The Future of Employees in a New World Order

With all the ongoing discussions on the “Future of Work”, how it looks like, how it ought to look like and how we hope it will look like, one key take way for me is that no one really know how it’s going to play out.
To aid me in my quest for a better understanding and an appreciation of this area, at least from a National Agenda Development perspective and given the recent discussion I had with my cabbie Mr Vijay (please see my posting on Linked In dated 5 April 2018 entitled “The Digital Evolution – Stuck in the Middle”) and the publication in The Malaysian Reserve dated 26 April 2018, entitled “Stuck in the middle of digital transformation”), I thought I would turn to the National agencies as the “Architects of Malaysia’s Future Workforce” for possible answers.

The National Human Capital Blue Print 2018-2025 that was recently unveiled by a National Agency alludes to the human capital trends that Malaysia is presently going through, as well as it refers vaguely to Industry 4.0 as highlighted by Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) and there is also much comment on what other countries are doing and how this could be viewed as case studies for the Nation to emulate.

However fascinatingly enough, very little mention is made about what is to be done with the Nation’s talent pool so as to spearhead the development and subsequent sustainability of a high income economy. Incidentally as of 2018, the World Bank defined a High Income Economy as “a country with a Gross National Income per capita of approximately USD12k and above”. Malaysia as of 2017 is categorized as an upper middle income nation of GNI per capita of between USD4k to USD12K respectively.

Perusal of this National Blue Print reflects that much effort is being spent highlighting the crucial need for training; ensuring that training providers comply with a star rating mechanism; provide for improved compliance on the part of employers to pay the levy that they are obligated to do so by Law, and other things. Admittedly, whilst there is mention about human capital solutioning, much of the writings are focused on looking at and to some extent admiring what other countries are doing and very little about what we as a Nation ought to be doing moving forward.

It is with this context in mind that I ask the following questions:

1) What are the future economic sectors that will be positively impacted by the digital economy that is now upon us?

2) How are we preparing our national talent pool, no matter at what age group, as a workforce for the future?

3) Do the trainers who, whilst meeting the stringent requirements of a star rating, have clarity of what tomorrow brings to the table for us as a Nation?

4) In all honesty and dare I say, sending folks in for training programs is certainly not THE ONLY answer. Instead there must be some clear points of views that need to be expressed and the proverbial stakes must be firmly placed in the ground at a National level. Whilst we may not have the answer to all questions, at least by having a view in this respect, we are now working towards answering these all-important questions that dangle high upon us like the mythical Sword of Damocles.

What is clear in my mind is that the nature of work can be divided into 2 distinct categories a) that which is driven by routine actions eg machine operators, book keepers, bank tellers and the like; and

b) that which is driven by complex / emotional thinking skills such as managers, accountants, medical specialists, researchers and the like.

With the evolution of the Digital Economy as it stands today and the seamless connect of artificial intelligence and the internet of things of tomorrow, it will be but a matter of time before automation takes over these routine actions. Already the book keeping jobs are being lost to generic cloud based financial management applications that costs under RM20 per month to operate; and its now uncommon for someone to physically visit a bank branch to conduct financial transactions. Almost everything can be done remotely using a banking application of sorts. So that then leaves us with jobs requiring “complex / emotional thinking skills”. This is something which can not be replicated by any IT software or autonomous robot. In my view, it will be the jobs that fall within this category that will see the dawn of the new tech driven economy.

So the proverbial 64 Million Dollar question that I will conclude with is, what are we, as true “Architects” really doing to ensure that we are consciously and in a planful fashion shepherding our national talent pool forward in line with the Digital Evolution that is now upon us?