Upskilling workers crucial for needs of future technologies - experts

Speakers at the Arabian Business Forum say they believes that 'augmented humanity' will be necessary to offset the effect of potential tech-related job disruptions
Upskilling workers crucial for needs of future technologies - experts
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Mon 12 Nov 2018 11:33 AM

It is becomingly increasingly critical that companies and countries around the world prepare their workforces for a “new reality” in which machines have taken over or are used to augment existing positions, according to experts speaking at the Arabian Business Forum.

Speaking on a panel discussion hosted by ITP chairman and BBC news presenter Andrew Neil on Monday, Sameer Areff, SAP’s COO Middle East South, said that from his perspective the future will require what he termed “augmented humanity”.

“If you look at the global stats, if we look at prosperity and corporate income being generated, you could say that corporate profits are increasing because they get a better return on technology and are leveraging more capabilities to drive more efficiencies,” he said. “But ultimately, a lot of that is being defined by people. Most of the dreaming, most of the creativity is largely driven by a human-centric approach.”

Augmented humanity, he added, combines these two approaches.

Quoting SAP CEO, Bill McDermott, Areff said, “One thing we realised with all the tech we are building is that machines can’t dream. Machines can’t set goals. Machines aren't curious."

Areff added, “As we develop our workforce, it’s about how we can utilise technology for common purpose, common benefit...and that requires the essence of empathy, of creativity.”

Jonathan Holmes, country chair and managing director of Korn Ferry Middle East, said that, even on a national level, it remains unclear what jobs will exist or will be emerge in the following five to 10 years.

“We really don’t know,” he said. “The focus needs to be, when looking at human capital, on what competencies we need to build into people to be relevant. We don’t know what the roles specifically will be...we need people who understand VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.”

Looking to the future, Holmes added that governments will have to be prepared to face the possibility that many people on the lower level of the employment spectrum may find themselves in positions that are no longer relevant from a business or economic standpoint.

“[There will be] socio-economic issues that many countries face, in that the more mundane jobs will face a genuine challenge. How do you engage and bring those people into an environment where they don’t necessarily have the jobs that they do,” he said. “We tend to focus on how to upskill people to get from level B to level A, but this level C worker is the masses and the core foundation of many countries.”

Holmes said that he believes the issue “is a real genuine social problem.”

“I don’t think it’s something that countries or governments are really addressing,” he said. “It may not be an issue today, but I guarantee in 10 years time it is going to be the issue that really confronts governments.”

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