Intelligent Automation: Creating the Workforce of The Future
November 17, 2022 | London
Organizations are increasing their reliance on automation, particularly artificial intelligence, as a way to manage the skills gap created by the ongoing labor shortage. At this roundtable lunch, business and IT executives gathered to share their experience and insights around the workforce of the future.
Asia Tumasian, Senior Director, Financial Services, Virtusa
Dimitrios Emmanoulopoulos, Head of Machine Learning Technologies, Barclays
Ebru Binboga, Director, IBM Data, AI and Automation
Yiting Shen, Global Head of External Network Management, TTS, Citi
Bernhard Eschermann, Chief Technology Officer, Process Automation, ABB
Angela Hood, Founder & CEO, ThisWay Global
Amy Challen, General Manager for Artificial Intelligence, Shell
Lord Nat Wei, House of Commons
Nilesh Doshi, Head of Enterprise Operations & Transformation for UK & Europe, WIPRO
Mariana Montalvão Reis, Senior Vice President, Deutsche Bank
Dinesh Nirmal, General Manager, IBM Data, AI and Automation
Vikrant Bhardwaj, Head of International Recruitment, BNY Mellon
Ash Booth, Head of Artificial Intelligence for Markets and Securities Services , HSBC
Nav Rauniar, Partner & Co-Chair for PRMIA ESG Working Group, Tata Consultancy Services
Michael Natush, Chief Science Officer, Prudential Plc
Justin Hood, Vice President-Government and Veterans Services, ThisWay Global
Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg
Sapna Dave, Senior Programming Director, Bloomberg Live
Following introductions, Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg outlined the challenges facing all companies: workforce shortages, upscaling digital footprints and business continuity.
The pace of automation within companies and regions also can be a challenge, participants agreed. Dinesh Nirmal, General Manager, IBM Data, AI and Automation, said that in India, he could see “propensity, focus, and digitization” taking shape, and a demand for digital solutions from the younger population.
Mariana Montalvão Reis, Senior Vice President, Deutsche Bank, said she believes automation rollout has happened too slowly. Faster adoption would have saved “time, fines, and headaches,” she said.
Bernhard Eschermann, Chief Technology Officer, Process Automation, ABB, added that an increase in compliance and reporting is creating more work for team members, but often ‘wins the race’.
Lord Nat Wei, House of Lords, observed that companies aren’t using AI nearly enough – a missed opportunity when it comes to tracking productivity. He suggested that a current challenge for the British government is reducing overhead without destroying growth, innovation, and the tax base. He also advocated a venture-capital approach to problem-solving. “VC will take an issue like energy security and go ‘What’s it going to cost for the country to not solve this problem and therefore how much money can we spend on it and still get a good ROI?’. We don’t take that approach right now. We just go ‘What’s the full envelope of what we’re spending and what’s the future growth, or not, of the country?’ We don’t target our bets as a country enough.”
The Talent Market
The conversation turned to labor skill set and talent, with Nav Rauniar, Partner & Co-Chair for PRMIA ESG Working Group, Tata Consultancy Services urging greater investment in STEM education. Lord Wei suggested that more offshoring and outsourcing could “tide us over until the indigenous talent is ready to take over.”
Angela Hood, Founder & CEO, ThisWay Global, said industry should adopt an approach allowing people to access jobs, earn money and make meaningful life changes at the same time. “We don’t know our innate abilities – someone has to call them out to you,” she continued, “You need someone that is able to say to a person, ‘You have a skill, let’s develop it’.”
Amy Challen, General Manager for Artificial Intelligence, Shell, warned that offshoring labor poses a great risk to the talent base. You “lose that proximity to the actual doing of it.”
Looking for solutions, Lord Wei suggested apprenticeships for international workers and experimenting with country swaps. Ash Booth said HSBC has facilitated international job swapping in the workplace, which he described as “hugely powerful” because “there are so many unforeseen things when you start moving people around.”
Participants pondered what constitutes necessary business travel, especially as corporations become more ‘carbon-emission aware.’
“You can balance the equation between unnecessary business travel generally, but where teams and new teams need to come together and build that common culture – it’s definitely worth the investment,” said Lord Wei.
Ebru Binboga, Director, IBM Data, AI and Automation, said that even without business travel during the pandemic, productivity still increased. “We learnt very well to train our staff to use AI. People didn’t feel it, but it was in our lives.” Michael Natush, Chief Science Officer, Prudential Plc, also felt that productivity had increased during lockdown, demonstrating that face-to-face contact isn’t always necessary.
Vikrant Bhardwaj, Head of International Recruitment, BNY Mellon, questioned how companies can expect workers to come back to the office full-time when remote working has proven to be productive. Sapna Dave, Senior Programming Director, Bloomberg cited research showing that women and ethnic minorities tend to prefer working from home, and feel their voices are heard in a better way.
Participants agreed that there are ways employees benefit from in-person work, including the ability to nurture relationships, non-verbal communication, and physical energy.
Lord Wei concluded that the issue isn’t about ‘remote versus physical, but rather what business and government want to achieve and devising a plan to do it.
Finishing the session, Janet Wu shared an anecdote about a Boston orchestra that lost $55 million in income during the pandemic, and revived its fortunes by taking performances online with optional donations. “There’s always a silver lining.”
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