to embrace technology and the changes it brings is going to define the workforce and organizations. If can't keep up, you will perish."

Global trends in technology adoption and HR & talent strategies

The key to digital transformation taking the world by storm is adaptability, shares Kyle. "Adaptability is crucial not just in the workforce but in HR as well. HR cannot simply limit itself to compliance and other administrative work; it must enable change. Organizations of all sizes and types are grappling with their global talent-hiring, performance management, employee engagement and experience strategies for their globally distributed workforce."

Given this dynamic scenario, organizations expect HR to deliver increased efficiency and enhance stakeholder experiences and keep up with the pace of business change. According to Kyle, "automation is not just impacting HR jobs but also how the HR function is preparing for a displaced workforce. Businesses are exploring more use cases for automation, but HR is not prepared to keep up with this pace of change. What happens to the 60% workforce affected by automation? This should be HRs number one strategic imperative."

How can HR professionals stay ahead of the change?

  • Keep Learning: Continuous learning and staying updated is important for HR professionals.
  • Spend time reading: Be well-informed to be successful, effective and beyond relevant.
  • Effective networking: Deliberately taking time out to interact with the right people.
  • Be Number Savvy: Learn the financial and economic aspects of the business.
  • Be Data Savvy: Use and work with disparate data and leverage it to drive change.
  • Stay Curious: The business is moving forward, with or without us. Seeking and learning will be imperative to staying ahead of the change.
  • Source for potential: Facilitate the changes in the talent sourcing models from sourcing for performance to sourcing for potential.
  • Make learning experiences engaging for employees.
  • Understand technology: Probe and understand disruptive technology like RPA, AI and ML to better understand how they can bring value to the organization.
  • Drive flexibility: HR must be flexible instead of fluid. Having guiding principles rather than policy documents tells employees that nothing is cast in stone and is a great way to build trust. A trusting relationship and seamless EX will greatly impact business results. 

Archana Jerath is Business Leader, Operations, SHRM India and APAC. 


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