Article (April-2019)


Blend of human and machine strengths is a must

Dr. D. Prasanth Nair

Designation : -   Co-founder

Organization : -  Asynithis (Indus Partners), Mumbai


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Where do you think we are headed in terms of skill set requirements and capability assessments to build a talent bank for future workplace needs? And how do you visualize the workforce of future?

PN I envisage five critical areas titled 5C's for future talent - Curiosity, Courage, Collaboration, Connectivity and Compassion.

a) Curiosity : Curiosity is the first step towards learning and in future continuous learning will be key to success.

b) Courage : Talent of the future will need courage and resilience to handle ambiguity, uncertainty and disruption. This will need individuals to take decisions fast, often with limited knowledge and understanding.

c) Collaboration : Future of work will be on collaborated platforms - with people known and unknown; seen and unseen.

d) Connectivity : The future will be driven by technology and connectivity, which will make different form of value addition possible like gig economy. Connectivity also means constant being updated, which can help talent provided they are willing and able.

e) Compassion : In a context driven by science, where many of today's jobs will no longer be present, where new jobs will be dominated by tech prowess, there will be need to connect with individuals and help each other in the journey. This calls for high level of compassion on part of individuals.

How is AI, robotics, automation affecting the employment scenario in India?

PN There are studies which state that one of three present jobs will no longer exist in 10 years' time. Any job that can be delivered with greater efficiency and productivity with the use of machines and technology will no longer need a human. At the same time - there will be jobs created. Jobs which involve working with machines, jobs focusing of data analysis, jobs which enable digital transformation, jobs that are focused on ensuring security of network and technology are examples of jobs that will be created. At the same time, there will be jobs in demand that will focus on developing and helping individuals manage this disruptive change - jobs which involve coaching and counseling. At any point in the technology change journey, job map will change - some jobs will decline and new jobs will emerge. Key question will be if individuals have the skill and capability for the new jobs and further, if they can be re-skilled.

There are statistics that speak a loud about the growing unemployment in the country, so much so that highly qualified individuals are forced to take up meager jobs to make a livelihood.

To avoid any kind of social unrest, how more employment opportunities can be generated?

PN There are couple of things that can be done :

Encourage local entrepreneurship - instead of focusing on employment, can they set up micro enterprise which can focus on service needs in a collaborative environment. There are large areas of our country which are not yet penetrated by lot of services and products and industries are looking at collaborative models. Corporate and Govt. can back these enterprises' as a risk reduction strategy.

Focus on the curriculum to imbibe practical knowledge and job related skills. There are lots of examples where corporates are working with institutes on this. More needs to be done - this will help the students in their job prospects.

Is the current HR ecosystem ready to take on the challenges of a highly demanding and dynamic future workforce? How HR should evolve and upgrade its competencies to address this challenge?

PN Good part is that HR is aware of the changes and reorientation needed and there are lots of discussions around this. Not so good part is that the actual changes are yet to manifest in many of the organizations. The eight areas HR should focus on are :
  • Create a digital culture.
  • Leadership preparedness.
  • Realign talent management.
  • Focus on capabilities.
  • Create a workforce which is agile and curious.
  • Curate platforms and systems where value addition can come from diverse sources.
  • Employee experience.
  • Uphold values and be custodian of culture.
  • Be proactive and use data analytics to predict.
  • Focus on productivity and create hunger for performance.
What are the ways which can help HR to create a system where man and machine can co-exist without eating into each other's space? Is it even possible to have such a workplace universe?

PN As of now, there are lot of tasks being done by machines which were at some time in past, being done by humans. So this transition has already happened. In future, we will see more of this happening - with the added feature that - the machines will be more intelligent; have better memory and connectivity as compared to human. Work design should be such the strengths of both human and machine needs to be used - machine in cognitive intelligence and human in emotional, creative and coordination work. There is no point in getting human to compete with machine in an area/task that machines can do better. It is better that we use machines for what it does well and incorporate it as part of our work output.