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Workplace Automation in APAC to Surge in the Next 3 Years, But Only Few are Prepared for It

March 13, 2018

Employers throughout Asia Pacific (APAC) expect that workplace automation, including massive use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, will surge in the next three years, found the latest survey by Willis Towers Watson. Despite this, very few companies and HR departments are prepared to address the organisational change requirements related to automation, nor manage the opportunities of larger talent pools.

Surveying 507 companies from the Asia Pacific region, the Global Future of Work Survey found that employers in APAC expect automation will make an average 23 percent of work being done in the next three years. This figure compares to 13 percent of work being done using AI and robotics today, and just 7 percent three years ago. Further, majority of firms (85 percent) that are already employing AI and robotics say that they will expand the use of automation in the near future.

Regional Leader for Talent Asia Pacific at Willis Towers Watson, Hamish Deery said that workplace automation will soon gain momentum in APAC, as business drivers use it to enhance human performance instead of replacing it. Automation is expected to enable greater workforce and workplace flexibility, work design, as well as reduced costs. He added that there will be a shift in terms of the balance of skills and work. Almost half of employers (48 percent) surveyed believe they will require fewer employees in the next three years as a result of automation, compared with only 20 percent who say that is true today.

While most organisations recognise the need for innovative approaches to welcome the future of work, the survey revealed that many are not ready for it. According to the study, less than 5 percent companies believe their HR functions are fully prepared for digitalisation, although about a quarter are “somewhat prepared” and have already taken some action.

See: Facebook Job Services Now Available in 40 Countries, Including India

For example, 24 percent companies have taken steps to address talent shortage through workforce planning, 26 percent have identified the emerging skills needed for their business, and 26 percent have matched talent to new work requirements while the other 26 percent have defined and enabled careers based on a more agile and flattened organisational structure. Additionally, many firms are also considering to revamp their rewards and benefits program to fit a radically different workforce (55 percent).

Meanwhile, the survey found that companies are willing to change the way they design jobs due to automation. More than half (52 percent) are planning to deconstruct jobs and identify tasks that can be automated, while the other 49 percent expect to redesign jobs to reduce the need for human skills in the next three years. Moreover, only around half also plan or consider to reskill those whose work is being changed (51 percent).

Maggy Fang, Head of Talent and Rewards for Asia Pacific at Willis Towers Watson said that management and leadership development will be a critical issue for companies in the era of automation over the next three years.

She said, “In the face of rapidly changing work automation and increasing use of contingent talent, companies will need to develop leaders and managers differently. They will need to orchestrate a radically different work ecosystem, imbed and drive a culture that supports the business strategy, and keep all of the talent in their workplaces fully engaged – whether employed or contingent.”

Read also: Lack of Data Literacy among APAC Workers with Developed Countries Fare the Worst: Survey

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