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Mon 12 Nov 2018 09:10 AM

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As it happened: Arabian Business Forum on the future of work

ITP Media Group chairman Andrew Neil hosts the Arabian Business Forum on 'Setting the scene: artificial intelligence, advanced technology and its impact on the future of work'

As it happened: Arabian Business Forum on the future of work
Panel discussion on 'The next generation', featuring Omar Chihane, CEO, Sellanyhome.com, Vijay Tirathrai, managing director, Dubai-based accelerator Techstars, and Edmond Husseini, CEO and co-founder Felix.

ITP chairman and forum host Andrew Neil sums up the morning's discussions. 

He says there is no conflict between talent and technology, and says it's clear that people are more important.

"No matter how good your tech is, your competitor is going to get their hands on some version of it. What makes it different is how your talent uses that technology.

"Winning the war on talent is the primary purpose for senior executives today. That creates the culture of your company today," says Neil.

Our final panel discussion of the day is on 'The next generation', featuring Omar Chihane, CEO, Sellanyhome.com, Vijay Tirathrai, managing director, Dubai-based accelerator Techstars, Edmond Husseini, CEO and co-founder Felix and Omar Ghanem, CEO and founder of U-Light.

“I don’t think technology is a silver bullet. In itself is not enough. You still need the right people, the right mindset… you need the right people to use it… technology is an enabler," says Edmond Husseini.

Omar Chihane adds, “Innovation by disruption in itself is started by people and their way of thinking and wanting to solve a problem.”

“Is the destination worth it? Are the people there to get you there? Perhaps! (And) This is how a lot of investors actually jump on board. I had an idea to sell homes online, I’ve changed it six times since. The destination has to be worth it and the people behind it have to be smart enough to identify where they’re messing up.”

Vijay Tirathrai says the young demographic of the region represents huge tech talent potential.

"The vast majority which is a very young population... a lot of the emerging markets represent adapting technology so rapidly. I think it offers tremendous opportunity.

"Even if the schooling system isn't keeping up, he said, learning doesn’t necessarily come from "just physical compounds of school.

"A lot of learning is through, for example, the gaming environment, sports, social environment. Social skills, agile mentality and also to be able to collaborate - those are the skills that can transcend any job in the future."

Omar Ghanem adds, "You have to be willing to take that initiative and be willing to disrupt... it’s very important to remember to always be dynamic - the difference between the ones who make it and don’t will be how willing were you to adapt to change."

"Everything I’m talking about is digital transformation," says Amin.

"We have what it takes from all applications and digital on how to do it. In any business you’re in today, it’s hilarious to ask any business how will your business model look like in the next 5 years. 52% don’t know how it will look like.

"So let me ask everybody a question, the top 500 fortune companies of 1960, how many of them are still here today? Almost none. 

"Nokia, you remember that? At a certain time, its market cap was $80bn. It was sold for $4bn after a few years later. It was one of the first companies who were offered the patent for the smart phone, which they refused. They saw the future very wrong.
"It happens today too. I see it with the large enterprises. They’re very confused when it comes to digital transformation.

"It’s going to be hard to manage. If you look at the challenge for CEOs, the challenge it Human Resources. People think how will jobs disappear, but we will create new jobs with different profiles around innovations you’re not going to do the standard thing anymore.

"It will be about how innovative you are. Companies are not hiring the standard engineer anymore. It will be about how innovative you are and do you have new ideas? Because when machines are next to us, they will take all the jobs that take our time. They will allow us to unleash our ideas more and more.

"I’m optimistic, but worried as well, because all we’ve seen 15 years ago in scientific movies is happening now. Cars are flying and all. And with advanced medicine, we will all be in good shape and [live longer]. So what will differentiate the job market and who will have jobs? Young people or old people? This will stimulate the economy very differently.

"So who will decide if you’re still in the market by 2030? It’s about how you transform yourself. Because some old people will resist the transformation. So I could see more young people there because they’re used to the technology. So what will differentiate older people is how well they transform themselves."

Mohammed Amin, senior vice president, Middle East Africa and Turkey, Dell EMC on stage at the Arabian Business Forum.

Next on stage is Mohammed Amin, senior vice president, Middle East Africa and Turkey, Dell EMC, for a discussion on the 'Impact of emerging technologies on human life and business'.

"How will technology make life better? We have to positively affect human progress. 20 years ago, nobody could imagine the cell phone," says Amin. 

