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Dawn of Automation Age: How to Achieve the Right Balance between People and Machines?

March 16, 2017

With rise in automation trends and use of robots, most CEOs are in dilemma on how to achieve the right mix or balance between machines and humans in the workplace. This is one critical question of our time, wherein many employees fear job loss and reports speak of human being displaced by machines.

As the machine age takes over every aspect of our work lives, the findings from PwC’s 20th CEO Survey highlights the need for CEOs to observe a balancing act between people and machines. 52 percent CEOs are still exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together, while 39 percent are considering the impact of Artificial Intelligence on future skills needs.

Padmaja Alaganandan, People and Organisation leader, PwC India says: “As digitisation and artificial intelligence takes deeper root in the workplace, companies in India will have to increasingly focus on achieving the right cognitive re-apportionment between man and machine. In order to successfully navigate this changing workplace model, we will need strong leaders who can make sense of ambiguity, maintain trust with employees and put in place the right culture and values.”

The relentless march of automation will transform the role people play at work. Different skills will be needed, roles will disappear and others will evolve. Some organisations will need fewer people, but others will need more. We will see a rebalancing of human capital as organisations adjust.

Success in an automated world would mean people and machines working together, rather than one replacing the other. Exceptional skills and leadership will be needed. However, 77 percent CEOs say the availability of key skills is the biggest business threat.

Todays in demand skills are exclusively human capabilities of adaptability, problem solving, creativity and leadership. Software cannot imitate passion, character or collaborative spirit. By marrying these skills with technology, innovation can thrive and organisations can succeed in competitive marketplaces.

See: 63% HR Leaders in APAC Expect AI and Automation to Impact Organisations by 2022

Seventy-eight percent of CEOs are actively taking steps to improve their access to talent and attract the people they need by changing their people strategy to reflect the skills and employment structure they need for the future.

Innovation isn’t just about skills; creativity thrives in the right environment, when free thinking people with diverse views and experiences come together and collaborate. Innovation-creating skills can be encouraged through right training and development, the right creative environment, and the right performance management approach.

Jon Williams, leader of PwC’s global People and Organisation practice, says: “There are five key areas that business leaders should be working on to ensure their talent strategy is fit to meet the challenges ahead. Firstly – plan for multiple futures. Scenario planning is a powerful tool to prepare your organisation for a future where no outcome can be safely dismissed as unlikely. Prepare your HR function for the recruitment challenge. As our 20th CEO Survey highlights, people and skills are essential in the machine age and competition for good talent is intense.

The demand for soft skills is high; nurturing them is a priority for your business, alongside ensuring you deliver the right experience for your people. It’s essential that each element of this is monitored and understood. Finally, work on trust – with a purpose. Does your organisation have a clear purpose? And where does it fit into society?”

Also read: Automation and Disruptive Technologies Will Soon Replace Lower-Skilled Jobs in ASEAN

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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