Article (April-2019)


Machine will always be second to man

Rajesh Tripathi

Designation : -   Head & Vice president - Corporate HR

Organization : -  GHCL Limited, Noida


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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?

RT Skill sets will keep changing with time, as it being part of evolutionary process. But, I feel ability to perform all these skills well, there would not be much biologically. Natural Inclinations what sums up into competencies will, in fact, remain static more or less.

Scientific inventions & brain studies for sure will make capability assessments more robust and reliable with high degree of validity in times to come. Although all these developments will make capability assessment better and better but it is high time for behavioural scientists and other professionals to research and set up proven linkages between work activities and natural inclinations to make organisation reap the real benefit of all this.

Regarding workforce, I don't see much change in its natural inclinations as it requires significant biological changes in human beings. It means scientific focus should be on what is there in brain and building a relationship with work requirements & brain functions.

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

RT If we look back into human civilizations, technological inventions and innovations were part of their development. It means, things will keep changing with time.

In my view, these developments give more opportunities for employment, however, with changed skill requirements. Story will be much better in India due to suppleness and agility of learning in its employable population.

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 meagre jobs to make a livelihood. To avoid any kind of social unrest, how more employment opportunities can be generated?

RT You are right in referring to available statistics about unemployment, but I see it more physical manifestation and not real. Today, I see lot of employment opportunities in India, however the problem lies in societal acceptance of what is employment. For illustration, I know one qualified mechanical engineer who does not want to work in a factory to soil his hands. Everyone wants office job with 'laptop' work, which is not possible, in my view. One has to understand; different qualifications have different working requirements.

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?

RT We have to look at the business ecosystem, instead of HR ecosystem to pragmatically assess the situation. HR is a sub set of this ecosystem. It is not only HR but entire top management of companies should realise the importance of this change. 'Highly demanding and dynamic future workforce' has to be handled differently we all have accepted the fact but responsibility lies more on the top management along with HR.

For HR, it needs a serious course correction. It should not remain owner of some physical activities in a company. It should acquire more psychological and biological knowledge to understand human beings. Perhaps, then only HR can add value to whole gamut of business, as people specialists, like other functions.

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?

RT I see a possibility of this where HR can play a very critical role in aligning people requirements with business requirements. HR should develop capability to foresee business changes and its requirements. More time should be devoted to this piece then simply be on shop floor to waste time and still be reactive. Machine will always be second to man. They have been created by human brain which scientists still are not able to understand it fully. It means brain capability utilisation will keep increasing, although, bit by bit only. Human brain will keep creating something which will control and govern what it has produced before. Workplace is certainly going to be flooded with more machines. Philosophically, creation and destruction go hand in hand.

How do you think young generation should prepare themselves to remain employable and worthy in the age of technological disruption? How can HR and organisations support in this?

RT Society at large should change the perception of work. It should respect work as work and not classify into high end and low end. Secondly, qualification gives some knowledge and more information. Therefore, it has to be made clear to young generation first that success is only when they convert information into knowledge and knowledge into required skills to be employable. I see people having simple information assuming, having knowledge and conclusively, becoming destructive not by accepting reality of knowledge.

HR in my view, certainly can add value but they have to be ready for stiff backlash from managers around who will not accept it readily. Organisations and their top management have to come forward to support this drive internally and in the business ecosystem, in general.