The man machine conundrum: The double-edged role of tech
Ashish walked into the new office briskly, tightening his tie and checking his neatly ironed shirt. It was his first day at his new job and a sense of nervousness pervaded his every action as he made way through the relatively new office complex. He’d received an onboarding email a week prior and had since then been in touch with his recruiter who gave him clear instructions on whom to approach and where. He was also thankful for a regular chat with his manager, being able to speak freely to him to know the scope of his work better.
But he also has other reasons to be nervous about. After spending six years working for an IT firm, he had finally been shown the door. “Workforce restructuring” they had called it. But then spending two years of working with a fintechstartup on developing their back-end services, he’d become interested in the world of finance and honed his skills on big data analytics and running nuanced machine learning algorithms in hopes of getting a more structured job. This was finally his chance.
Automation represents a very threat to the job avenues open to people across the globe; a problem that is further accentuated in the growing labor markets like India and China
Ashish’s case is reflective of a larger case of job shifts that have affected many across global economies and encapsulates what many have been going through in recent times, albeit in different settings. With skill shifts redefining how jobs are structured and companies fast adopting newer ways of working, job markets across the world is in a state of flux. As the impact of Industry 4.0 rises, job opportunities have been noted to have sharp polarisation between high and low skilled professions—-while the demand for one rises, many low skill jobs are under a threat of getting either automated or taken over by machine counterparts.
Automation represents a very threat to the job avenues open to people across the globe; a problem that is further accentuated in the growing labor markets like India and China. A recent Mckinsey projection1 on the extent of jobs getting affected by automation has been the estimation that in over 60 percent of occupations, one-third of work done currently can be automated. Although complete automation of job roles remains far, the current use of technology means significant shifts within the workplace. The report goes on to note that "activities most susceptible to automation include physical ones in predictable environments such as operating machinery and preparing fast food.” Collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that can increasingly be done better and faster with machines. But as we move ahead, many more traditionally people-driven process is going to be machine-driven.
Automation isn’t the end of it all either. Businesses are in a race to transform their processes to use the latest technology. This has resulted in rising digitalization, the evolution of big data analytics into a more predictive role, and the use of AI to make processes run smoother. All of them have made companies more efficient and cost-effective while reshaping jobs market significantly, making them more unpredictable than before. And as we’re just in the early stages of fully realizing the potential of many such technologies, coming years are projected to see further noticeable disruptions.
India's case: Rising jobs displacement and skills gap
The jobs market in India with one of the largest working population in the globe has been undergoing similar shifts. The asymmetrical distribution of skills among the working population has resulted in a skills shortage that is often noted to be widening faster than it’s being addressed. Here technological disruptions are but one of many cases driving this change. A joint study2 by FICCI and EY recently on the future of jobs in India identified three key factors that would go on to define how jobs shape in the period leading up to 2022. It noted that over nine percent would be deployed in new jobs that do not exist today while 37 percent would be deployed in jobs that have radically changed skill sets in the period leading up to 2022.
In addition to technologies that today comprise of what is ushering a Fourth Industrial Revolution, demographic shifts, the see-saw effect of globalization and demographic shifts within the labor force will pay a key role. The report also goes on to note that the impact from primary forces is expected to be majorly on sectors such as IT-BPM and BFSI and relatively lower on core manufacturing sectors such as apparel. Such projections go on to show that Ashish’s case is not peculiar but is soon to become a prevalent part of India’s job scene.
Millennials and Gen Z job preferences are greatly influenced by the rising use of technology and many have begun working across tech facing fields. It has become an important part of employer brand and companies that have better tech offerings today have a noticeable advantage over others in creating its employer brand and attracting skilled professionals. Globalization, on the other hand too is affected by the rise in use of technology, as the rise in protectionist policies across much of developed markets like the U.S. has been partly in response to the eventual threat of tech-based job displacement and how countries with larger working population like China are able to leverage technology and provide cheaper labor options. The rise of technology has both directly and at times more subtly reshaped the future of jobs. But that just remains one side of the coin.
The other aspect of the rise of tech
Technological application within HR processes has greatly improved HRs ability to deal with such changes. HR tech today has evolved to both provide overarching solutions like an integrated HRMS where data is stored and analyzed holistically or specific solutions to the company’s varied need in areas like learning and recruitment. AI applications have improved the accuracy of hiring and helped businesses tackle biases while cloud and mobile tech have made learning programs more accessible and have made employee-centric programs more possible. All this has enabled HR professionals today to be more strategic in problem-solving and to add value to their businesses.
A Gartner report placed future talent consideration at the top of the key concerns in front of CEOs and business leaders today. And for companies to truly build future-looking talent management practices—all the way from hiring to retaining key talent—HR tech is bound to play an important role. The key factor being its justifiable and effective use. And although technological adoption within business processes are only going further accentuate the job crisis, it might prove a valuable ally for companies to build the proper ways to deal with such eventualities.