Is reinventing jobs easier said than done in an automated world?

The World Economic Forum states in its report that automation will eliminate 85 million jobs, but will also create 97 million more by 2030. Will reskilling people and deploying them in these new roles be easy?


How do we humans perceive machines and robots? Either we see them as big threats or as great friends that will make our lives easier.

There is no dearth of films and science fiction blockbusters that portray technology as either a destroyer or a great friend of humanity. This is also the hottest topic of debate in these times when organisations are moving towards automation and digitalisation, and people are apprehensive about the impact of the same on jobs.

The report of the World Economic Forum, ‘Future of Jobs 2020’ states that by 2030, automation will displace 85 million jobs in the world. At the same time, however, new and exciting roles will also emerge.

That means, on the one hand, automation and digitalisation will take away certain existing jobs, and on the other, they will also create new ones. However, as these new jobs emerge, organisations will have to reskill and deploy the existing workforce to keep them relevant. Easier said than done?

“Automation of jobs will only bring in more efficiency and free up transactional bandwidth”

Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & CO

While it is simple to say that automation will create more jobs, the fact remains that for people to get redeployed in the future jobs, organisations and the government will have to come together and reskill people. For instance, people performing skill-based jobs across the world, learn and obtain the required skills on the job. They master the skills required to carry out their roles by repeatedly performing the same tasks again and again, over the years.

A journalist or a writer, for instance, may hone his/her skill for 20 years in the industry. One fine day, he or she may be told that their job is getting automated. How will they be able to adapt to new roles?

Jai Balan, senior HR leader and former head-HR, Bharti AXA Life Insurance, says, “Yes, experienced professionals who have been working in a particular profession will find it difficult to shift their career trajectory suddenly”. He further mentions that such people still have the scope to add value to the digitalisation process. They can become digital-transformation specialists, who can guide the organisation on how automation should take place.

“Well, we may not have all the answers right now about how the future jobs may look like, but we can predict the future with the current trends”

Saba Adil, CPO & Chief Risk Officer, Raheja QBE

Talking to HRKatha, Sunil Ranjhan, SVP & director – HR, LG Electronics, predicts, “Tech-heavy functions will be much more complex to reinvent”.

He refers to the job of data scientists who have to keep reskilling themselves on using different applications and new versions of technology to carry out their jobs.

Ranjhan further states that organisations will have to constantly work upon re-deploying and reskilling their workers to ensure their relevance. They will have to analyse and identify the tasks that are likely to get automated in the next five to ten years. Accordingly, they will have to find out which are the jobs that can emerge in the future, where the existing workforce can be deployed. Reskilling people will remain a challenge though.

As Ranjhan points out, though the new generation is still comfortable with adapting to technology, the older generation really finds it difficult to adapt and reskill. “That is why, we need tailor-made solutions to effectively reinvent and reskill people,” asserts Ranjhan.

Saba Adil, chief people & risk officer, Raheja QBE, feels that the challenge that employers face with the workforce is that people are unable to envisage their roles in the future. Therefore, the employers will need to communicate this to the workforce.

“Experienced professionals who have been working in a particular profession will find it difficult to shift their career trajectory suddenly after their role gets automated”

Jai Balan, Senior HR leader

“As employers, we can make our employees envisage their job roles in the future and how they will be redeployed. This will clarify their doubts and reduce their anxiety more effectively,” suggests Adil.

Do employers and leaders have any idea of what the future jobs will look like?

“Well, we may not have all the answers right now, but we can predict the future with the current trends,” Adil responds.

She mentions that in her sector, the needs of the customers are changing. They want digital solutions and virtual interaction. Therefore, the sales team, in particular, will need to reskill themselves to be able to develop relations through digital means and modes. They will have to learn to use face-to-face meetings strategically to build relations with the customers.

Similarly, the marketing team will need to have strong analytical skills. Moreover, the need for big-data specialists and analytical experts will increase in the insurance sector, to understand the needs of customers and pick emerging trends.

Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company, states that in HR, the areas of talent acquisition and onboarding will be highly impacted. He believes that artificial intelligence, machine learning (AI /ML) and deep-learning automated tools will be widely used to hire and onboard employees.

“Tech-heavy functions will be much more complex to reinvent”

Sunil Ranjhan, SVP & director – HR, LG Electronics

Most companies following a hybrid work environment are experimenting with ‘no see hire’ kind of tools, points out Das. That means, people can be hired for technical roles — based on some simulations that have been tested by companies — without actually asking the candidates to be physically present in person. “This can reduce the dependency on recruiters, and even strengthen the role of recruiters who will be free to focus more on selection rather than screening of candidates,” Das enumerates.

Most HR leaders state that automation will impact almost all roles in the future.

This is not an unknown fact. As Ranjhan mentions, earlier, the blue-collared jobs were impacted and now the next wave of automation will impact the white-collared jobs. No one knows for sure what the future jobs will actually look like. It is only possible to make certain predictions by observing the trends.

The leaders, however, can be certain of one thing — Most of the mundane and transactional work will definitely get automated. “Automation of jobs will only bring in more efficiency and free up transactional bandwidth,” concludes Das.

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