Innovation, cost-containment and productivity will set pace for work

Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Commercial Bank of Ceylon Chairman Dinesh Weerakkody speaking at the CIMA Business Brief on ‘Emerging Work Force Challenges for Sri Lankan Business’ said that in the past five years, Sri Lankan business has been resilient to internal and external changes with growth in GDP averaging around five to six percent. Yet, the rapid pace of change has affected all industries and is changing the nature of work. Shifting demographic patterns, the rapid pace of technological advancements, shift to knowledge-based economies and increasing pressures for innovation, productivity and cost-containment will set the pace for work in the next five years. He pointed out that in almost every country in the developed world right now there are more unemployed young people than ever before and to add to this in many of these countries, these young people are burdened with the largest student loans ever recorded, and that is a recipe for disaster. Expect more riots in countries where young people are prone to riot. For many years, he observed, the number of engineers has been declining, especially civil and mechanical engineers. The number of legal and accounting graduates has been increasing, but the number of jobs available for them has plummeted, leading to more and more young people working in careers for which they were never formally trained. As a result they move around regularly, building breadth but not depth in their knowledge. Increasingly in every market and country we will see people delaying retirement and staying longer in the workforce. This may be because governments are either increasing the retirement age, or because those in the private sector just choose to work longer – either way it has the same effect. Weerakkody observed that migration of skilled talent would play a much bigger role in shaping the skilled work force, especially for multinational companies and emerging economies. Both unemployed young people and an older generation looking for post-career alternative working options will fuel a new wave of start-up businesses and with Asia experiencing and set to experience its best economic growth ever, purchasing power most likely will quadruple by 2050. Weerakkody said, we would continue to see the breakdown of the ‘traditional’ office, with ‘normal’ office hours. This is more than ‘work-life balance’, he said, it is a new way of thinking about how to arrange the puzzle pieces of a typical life. Again, this will be driven by both the young and old workers, who may work for a few months then leave that job to travel or take time off, then return to a different job for a while. They may develop ‘portfolio careers’ or have multiple consulting engagements at a time. For the first time ever, we will see four generations working side by side in the workplace, and their attitudes are significantly different to what we now see in a ‘normal’ workplace and this will lead to generational conflicts with in the work places. Then due to artificial intelligence, automating complex but essentially repetitive/rigid jobs, the increase in computing power will continue at a rapid pace in the next five years, and that will push computers ever closer to real artificial intelligence. At very least it will mean we have enough computing power to do all sorts of things we once considered almost impossible. We will be able to automate many complex jobs that today must be done by highly trained professionals. That would lead to job losses among knowledge workers and professionals. This decade he said, will see continuing focus on not only bringing more females into the workplace, but rather bringing a female influence as well. This might be the biggest change in corporate culture in a century. Finally he said, setting, managing and communicating ‘executive pay’ will be more challenging as executive pay programs will come under closer scrutiny by share holders and regulators.