With Artificial Intelligence (AI) disrupting and demanding a reorientation of work, as we know it, business leaders need their human resources to prove their human edge over these self-learning AI tools. According to a white paper published by The Economist Corporate Network (ECN) sponsored by Hays and WeWork, CEOs are demanding that their workers be agile and adaptable enough to tackle the dynamism of the world we operate in.
The study conducted a survey and a few focus group interviews with CEOs and senior leaders in APAC-based organizations. A majority of CEOs, the study found, are working with the philosophy of “adopt or die” and need their employees to be able to rise up to the demands of a tech-savvy, uber-connected market.
There is also a growing need felt for flexible environments that provide opportunities for continuous learning and fast-paced adaptation. Most C-suite executives, however, are faced with the challenge of modifying the company culture, to embrace digitalization and thrive amidst break-neck competitiveness.
With most companies having moved to being multi-geographic and multi-cultural, collaborating across borders is more important now than ever before. Being able to work in this setting is yet another trait that leaders are on the lookout for in their employees.
In Japan and Hong Kong, a large number of the participants felt that educational policies need to evolve in a way that enables greater global collaboration along with open dialogue between multiple stakeholders for future employees and businesses.
The research found that 64.7% of respondents see the need for accelerating the arrival of automation and AI to the workplace. This is a significant increase from the last time the study was conducted (in 2017) where 40.5% felt the same way.
That said, in 2017, 58.1% of the CEOs said that they wanted to control and mollify the impact of AI and automation on work while now only 35.5% feel that way. But does this mean that with the focus shifting to digital and AI-specific, automation-friendly skills, people skills would go out of business?
That does not seem likely (at least in the near future) since 46.2% of the leaders surveyed rate people skills as extremely important, soft skills rank second at 41% while hard skills remain at the bottom of the list with only 6.4% of CEOs believing them to be extremely important.
What is interesting is that the results of the study seem to be dependent on cross-cultural differences and the local business environment. For example, while 50% of CEOs in Singapore and South Korea think that business skills are extremely important, 70% of CEOs in Japan rank them on the top. Irrespective of these local differences, the APAC region as a whole seems to be on a journey to help their talent to evolve into a faster, stronger and better workforce.