(From left) Hariprasad Pichai, Baljeet Nagi, Henrik Christensen and Alex Malouf at the HR Conclave 2018 taking place at the Taj Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

DUBAI

Digital and tech transformation is one of the top priorities for firms in Dubai, Singapore, Mumbai and Sydney — and many of those firms expect to expand their workforce.

Data presented by Christopher Abraham, CEO and Head of the Dubai Campus of SP Jain School of Global Management (SPJ), at his school’s annual HR Conclave at the Taj Hotel, Dubai, are among the clearest indicators that the growing use of technology and automation may not spark the much-feared job losses, but could create jobs.

In Dubai, 44 per cent of HR executives the business school surveyed said their organisation planned to expand its workforce; the figures were higher in Singapore and Mumbai.

Abraham pointed out that while automation would take all the jobs it could, machines were very far from emulating core human attributes — a capacity for love, empathy, creativity and critical thinking. “These will become the critical skills of the 21st century,” he said.

“In our business we do predict much more jobs. We predict different jobs,” said Henrik Chirstensen, Head of HR at logistics firm Kuehne and Nagel, Dubai, said during a panel discussion on the future of digital enterprises.

It was a position most panellists at the conclave agreed with, though on a second panel, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Managing Director of Homan Capital Advisory, Protiviti, Dubai, said recent research suggested digital transformation and digitisation would see 3 to 5 per cent of exiting jobs vanishing, and the rest being completely transformed.

Changing job roles and business models was a major theme of the conclave, but as panel moderator Marko Selakovic, Senior Manager — Institutional Development at SPJ, pointed out exactly what changes would come was very hard to predict.

“How many of you, 10 years ago in 2008, could predict the profession blockchain developer?” he asked conclave attendees. “How many of you could predict the profession cryptocurrency specialist? How many of you 15 years ago could predict the profession social media analyst?”

Instead, the experts on the panels called on HR professionals to work on changing employees’ mindsets, emphasising soft skills, flexibility and lifelong learning, and to find ways to get those resisting changes to buy into them.