The talent of tomorrow

SUITS THE C-SUITE By J. Carlitos G. Cruz

Business World (11/28/2016 – p.S1/2)

Just last week, I was invited to talk of the role of millennials in the work force at a convention in Davao City. There is both curiosity and concern regarding the new generation of professionals who are defining the future of business.

In fact, the topic is timely, interesting and universal enough for EY to recently publish insights shared by EY People Advisory Partners and Leaders in an article titled The future of work.

The article discusses probable scenarios in a world where non-stop disruption has been causing traditional paradigms to rapidly fall by the wayside. For many organizations, changes will impact many areas, including how and where people work in the not-so-distant future. These changes are likely to be pervasive and can radically alter business models, especially when we consider how quickly technology has given rise to new sharing platforms, digital industries and forms of employment that did not even exist just a few years ago.

The increasing adoption of artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and other innovations are already making some jobs redundant — including white collar jobs which were previously thought to be immune to technological displacement. An example is in customer service, where some hotel chains are already piloting Internet-linked robot concierges that can not only suggest itineraries for guests based on their personal interests, but even make reservations in an instant.

Work forces are likewise evolving rapidly, with increasing mobility impacting on how and where people work, and demographics that range from millennials and Gen Z to aging, but still active professionals. These factors and others are already challenging conventional talent management practices and raising new questions for management to consider.

A GLOBAL TALENT POOL

Given how people are becoming more focused on specific skills and services, there is a strong possibility of work becoming unbundled, much in the same way that disruption has unbundled music albums so that people can just purchase the individual songs that they prefer rather than the entire album. Complex jobs may be unbundled into tasks based on specific skills. This would require more insights from talent leaders into the nature of the future skills they will require, and to consider whether these skills exist or have the potential to be trained into existing work forces. It could also lead to a dramatic change in how talent is sourced, managed and developed.

Talent leaders should also anticipate how mobility will impact the global talent pool of tomorrow. Mobility can take many forms: frequent travel to deliver services across markets; short-term foreign contractors delivering services on-site or remotely; as well as more labor from emerging markets to support mature operations. We, in the Philippines, are already seeing this trend with the increase of business process outsourcing and shared services centers in the country. This also means that companies have to focus on regulatory compliance, such as immigration or tax compliance for a fast-moving mobile work force. They may also need to manage the risks of frequent business travel and the struggle to cope with rapid deployments.

The rise of mobility can also sustain the growth of a gig economy, where people hold networked jobs as independent contractors rather than full-time employees. If this is where this kind of cross-border freelancing arrangement is going, companies will need to take into account the different challenges in managing performance, regulations, taxes, maintaining quality, adapting to language and culture, and other potential issues.

EMPLOYING MACHINES

Given the increased attention on automation and robotics, the EY article also raised the question on whether it is possible for machines to eventually replace human employees. However, the view is that while some job displacement may occur, there will always be a need for human insight and value-adds. Automation of manual processes can improve cost and performance efficiency, allowing human employees to focus more on idea generation and innovation.

Historically, automation also often leads to new forms of employment being created. For example, the rise of the digital age resulted in the need for Web designers, app developers, social media strategists, computer experts, and ethical hackers, among others. As new technologies arise, it is possible that new sectors we have not even imagined yet will become commonplace in organizations.

On the other hand, however, companies should also take into account how rapid technological changes can dramatically affect their operations. Some areas include reinventing business models for labor-intensive companies, the need to embrace smart technologies, and rebalancing the roles of human talent. Certainly automation can cause redundancy, which means that companies have to become more proactive in seeking ways to fill in emerging skill gaps, reskilling and upskilling existing talent, including career counseling and job-matching.

GOVERNMENTS’ ROLE

Since governments are often the largest employers in every country, they would have to take the lead in embracing change in business and work. Not only are the potential issues the same in public and private sectors, the leadership for manpower development must naturally be set by a country’s government. One of the major challenges is to set up the right infrastructure in order to encourage people and businesses to change. This includes modernizing regulations, governance, incentives and educational systems, together with creating official bodies to oversee new skills training and development. Beyond just providing training, though, these bodies will also need to work with companies to create strategies to identify and transform industries and jobs based on new trends and technologies.

Government will also have to take into account how disruptors are affecting economies and to develop appropriate and inclusive regulatory regimes. It is very difficult to stop the march of technology-driven progress, especially when our digital age often results in massive and rapid adoption by the general population. The gig economy, sharing economy and crowdsourced labor platforms are some examples of start-ups that are already challenging regulations and this trend will only accelerate as we move into the era of driverless cars and medical algorithms.

Both governments and companies are advised to take a step back and look into how disruption will affect workplace policies and protections. Consider that under a gig economy, past practices such as collective bargaining, regulated workdays, paid time off and workplace insurance may no longer apply. Disruptions may also challenge traditional notions of fixed compensation, taxation, and career development. In other words, it will be an entirely new ball game with new players.

However, regardless of how technology will change organizations, we still believe that people will remain the ultimate resource of every company. Employee skills, productivity and initiative will still be the greatest drivers of future performance. The real test now is to continually find ways to sustain, renew and develop our talent of today, and of tomorrow.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

J. Carlitos G. Cruz is the Country Managing Partner-Designate of SGV & Co.