SINGAPORE (Dec 4): As Artificial Intelligence (AI) creeps its way into the businesses and reorients the nature of work, business leaders are now demanding workers to tap into their more “human” talents and approach tasks with an open and global mindset, according to a white paper published by The Economist Corporate Network (ECN).

The paper sponsored by Hays and WeWork, is based on a survey and a number of focus group interviews with CEOs and other C-suite executives based in the Asia-Pacific region.

CEOs are becoming more aware of how AI and automation are affecting work spaces, and employees’ growing demand for flexible environments that reflect these changes and provide opportunities for constant learning.

However, one of the major challenge faced by CEOs is the ability to dramatically change the culture of a company to thrive in a digitally competitive business environment.

The paper also found that CEOs are now also placing importance in collaborating across borders in a globalised business world, with many executives demanding employees who can work in multigeographical, multi-cultural settings.

This is especially prominent in Japan and Hong Kong, where CEOs recognised that educational policy initiatives are lagging behind and a greater global collaboration and multi-stakeholder dialogue is vital for both businesses and future employees.

In addition, the research has also found that an increasing number of CEOs are embracing the mantra of “adopt or die”.

CEOs are now accepting the fact that changes brought about by the confluence of technologies over the past decade are fast paced and inevitable, hence they have changed their tack and now believe in an approach based on accelerating the arrival of AI and automation.

According to the research, 64.7% of respondents believe in an approach based on accelerating the arrival of automation and AI to the workplace. This is a significant increase from only 40.5%, when the research was conducted in 2017.

Meanwhile, 35.5% of CEOs said that their approach was to soften the impact of work from automation and AI, compared to 58.1% last year.

Despite the growing demand for data scientists to help devise strategies centred on new technologies, ECN believes that people with soft skills will more in demand in the future.

Of those surveyed, 46.2% rate people skills as extremely important, closely followed by soft skills, at 41%. Meanwhile, hard skills remain one of the least valued by business leaders. Only 6.4% of CEOs think that hard skills are extremely important.

The report also showed that 50% of CEOs in Singapore and South Korea think that business skills are extremely important. And 70% of CEOs in Japan deem people skills are extremely important. This suggest cross-cultural differences depending on the business environment.