Think Tank by Adobe
Asia Pacific

Creative Pulse 2017

Future of Work: The Role of People

Emotional intelligence and continuous learning are the only
ways to future-proof a workforce facing digital disruption and automation. 


Why do people work? It’s a question that attracts mixed responses across the Asia-Pacific region, where bankers in New Zealand have a starkly different perspective to farmers in Vietnam.
Adobe’s recently released report on the future of work found that, for most office workers in the region, working is mainly motivated by the desire to maintain a preferred lifestyle.  
Lifestyle and supporting family are motivators to work


Motivators to Work
Q. How much do the following motivate you to work?
(Ranking calculated basis weighted average of responses “Not at all motivating”, “Somewhat Motivating” and “Extremely Motivating”.)

But for workers in societies such as India, which has greater collectivist tendencies (valuing the group over the individual), Author and HR Consultant Abhijit Bhaduri says employment becomes a source of identity for people and their families. Bhaduri, who has held executive HR positions for IT services firm Wipro and soft-drink manufacturer PepsiCo, explained to the Adobe Think Tank influencers in Sydney that a job loss in many parts of the Asia-Pacific has a ripple effect.   
“When you have a scenario where someone gets laid off, it’s a loss of face – not just for the person who has been laid off, it’s also a loss of face for the entire family,” Bhaduri says.  
The meaning and purpose that work provides is coming under threat from new technologies that could potentially automate 40% of today’s jobs by 2025.   
Fast and cheap machine labour is an attractive option for businesses demanding greater efficiency, but Bhaduri believes replacing people with technological efficiencies requires ethical understanding and reasoning. It is up to all of us to prepare the workforce of today with the skills required for tomorrow. 


Skills we’ll need 


Lifelong learning 

To prepare workers for the technological pace and challenges of the future, Think Tank influencer Shiao-Yin Kuik believes it’s time to rethink education. A Nominated Member of the Parliament of Singapore and co-founder of social enterprise group The Thought Collective, Kuik says we must shift the perception of ourselves from “educated people” to “learning people”. This means creating a mindset of life-long education that extends far beyond traditional schooling years, and extends into various directions.   “If I can teach someone to think artistically and think engineering-wise and think tech-wise, then you have a very powerful person who can navigate whatever change comes their way,” she says. 

Emotional Intelligence

Preparing workforces for the future means understanding where humans will fit into the labour structure along with machines. For Bhaduri, the hardest aspect of work for technology to replicate – and therefore the safest jobs – are those that require a human touch. Roles such as teaching and nursing need far more emotional intelligence to nurture and support others than highly regarded roles in finance and law.   This human connection is also essential for creativity and new ideas in the workplace, although facilitating an environment in which these attributes flourish isn’t necessarily straightforward. Adobe’s Future of Work report has found employees are demanding increased flexibility in working hours and autonomy away from the office.  
Collaborative Technology helps office workers be most innovative
Adobe Think Tank Future of Work Automation
Q. Please rank these in terms of how valuable they are in making you more innovative in your job? 
(Ranking calculated basis weighted average of multiple parameters ranked in order of importance, with 1 being most important and 5 the least.)
* Office workers in Australia and New Zealand ranked state-of-the-art technology as key to them innovate at work. 

Bhaduri believes businesses are beginning to recognise some “side effects” of an increasingly mobile workforce and are beginning to move back to a greater face-to-face culture. “Many [tech] companies which started saying work [autonomously] by yourself are actually bringing people back into the workspace.” 


“We’ve got to make sure we don't decouple work from life;
business from society; technology from humanity.” 


— Su-Yen Wong. Chairman, Nera Telecommunications


Support from education, government, business

Preparing the workforce of the future with these skills will require support. Business and government have a big role to play in creating a culture that nurtures a learning environment that upskills workers continuously.  
The CEO of the Human Capital Leadership Institute at Singapore Management University, Su-Yen Wong, believes that without this help, we’ll see more of the detrimental social impacts that disruptive technology has created in recent times.   
“We start to see the [side] effects in the workplace [from the last] 20 years – the incidence of mental illness, stress. I think we need to ask ourselves, is that the kind of life and society that we want?” Wong says.  
In a world where people are living longer, Wong believes the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn is vital to maintaining a healthy workforce faced with unprecedented challenges.  
“Technology is going to give us lots of options to make things a lot better,” Wong says. “But I also think that, in this process, we’ve got to make sure we don't decouple work from life; business from society; technology from humanity.” 
It is clear that easing our workforce through the digital era requires a conscious effort from businesses and institutions. Adobe is propelling businesses forward with tools like Adobe Acrobat - saving employees up to 50 hours of work per person, per year. Learn more about enabling the evolution of your employees in the digital era.




Watch our latest installment of Think Tank in Sydney, Australia

Explore with Think Tank thought leaders as we consider a future where people and machines work seamlessly together, redefining our experiences at work and in our everyday lives.

Interviews with Think Tank Thought Leaders

Shiao-Yin Kuik
Co-founder & Director 
The Thought Collective
Dr. Jordan Nguyen
Harlina Sodhi
SEVP, Head of Culture & Capability 
Abhijit Bhaduri
Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates
Dr. Fiona Kerr
Industry Professor, Neural & Systems Complexity 
Adelaide University
Mark Henley
Director of Transformation & Digital Strategy 
APAC at Adobe
Su-Yen Wong
Nera Telecommunications
Dr. Joseph Sweeney
Sarah Kaine
Associate Professor 
UTS Business School