On the back of its global research, Dell Technologies on 15 March explored technology's implications on the workforce in a two fireside chats involving visionaries and experts, attended by Human Resources.
The dialogue, Realising the Future of Work: A Divided Vision, sparked discussion on how business leaders plan to succeed over the next 10 to 15 years.
In the first fireside chat, David Yeo, chief learning architect, Kydon Group, pointed out that organisations must get people to embrace change by allowing them to challenge existing mindsets in a safe environment.
When asked about how this safe environment can be created, Yeo said, "I think you create it in two levels. The first is creating opportunities. For example, DBS with their hackathons and workshops."
He noted that this is a fail-safe and risk-safe way of exposing people to the interesting things they can do with technology such as AI and robotics and challenge them to think very differently. However, he also pointed out that alone isn't enough; we also need to bring it into the real work space.
"Bringing that into the real work space requires us to set aside a certain amount of time and space to think differently," Yeo said.
He likened it to flying a plane and doing engineering to fix it, saying ,"we can't be flying while trying to fix the plane. So we have to set time aside, we have to set space aside, and I dare say organisations have to set resources and money aside whereby they can create opportunities for staff to do something different."
To that, Paul Henaghan, vice-president, data centre solutions - Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell EMC, who moderated the chat, emphasised that it's more than just putting a culture code in place.
"It's all very easy to say that we have a culture of learning and risk etc, but it's the actions that follow the words that is most critical."
Henaghan cited the example of a bank that put an award in place, named after an employee who put a line of code into a digital platform that had the unintended effect of bringing the ATM network down years ago.
"It is a badge of honour every year to win that award. That is much more powerful than a culture code or other words," he explained.
Dimitri Chen, COO and vice president of specialty sales - Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell EMC, closed the first discussion, saying: "The reality of things is that technology has democratised resources. The real competitive edge is to look at the ability of individuals and the organisations and of departments to learn and out-learn one another and that is the key."
In the second chat, when asked about automation, job losses, and the direction in which jobs are moving, Pang Yee Beng, senior vice president - commercial business - South Asia and Korea, Dell EMC, and MD - Dell Malaysia, said: "Research has said that 80% of jobs in 2030 haven't been created yet. So we don't know, and I will admit that I can't predict where the jobs will be in the future and what they will be. But I think it will be in very different shapes and forms."
Taking the example of self-driving cars, he noted that while we may not need drivers anymore, we still need people and resources to manage the systems such as GPS and to make sure the car comes back.
"So instead of being labour intensive, we now need people who sit higher up in the value chain to be able to control and monitor the car and make sure it is safe for its passengers," Pang explained.
Speaking optimistically, he added that while jobs will be lost in certain areas, more will be created.
To that, Yeo added that we should see technology as something that empowers us, saying, "if we embrace that, and the workforce embraces that, and be willing to learn, willing to change, it will be a great world."
When asked how HR can nudge the workforce to embrace the change, Henaghan noted that HR has to leverage on these tools to develop a personal relationship with employees.
"Particularly in the world we live in, we talk about solo entrepreneurs, contingent workers and contract workers, etc. there's not a lot of permanency. My longest stint was about eight years in a company whereas my dad lived in a world where they're at a company for their entire lives.
"Today, the average is about two years. Therefore, you have to very quickly develop a very personal and value based relationship with the employee and I think that's the critical part of the HR function moving forward," Henaghan said.
Yeo, on the other hand, felt that the mindset "change is constant" has to be drummed down throughout the whole organisation. At the same time, he pointed out that leaders and HR professionals should not forget about flaming the passion in employees.
"I think one of the key ingredients is flaming the passion in the work they are doing - it is something we have forgotten. When we have the passion, we can then build the skillsets." As for the skillsets, the most important to Yeo was "learning to learn" with self-directedness being a key part of this.
Pang shared that apart from that, HR should re-look at the criteria used to benchmark candidates.
Sharing what he learnt when he spoke to a US-based cloud computing company, he noted that the company looks for four key things in candidates - empathy, speed of working and thinking, if they are able to handle abstract, and if they are able to code (algorithms).
The event ended with a #FutureOfWork showcase, featuring the latest XPS 13, by Hajar Ali, founder of Urbane Nomads, discussing the role of technology in powering a solopreneur's lifestyle to increase productivity while fueling creativity.
Ali said: "The deskbound days of 9-to-5 workers are gone for most modern businesses and I’m no exception. Technology is empowering a new generation of ‘nomadic entrepreneurs’ who work on-the-go without the need for a physical office space."
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Photos / Dell Technologies Lead image / 123RF