The changing world of workIn the US, discussions across companies are being driven not by which marketto focus on next or how to raise money for companies, but by how to managethe talent that is required in organisations.
In the US, discussions across companies are being driven not by which marketto focus on next or how to raise money for companies, but by how to manage the talent that is required in organisations. This is documented across all segments of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations. Even ‘mom and pop stores’ and small size operations have not escaped this discourse. With disruptive innovation, artificial intelligence, and developments in communication means and platforms, firms are now faced with the challenge of managing talent. The biggest challenge concerns the hiring and training of people for jobs. Many of the top ten jobs in the US nowadays did not even exist ten years ago. Similarly, what a student learns in the freshman year of their undergraduate programme in some fields becomes mostly redundant when s/he graduates.
The new CEO
When I began my career three decades ago, folks like me in accounting and finance generally made it to the post of CEO. It was not hotel management specialists who headed hotel companies or engineers who headed energy companies. Because there was so much focus on the financial health of the company and the objective was dominated by financial goals, it was quite natural for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to be seen as the de facto CEO and then to actually become one. Thereafter, the marketing folks dominated the scene and it was the Chief Marketing Officers who then were in line to become CEOs. I personally went on to get a diploma in marketing as I thought it was essential to have one to move ahead in my career and life. The early 2000s saw disruptive technology companies and Chief Technical Officers became the de facto CEOs. With the boom in tech companies, marketing and finance was overtaken by techies who went on to become CEOs. If we look at the Forbes list or other lists of powerful business people, they are dominated by people with a techie bent of mind. Tech companies like Tesla are now manufacturing and selling cars in contrast to traditional automobile companies. Uber went on to run a large network of vehicles without owning one and Airbnb operates hospitality business without owning a hotel.
Now, some tectonic shifts seem to be occurring with people who are managing human resources and talent increasingly being seen as next in line to become CEOs. You may get your finance, marketing and technology right, but if you do not get your people right, then you are going to face challenges. Many people in the top tier of business are shifting to take on roles within the human resources function as they strongly feel that this will be the trend for the future. Never before has so much been written and discussed on these issues.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and talent
The role of artificial intelligence will be the next big disruption. Folks at Google and other tech firms claim that the disruption that AI will bring will be far ‘more profound than electricity or fire’. When Sophia the robot came to Nepal and interacted at the Himalayan Consensus Summit, it was amazing to see how a human-made machine has surpassed human capacities. This capability of machines will make many jobs redundant.
Personally, I believe that although AI is changing how people work, it will not replace humans. Every movement of a person can be tracked and what is happening on his or her computer can be analysed, therefore providing amazing levels of feedback. Customer service is so hard to monitor, yet now it can be analysed through the data feed the system receives through cameras. Similarly, taking repetitive boring jobs away from humans will make humans more productive. AI will assist talent acquisition, management and productivity. This is what the future looks like. As AI will be able to monitor emotions and intangibles like mindfulness and awareness, the world of talent management will change forever.
What it means for Nepal
In Nepal, the introduction of anything new means that either a government agency or a cartel under the veil of associations will crop up. So either there will be a Talent Management Board or someone will set up a Talent Management Association of Nepal! However, in this instance, there are possibilities for Nepal to leapfrog forward if we can get talent management right and not use the traditional ways of approaching issues. Firms and organisations in Nepal have always been driven by finances or by media attention. This has to change. Investment in talent and human resources along with its management is dismally poor. The human resources function is seen as a clerical function that has to do with the task of recording leave forms. Working with over a hundred organisations in the past decade, our work at Beed is being increasingly driven by the demand for helping organisations to manage their people like never before. Talent is being sourced globally and Nepalis will have to compete with people from other parts of the world. We see building construction sites in Nepal that are filled with workers from Bangladesh and India. More internet websites are being developed outside Nepal for Nepali firms, more publishing is done outside Nepali for Nepali content, and with virtual currencies becoming a reality, one may shun local bankers who have no dearth of attitude problems for virtual platforms that are being managed from different parts of the world.
The pace of change has picked up alarmingly, much like the change that occurred when emails, the internet and mobile phones disrupted our lives in the late nineties and at the turn of this millennium. Perhaps, in this next big churn the world is seeing, Nepal with its great youth talent and aspiration can establish itself on the global stage.