Future-proofing workforce: Axiata's Norlida Azmi talks automation and human skills at PMLnD 2023
With rapid technological advancements, the modern workplace is undergoing a radical transformation. Automation, AI, and machine learning are revolutionising how we work, making it crucial to strike a delicate balance between these cutting-edge technologies and the irreplaceable value of human skills.
While AI can streamline tedious tasks, improve productivity, and save costs, it's essential to bear in mind that machines and algorithms have their limits. Human skills, like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and effective communication, remain invaluable in the workplace. After all, it's the unique human touch that brings creativity, adaptability, and innovation to the table, making the human workforce an indispensable part of the equation.
As we navigate the delicate balance between automation, AI, and human skills, it's crucial to approach it with thoughtfulness. At the recent People Matters L&D Singapore Conference 2023, Norlida Azmi, Group Chief People Officer at Axiata, highlighted the importance of discerning tasks that can benefit from automation or AI augmentation, while also recognising that those still demand the unique human touch.
If you're pondering how to strike that perfect balance where technology enhances human capabilities and work, while also cherishing the unique qualities that humans possess, Norlida has you covered. In her Keynote session, she delved into the essential factors for navigating ‘Big Disruptions In Skilling’ so that we can adapt to the changing landscape of work and ensure that both technology and humans thrive in synergy.
Understanding the dimensions of disruption and skilling
As the landscape of work continues to change, HR professionals, whether involved in learning and development, talent management, or organisational development, need to navigate this dynamic environment to ensure that employees are equipped with the right skills to thrive in the future. The Group Chief People Officer at Axiata explained the initial dimension of disruption is "saving the job."
“Automation and AI are often associated with job displacement, as machines are capable of automating repetitive and mundane tasks. However, HR professionals need to understand that automation can also create new opportunities and enhance job roles. By automating routine tasks, employees can be freed up to focus on higher-level activities such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity,” she said.
Norlida added, “Some jobs that were relevant before may no longer be relevant now, especially in our organisation, as outsourcing and automation have brought about greater operational efficiencies. Additionally, some skills have shifted in terms of frequency of use, such as the use of a tech solution that automates responses to new business inquiries. The point is, we need to strike a balance between relying on automation for efficiency while also maintaining human interactions and cultural values.”
Beyond individual specialisation: The value of collective skills
Organisations are realising that the traditional emphasis on individual specialisation may no longer be sufficient to thrive in today's dynamic environment. Instead, there is a growing recognition of the value of collective skills - the ability of employees to work collaboratively and leverage their collective knowledge, expertise, and diversity for better business outcomes. “This shift in focus from individual specialisation to collective skills is a crucial aspect of modern organisational success,” stated Norlida.
“At Axiata, we acknowledged that AI and other technologies like GPT-3 presented an opportunity to move at a faster pace and scale more rapidly. Additionally, we realised that softer skills, such as collaboration and communication, are no longer considered ‘soft’ but are fundamental and essential in today's context. These skills are crucial for driving both commercial and policy agendas, and are no longer seen as secondary to technical expertise,” she added.
The rise of social media and visualisation in HR
Social media has become an essential tool for HR professionals in building and managing their organization's brand and reputation in the digital era. Social media platforms provide HR teams with the opportunity to create engaging content, connect with potential candidates, and showcase the culture and values of their organisation. In addition to social media, visualisation tools enable HR teams to transform data related to talent management, performance metrics, employee engagement, and workforce analytics into meaningful insights and actionable information.
“We have observed that social media skills have become increasingly important for HR professionals who are entrusted with managing our people or talent brand. Visualisation has also emerged as a key aspect, as we aim to cultivate a data-centric mindset across the organisation. While data is essential, it needs to be converted into meaningful information, and visualisation is an effective way to achieve that. It allows us to gain a comprehensive understanding of the data and make informed decisions based on it,” said Norlida.
Innovating for the future
Innovation is not just about adopting new technologies, but also about fostering a mindset of continuous improvement and learning. Organizations need to invest in developing the skills and capabilities of their workforce to keep up with the fast-paced changes in the digital landscape. This includes initiatives such as data literacy programs, leveraging AI and predictive tools, and incorporating analytics capabilities in systems and processes.
“We face challenges with traditional practices that hinder innovation, such as physically repairing towers which pose risks and require extensive training. However, we now explore the use of drones and artificial reality to simulate repairs, though this approach also requires addressing challenges related to risk governance and compliance. As a responsible organisation, we are accountable for our providers' activities and must have mitigating factors in place for our connectivity and innovation initiatives,” shared the Group Chief People Officer at Axiata.
“While this may sometimes be perceived as limiting creativity, we recognize it is necessary to stay ahead and advance in the digital landscape. Our goal is to promote data literacy and ensure everyone in the ASEAN community understands the concept of being a data citizen. We have made progress in incorporating AI and predictive tools in our portfolio, ensuring analytics capabilities and open architecture align with our goals. Sustainability is a pressing issue, and as leaders, we strive to drive change regardless of title or position,” she further stated.
The People Matters L&D Conference 2023 held in Singapore aimed to help attendees re-architect their learning strategy and ecosystem. The conference provided insights on delivering customised solutions, staying ahead of disruption, and addressing critical performance challenges. Keep following People Matters to stay updated on the exclusive learnings from PMLnD 2023.