"My mom didn’t believe it when she saw me using the cell phone. She couldn’t believe that. We expect that in the next few years, machines will be next to us, and AI will take over. Think about autonomous cars. You sit in the back and robots drive your car and are taking decisions that could threaten your lives.

"We're going to have autopilot in a few years, where the pilot is not in cabin, and you feel comfortable with a machine. It’s scary. But the in the new aircrafts now, the pilot's job is very minimal. He's just watching.

"One thing that inspired me a lot and that we're working on right now is digital glasses which will give sight back to blind people. So blind people will see a digital image. Can you imagine the enhancement of their lives?"

"One of the major projects in Dubai we’re working on with Dubai immigration is that if you’re a business or first class passenger, you’re going to have an autonomous car pick you up, without a driver, coming to your house, and while you’re in car, it will clear your immigration.

"So all you have to do is get on the airplane. And this is happening right now in Dubai. Things are changing in a very fast way.

"By 2030, 85% of the job market, we won’t know what it will be. So if you have a son or daughter going to university right now, and asking what should they study, any advice you give will be bad advice."

Noor Sweid, general partner with Global Ventures pictured on stage at the Arabian Business Forum.

It was 20 years ago, Dubai gave free office space to Microsoft and Honeywell and other companies, “which was an example of great foresight,” says Sweid.

"Those organisations, that once manned six or seven sales persons now have hundreds of thousands of employees. Many alumni from those organisations then go out to start their own ventures.

"The problem they have is the funding they have that they need to scale into Singapore and elsewhere," she says.

"It’s harder to find unicorns here are the regulations and funding issues. There are a lot more hurdles to cross here. 

“But the government does have fantastic ambitions that attract a lot of talent. For instance, a lot of blockchain talent now sits in Dubai, and the city is a major hub for additive manufacturing. So it’s really helping create an infrastructure,” she adds.

At the end of the financial crisis is when many of the “fancy and fantastic” venture capital organisations came about.

“Now you see quite a few tech companies in the game, reflective of the new economy. But we here are still following the old economy. And that’s when the investing infrastructure, bankruptcy laws etc come about en force, when a new economy mindset proliferates,” she says.

Until that mindset shift happens, young creators will continue to see their creativity and time to be their biggest assets.

“But ou can’t put those assets on a balance sheet or tap into any instruments of investment with that,” she says.

“Fortunately, we’re seeing that with the Souqs and Careems, things are changing,” she adds.

The investment and startup ecosystem is still not a marvel compared to the other global centres in the world, she cautions to ward off undue enthusiasm. “But it’s better than any other region in its vicinity,” she says.

Next up in the forum is Noor Sweid, general partner with Global Ventures, for a discussion on 'Investing in technology and the future of the region'.

"No one at Silicon Valley is sitting there scratching their heads on how to solve emerging market problems," says Sweid.

“And yet most of the growth of the future of the world will come from emerging markets. So maybe that’s something to think about,” she adds.

Panel discussion on women in technology at the Arabian Business Forum.

An attribute of digital technology, as opposed to life in the past, is that you have the ability to work from home, Andrew Neil surmises. “But why hasn’t that helped?”

“My husband is a pilot in Kenya, and my daughter is at Cambridge in the UK. So the whole flexi work, flexi place phenomenon is more of reactive than pro-active,” says Arara-Kirami.

“It’s just something you have to get used to if you want to succeed and progress,” she says. I’m married to a traditional Kenyan man, but he understands, and he knows it’s what I’ve chosen for myself and he supports that. And that really matters,” she adds.

Half of Baitouni’s team are women, the HPE executive says, taking up on Andrew Neil’s question about strategies that have worked to promote female leadership.

“You need to have targets. We are looking to have 27% of women in leadership positions as soon as possible. It’s a KPI,” she says.

"Not having women on your team is evidence that a leader isn’t as capable as they might seem," she adds.

"Three years ago Dell EMC we launched a competition for university students in technology. Since then, at least two of the three winners have consistently proven to be women," according to Nossair.

Nossair says, this is evidence of how nearly 48 percent of women across the world tend to be STEM graduates, but that number isn’t reflected in the number of roles available for women in STEM organisations.

"Women tend to suffer in employment prospects due to a number of factors, not limited to society, family or even organisational culture.

“I think it’s important that we attract applicants to roles while keeping diversity in mind, but hire based on merit.

