Workplace automation here set to double in next 3 years: Poll

The use of automation in workplaces here will start to skyrocket, according to a new survey.

It found that automation is expected to account for an average of 29 per cent of all work done by companies over the next three years. This is a stark increase from the current rate of 14 per cent and 7 per cent three years ago.

It also noted that firms see the main goal of technology, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, as improving human performance and productivity.

"It's important to note, though, that while we will see an increase in machines and robots in the workplace, they will not replace humans," said Mr Darryl Parrant, talent and rewards leader here at Willis Towers Watson, which carried out the survey.

"Instead, the benefits of automation will increase workforce and workplace flexibility, change the way work is performed and reduce costs."

However, Mr Parrant noted that not all of the organisations polled were ready to address the growing challenges that automation brings.

New jobs such as robot trainers and data scientists will be coming to the fore, so Willis Towers Watson suggests that firms deconstruct existing positions based on their component tasks and identify those that can be automated.

INCREASE IN AUTOMATION

It's important to note, though, that while we will see an increase in machines and robots in the workplace, they will not replace humans.

MR DARRYL PARRANT, talent and rewards leader here at Willis Towers Watson, which carried out the survey.

Firms can then seek out candidates with the right capabilities for the tasks they need to perform.

Roles that require digital-focused skills - such as data mining, financial technology, digital marketing and cloud computing - are in high demand, with 57 per cent of companies here expected to pay higher salaries for such employees.

The poll also noted that 53 per cent of employers globally plan to take steps towards addressing talent deficits through workplace action.

It found that 45 per cent are already assessing talents to identify "skills and wills" gaps, and 44 per cent are identifying the emerging skills required for the changing business environment.

This may bode well for employees in Singapore as government-driven initiatives like SkillsFuture are focusing on upskilling staff via development and training options, Willis Towers Watson said.

At the same time, the move to automation will also enable flexibility and create new opportunities to draw from alternative labour pools to fill in the skills gaps, it added.

Interestingly, the survey found that less than 10 per cent of organisations globally are actively taking steps to prepare for these organisational changes.

Companies still appear to have a lack of clarity over who will drive the changes internally and whether human resource departments will need to expand their capabilities to address talent management practices in the changing economy.

The Willis Towers Watson survey was conducted in November and polled 909 companies worldwide, including 507 from the Asia-Pacific.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Workplace automation here set to double in next 3 years: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe