Although Hong Kong has little manufacturing activity, the automation trend, most noticeable in factories, is still having an increasing impact on the job market. Some people are expected to gain from the change, while some may have to upgrade their skills to avoid being displaced. Adam Johnston, Managing Director, Hong Kong, at human resources consultancy Robert Half, shared his views and insights on the issue and related topics with EJ Insight. Excerpts:
Q: In what sort of industries is robotics and automation playing an increasing role?
A: Robotics and workplace automation is expected to impact the Hong Kong market, which is becoming more evident within ‘RegTech’ (Regulatory Technology). Over the past 12 months we’ve seen numerous banks applying robotics automation to finance areas such as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) processes to automate the manual checking process. We expect to see continued growth with Robotics Automation throughout 2018.
Q: Why are machines better at such jobs?
A: Robotics is really a reference to modern-day software that replaces human manual tasks. An example of this is due diligence – where a bank verifies the identity of customers by manually searching multiple databases, then the results are compiled into a risk rating report. This manual search can now be done by software programs that significantly increase the speed and efficiency of this process.
Q: How would the automation trend impact the skills needed amongst IT professionals?
A: We’re seeing growing demand for engineers and developers with specific robotics automation experience, as well as for business analysts to help build and map the new robotic processes. Additionally, demand is strong for project managers to implement the new systems, as well as cyber-security specialists to mitigate any new cyber-threats brought about by new technologies.
Using more advanced technology in the workplace requires additional, well-developed skills, such as advanced data analysis, interpretation skills, and decision-making skills. Organizations will need to focus on staff training to ensure their workforces have the adequate skills to leverage the benefits brought by workplace automation.
Q: Do we have enough talent in this field?
A: As with any new technological movement, there’s a supply-demand imbalance as new technologies currently outpace the talent pool and skills required to manage them. Innovative companies which adapt to robotics and automation will need to bring in experts who are equipped to lead this change, leading to jobs creation and demand for specialists.
Q: For those looking for related career opportunities, where should they start?
A: IT professionals should seek out organizations that quickly embrace and have a progressive approach towards new technologies, and look for jobs within industries where disruption is more likely.
Q: Specifically what would those industries be?
A: Specific sectors include crypto currencies such as bitcoin exchanges, financial services firms using blockchain technology and digital enablers.
Q: Outside IT, are workers going to lose out amid the automation trend? Should Hongkongers be worried in general?
A: Not necessarily – however it’s always advisable to keep your technical skills up to date, and continuously develop your soft skills such as communication and adaptability. Highly-skilled people will always be in high demand.
Q: For those who are going to be negatively affected by the automation trend, what can they do?
A: Rather than simply hand over control to the robots – IT professionals can actively equip themselves with the skills required to leverage the capabilities of automation. This can be achieved by asking their employer for additional professional development and training opportunities so that they are actively involved in the change process.
Q: What can Hong Kong IT professionals expect in terms of wage growth and what can they do to earn a higher salary?
A: There’s good news on the horizon for Hong Kong’s IT workers as our research reveals 100 percent of Hong Kong CIOs plan to attribute salary increases to an average of 20 percent of their technology staff in the next 12 months, with the average salary increase expected to be 7.9 percent.
To increase their market value, IT professionals need to stay abreast of industry developments and keep themselves up-to-date with new software, emerging systems, and be highly confident with new devices and applications. Professionals who are able to stay ahead of the curve will be able to command higher salaries.
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