“In this way, work life balance is mission impossible. And, in my opinion, I think we need to promote ‘work-life inclusion,” she says.

“It’s the prioritisation and distribution of dedication and commitment 24-7 that women, and everyone, need to do, to progress in a career. A woman can’t stop being a mom or a professional at any given point in time throughout a day,” she adds.

“When I graduated, I had no idea who to speak with about roles in companies,” says Kindah Baitouni, channel manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, speaking about the need for advocates for women in tech and beyond.

“At HPE, the MD’s of 11 geographies are male, and had nominated men to succeed them as well,” she says, “But we realise that needs to change and have embarked on some important decisions to promote women into leadership roles.”

There is a perception that women might be “ready” for field roles, but are too “emotional” for leadership roles, according to Baitouni. “This needs to change.”

A lot of it depends on awareness, that needs to be brought to leaders, says Haidi Nossair, Marketing Director, Middle East and Africa, Dell EMC.

“It’s similar to how some people are surprised to find that women too can like football,” she says.

“While I work in marketing, at a tech company, there’s a lot more science involved than popular belief. You can’t be good at it if you don’t know what you’re doing or haven’t studied it as a science, especially in certain areas such as marketing to B2B (business to business entities). It’s certainly a male-dominated arena, but it’s a personal challenge I really enjoy, the merger of two realms.

“The ecosystem around women depends on the talent acquisition strategies CEOs have and on women who need to raise their hands more often,” says Nossair. “Having executive sponsors who are aware can go a long way. And having women who say they are ready to be advocated is just as important.”

“Even classical ‘boy’ industries like finance are more open than earlier,” says Andrew Neil, bringing us back from the break, where we resume with a panel discussion on 'women in technology'.

Panelists include Haidi Nossair, Marketing Director, Middle East and Africa, Dell EMC, Kindah Baitouni, channel manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprises and Olga Arara-Kimani, Corporate Affairs at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).

With more than half of all graduates being women, the labour market has transformed tremendously within a generation.

Yet only 28 percent of women work in STEM, according to a recent study. Why? And what can we do to boost that number, especially in the UAE?

“We need to change how visibility is portrayed. For a spate of recent technical positions we asked only for women to apply, and it needed to be communicated,” says Olga Arara-Kimani, who is a trained robotics engineer from Manchester University, who has worked at Microsoft and Google, and now manages Corporate Affairs at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).

“Communicating is essential. In fact at SCB we see ourselves as a fintech, and it’s interesting communicating that proposition to our clients. It still is an all boys club but having a background in tech has helped tremendously.

"It’s therefore important to communicate, that while the man “previously went out to hunt, if you will, women too can go out and conquer the world,” she says.

Andrew Neil, ITP Media Group chairman, in discussion with Iman Al Qassim, Chief Human Resources Officer, ENOC, , Danny Leinders, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry Middle East, and Maha Al Qattan, Senior Vice President Group People, DP World.

Responding to a question from Andrew Neil on the fears of mass unemployment caused by automation, Al Qattan says that in DP World’s experience, automation actually created new jobs, even as it eliminated traditional jobs such as crane operators.

Additionally, DP World took it as an opportunity to employ more women in traditionally male roles. Today, many jobs in Jebel Ali are done by Emirati women, she says.

Andrew Neil said that he believes that new talent must help determine the culture of the company, rather than those decisions being filtered down from the board - which he termed “industrial age thinking”.

Al Qassim says in ENOC’s case, a group is working on a special digitisation project from London to help the company meet the needs of businesses and consumers. This work, she says, is powered completely by this group, upwards to the board.

It’s a ‘two-way street’, she said. This process marks a completely different shift from the way that the company has traditionally done business. This has set an example that the company hopes to set across the business to help it cater to younger generations.

Leinders, for her part, says that employee learning can be ‘personalised’ to make it more engaging, while also helping employers understand the talents, ambitions and hopes of the employees. She likened this process to the personalised selections available on Netflix.

Speaking about the UAE specifically, Al Qattan says that the country is bolstered by the ease with which it attracts foreign talent. DP World, for example, is able to attract talent from all around the world, including non-traditional markets such as Latin America and Eastern Europe.

For ENOC, Al Qassim says that the company is re-thinking how it attracts and utilises talent. In the future, she adds, companies could have partnerships with institutions to attract “thinking consultants”, rather than employees who are considered assets.

In conclusion, Leinders says that companies must re-think their roles - such as possibly considering a chief happiness officer to ensure output and help employees deal with the uncertainties inherent in the future.

