Wouldn’t your productivity increase if you didn’t have to constantly divert your attention from the tasks that really matter? What if you could palm off those monotonous tidbits to some kind of robot?
Asia Pacific office workers are certainly sold on the idea: Ninety-four percent said they are willing to hand over tasks to machines and artificial intelligence, according to “The Future of Work: Asia Pacific” (PDF), a new Adobe study.
The report highlights the role machines, people, and experiences will play in the office of the future. It also revealed how APAC office workers welcome a technologically driven shift. More than half of the report’s respondents ranked “access to state-of-the-art technology” as the most important factor in their work experiences, ahead of personalised workstations, office design, relaxation spaces, and amenities.
But what is the real human price of this increased efficiency? Are we at risk of losing our jobs to robots? These questions were posed at Adobe’s recent Think Tank event about the Future of Work, held earlier this month in Sydney.
Not All Skills Can Be Automated
The panel of 10, which featured thought leaders from across the APAC region, agreed that there is one skill that can never be automated: being human. Abhijit Bhaduri, one of India’s most well-known HR leaders, with prior executive positions at Wipro, Colgate, and Pepsico, said he believes the more valuable professions of the future will require an emotional connection–something robots can’t replicate.
Interpersonal skills, such as relationship building, team management, empathy, and the ability to learn and adapt now take priority because people who practice them are better equipped for an ever-changing workplace, Bhaduri said.
“Now I’m looking to hire behavioural scientists, life coaches, and people who can run instruments like EQ [emotional quotient] because we have to help our workforce with the emotional transition into this new technological era,” he said.
Fellow panellist Shiao-Yin Kuik pointed to agile learning as vital to the future workplace. To prepare workers for the speed of change, the co-founder of The Thought Collective said we must create a mindset of lifelong education, not just during schooling years.
“If I can teach someone to think artistically ... to think mathematically, opposed to just passing the mathematics exam, then you have a very powerful person who can navigate whatever change comes their way,” Kuik said.
According to Mark Henley, Adobe APAC’s director of transformation and digital strategy, businesses have an obligation to upskill workers and transition them through this change.
Harlina Sodhi, head of culture and capability at IDFC Bank, agreed that is certainly possible. She said she has seen firsthand how Indian businesses use technology to create workplace efficiencies without losing the need for people.
“Technology that increases productivity doesn’t have to come at the cost of a job. It can be used to drive or fuel more work,” Sodhi said.
By equipping employees for change by rediverting their energies to tasks that involve EQ, developing a growth mindset, and upskilling, a healthy equilibrium can exist between humans and technology, Henley said.
“An employee-centric approach coupled with the right technologies will liberate the native creativity in all of us and allow for that cognitive surplus to be used in a way that is appropriate for the company and the employee,” he said. “And, however Utopian that might sound, that will improve work for everybody. If we don’t have that dream, we’re never going to get there, irrespective of the bumps in the road along the way.”