'Workers must be entrepreneurial in the age of automation'

Ravin Jesuthasan, the co-author of a new book on job automation, talks to Forbes India about how organisations and employees could adapt to changes

Divya J Shekhar
Published: Dec 6, 2019 10:23:56 AM IST
Updated: Dec 6, 2019 10:31:32 AM IST

g_124621_work_automation_280x210.jpgImage: Shutterstock

If you think automation is here to take over jobs and is likely to replace humans in some sectors faster than in others, you are probably mistaken, says a new book. Reinventing Jobs, by human capital experts Ravin Jesuthasan and John W Boudreau, says it is more prudent to apply automation not to entire jobs, but to specific tasks. This, they say, will help organisations determine the optimal combination of humans and machines.

The book, published by Harvard Business Review Press, also offers a framework to help leaders make their companies automation-ready, while detailing how digitisation will not only change the nature of work, but also impact leadership, information-sharing and decision-making. Creating a culture of learning, reskilling and upskilling, Jesuthasan explains, is the key to addressing the growing pace of automation: “This requires organisations to have the capabilities to train people in the continuously changing technical skills. It requires leaders to make learning a key part of the business plan.”

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In India, 51.8 percent of work can be automated, according to a 2019 report by the International Labour Organization. Titled Changing Business and Opportunities for Employer and Business Organizations, the report says that about 66 percent of Indian businesses are already looking for automation-centric skill-sets among new recruits more than they did three years ago, and that automation threatens to impact women more than men. Jesuthasan believes that the key to dealing with the latter is two-fold: “Address the lack of diversity within the workforce to ensure a gender-balanced, equitably paid population across various job functions, and ensure equal access to continuous reskilling or upskilling.”

The book, while asking leaders to rethink their goals to achieve the mission of the organisation, also says workers must be “more entrepreneurial, prepared to shift between employment, contracting, freelancing, and so on”. According to Jesuthasan, organisations adopting automation need bite-sized learning interventions delivered effectively through technology. “We need to embrace VR/AR solutions that combine learning and work,” he says.

(This story appears in the 20 December, 2019 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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