And we pause for a mid-morning break. 

The forum moves to a panel dicussion involving Danny Leinders, senior client partner, Korn Ferry Middle East, Iman Al Qassim, chief HR Officer, ENOC and Maha Al Qattan, senior VP Group People, DP World.

Responding to a question from Andrew Neil, Leinders, says that businesses should think of “capacities, not roles” in the future.

According to Lenders, this means that business leaders need to create an organisation with high-learning, agile individuals, and building competencies.

Iman Al Qassim, chief human resources officer, ENOC, says company boards tend measure employees on returns, rather than competencies. In her opinion, this means that building agile organisations must come down from boards, rather than simply from chief executives.

Maha Al Qattan, says technology strategies must also be aligned with larger company strategies.

In DP World, for example, she says the company must constantly be aware of changes in technology and in the market. In DP World, 60 percent of costs are people-related. The ‘People Department’ has the mission of predicting changes and planning for it. Technological changes, she adds, do not come as surprises or sudden disruptions.

Al Qattan adds that at the moment DP World is not short of talent, but is constantly working towards future contingencies.

As an example, she points to DP World’s work developing blockchain and is investing heavily in upscaling its workforce to meet this new reality, by identifying people with the necessary competencies and sending them to the United States so that they can come back and develop DP World’s blockchain.

Similarly, Al Qassim says there is currently now shortage of talent in ENOC, with an ample supply of skilled professionals and talented young graduates. For Emiratis, the only change has been that they increasingly have to “fight” for jobs.

However, she’s confident that the local market will be able to meet future demands.

Leinders, however, said says even if there is no shortage of workers, there is a ‘mismatch’ of skills. These days, it’s more about building specific skills, rather than preparing people for a particular role.

Sameer Areff, COO, Middle East South, SAP on co-botting

“It’s (AI) is easy for repetitive processes, for things that don’t really go beyond the linear. The minute we have externalities that change demand or a slight tweak to a particular product, then all of a sudden it comes back to people to make decisions.

“What we’re doing is that we’ve re-coined this to say we will build a work environment that includes co-botting - which means we have people (as) part of the business process with machines and now defining how the two work together.

"If we look at what we see, probably 30-40million loss of jobs in back office repetitive processes… but then the ability to build new jobs probably.”

The UAE will not be exempt from the emerging reality, says Leinders. Only 8% of business leaders say workforce development is their top priority.

"That 42% of business leaders in the UAE expect to raise salaries unsustainably; 38% are implementing mass redeployment initiatives of the existing workforce in response to technology – the global average is 52%.

"What bodes well, even if incrementally, is that 44% of business leaders say that they are investing in training and developing their staff for a future world," says Leinders.

"Many countries haven’t yet dealt with the impending talent crunch “despite the talent being real,” adds Leinders.

"55% of business leaders have been “distracted” from their people strategy by the promise of transformative technology; 51% of CEOs say it is impossible to figure out how to plan for a future workforce.

"Human capital development is therefore “last among priorities held by decision makers,” says Leinders.

Korn Ferry’s senior partner Danny Leinders.

"88% understand new technology will need higher skilled workers, but 48 percent don’t have confidence in the current workforce that they employ can’t cope with it. “That last figure is significantly higher than the global average at 30 percent.”

This could possibly be due to a lack of planning among business leaders around the world, according to Leinders.

“Only 9% of CEOs we’ve surveyed around the world have thought of plans beyond 2030,” says Leinders. “The ones we surveyed said that it was easier to plan for technology and therefore shorter shareholder returns, than to plan for culture and people planning.”

Is the skilled talent problem a future problem or emerging problem? Korn Ferry’s senior partner Danny Leinders asks.

“60% of business leaders in the UAE expect a skill deficit to hit the country as early as 2020,” says Korn Ferry.

"If we don’t do anything about this, the future of work as it is currently progressing will add billions of dollars, unsustainably, to national payrolls.

"Nearly 40 percent of UAE CEOs expect to add talent to their roster over the coming years."

Sameer Areff, COO, Middle East South, SAP says he doesn’t believe technology is everything! It’s all about the people, he insists.

“Given that we are in the technology industry, everything that makes us different, that makes us special, everything that allows us to compete, to differentiate, and create sparkle, essentially comes down to one common ingredient - that is the people around us.

“If we look at global stats… and we follow this quite closely… if we look at prosperity (and) corporate income being generated, you could say that corporate profits are increasing primarily because they get a better return on technology… or leveraging more capabilities (driving) efficiencies and effectiveness.

"But a lot of that is being defined by people and most of the dreaming, most of the creativity, most of the ingenuity… is ultimately, largely driven by a human centric approach.

“What we figured out is there’s need for augmented humanity… machines can’t set goals.

“As we develop our workforce it’s about how we can utilise technology for common purpose, common benefit for our customers and employees, and that requires the essence of empathy, and that can only come from the quality of people that you employ.”

“The talent crunch is real,” says Holmes. “Our own organisation is staffed and driven primarily by people, who walk out each day and we hope reappear each morning.”

"That act need not be “magical” says Holmes. Organisations need people, and need to take care of them, but in ways beyond pay. Technology is not the key value generator, “it’s people that will continue to be. Because technology has such a massive impact, it becomes common, albeit a mistake, to credit it with all impact.”

"Humans need to be happy, engaged, and provided a culture intertwined with purpose," says Holmes, "or you’ll see more examples such as the walkout that Google faced earlier this month.

"They also need to be trained in skills by other initiatives that policy makers need to take a deeper look at.

"Developing human capital will be critical, and this can be done in stages “because you have levels of talent,” he says. Skill, classified in categories A, B, C, can be developed progressively," he says.

“I’ll repeat again, the future of work is people and technology,” Holmes concludes at the end of his speech.

“Business leaders are a bit delusional at the moment,” says Holmes. Organisations need to do more around people. And the business community’s response so far has been to look toward a savior in technology while hiking up pay to attract and retain talent

"The problem is that this crucial determinant of global GDP is going to be in short supply, very soon, Holmes says as he points toward findings Korn Ferry has made part of its report.

The salary premium expected by 2030 in the following countries: US: $8,300, KSA: $10,700, Hong Kong: $40,500 (10 percent of GDP).

“Hong Kong’s figure is staggering,” says Holmes. “And it is unsustainable.”

In the UAE skills the high skilled talent shortage in 2020 will be 63,000 people

In 2030? “110,000 people or $50 billion in opportunity that is missed out on if the right investments in technology were made.”

"42 percent of UAE companies believe they will have to increase salaries unsustainably to meet needs, according to the report."

The instant credit decisions banks make, the sharing of healthcare records online are all made possible by technology, Holmes continues.

"The majority of business leaders in the Middle East believe technology will be the key differentiator of work place dynamics in the future.

"Internationally, 70 percent of business leaders, technology and physical assets are easier to plan for than people. However, 58 percent of international business leaders also say, worringly, according to Korn Ferry’s findings, that humans will be “irrelevant in the future.

"Yet for each dollar, humans generate $11.39 to global GDP. A global total of $1.215 trillion in GDP is the direct result of human action. So technology “might not necessarily be the white knight or herald of doom” that people expect," says Holmes.

Jonathan Holmes, managing partner, Korn Ferry Middle East and Africa says the title of the report by Korn Ferry, The Future of Work: People vs Tech, suggests the fear humanity has always had against technology.

"At the advent of the railway, after the industrial revolution, people would often fight to get on trains, so they could get to their destinations faster, but were also afraid of beiong suffocated while inside – an irrational fear at best.

"It’s similar to how the luddites in the 19th century wreaked havoc out of that very same fear. And we see that fear, he says, when everyone is afraid of sharing their data and preferences with Alexa."

Andrew Neil, chairman, ITP Media Group and BBC television presenter opens the forum with some thoughts on the theme of forum, 'Setting the scene: artificial intelligence, advanced technology and its impact on the future of work'.

“We’ve comforted ourselves that technological change although it destroys things, creates more than it destroys," says Neil.

“We don’t know quite where this is going to lead to... It (AI) is now a middle class problem rather than a working class problem.

“Previous technologies caused problems for blue collar workers, steel workers… now this kind of technological change goes to the heart of many white collar jobs as well.

“And that is a new element in the AI revolution that is coming… Ignoring it is not an option!”

Good morning from the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah where Arabian Business Forum on‘Setting the scene: artificial intelligence, advanced technology and its impact on the future of work.’

The half-day forum will tackle key challenges facing a job market that is currently experiencing a rapid digital evolution.

The half-day forum, which starts at 9am, will tackle key challenges facing a job market that is currently experiencing a rapid digital evolution.

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