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Organisational Design with Nicole Luk
Episode 516th June 2022 • The Future of Work • Leeds University Business School
00:00:00 00:28:51

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Welcome to episode 5 in our ‘The Future at Work’ podcast! Following on from the discussion on ‘skills for the future’ we invited former LUBS student, Nicole Luk, to explore organizational design and the changes that she predicts in the future working environment.

For more information, read our blog here!


Ellen: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Future of Work Podcast series. This is your host, Ellen Wang from Leeds University Business School.

Marc: Hi, this is Marc Steward, University of Leeds career service.

om MSc Business Psychology in:

Nicole: Yeah, likewise. I'm super excited and I think it is much of an honour for me to come back to Leeds Business School, and contributes in terms of wisdom and hopefully through this podcast I'll be able to inspire people, to get into the field and be excited about future work.

Ellen: Absolutely. So I understand you recently embarked on a new adventure as the Vice President of Talent Development and Organisation Development at Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited. So would you like to start by telling us a little bit more about your current role an all the work you’ve been doing, please.

Nicole: Yeah. I first of all, love my job because I think I found a role I'll be able to really create new jobs, new skills at future proof an organisation. So what I essentially do is she really looked at human as a kind of resource in the organisation. So, you know how we always look at how can we get better technology, how can we be more productive and efficient. But I'm kind of putting a lens of how can we make people more effective and productive in an organisation. So that we can create better impact for the country and ultimately the world.

Ellen: That sounds very exciting Nicole and look forward to hearing more progress from you on these projects and your future work. I mean, the last episodes mark and I discussed some trends that might concern our graduates. So, before we discussed the future of skills, let me start by asking you what is work please.

Nicole: Yeah, that's a very difficult question right because, then I think that's something that is quite personal for for everyone. I mean the end of the day, what we do see it that there is the changing nature of work. And this is nothing to do with how we perceive work, it's also kind of like a by-product because of the pandemic or the kind of constant change that we’re experiencing. I'll give you a few examples because of the pandemic, we see that there is a celebration of digital process. We also see that we can work remotely now. We see that probably people contribute in terms of their expertise on certain tasks rather than like a full job. So what I'm actually seeing is the new way of shaping what work is. In some ways that we're breaking down what we traditionally think as roles or jobs in two key skills into key tasks. So, that will be able to meet the demands of what we see a lot, an organisation which is agility, and constant adaptation.

Ellen: Absolutely. I think that's really interesting. I mean, you mentioned from the nature of work, what is work going into skills. So my next question is what is the trend in the future skills that you seeing around the world at moment? Please, Nicole?

Nicole: Yeah, I got this question because I have two layers of answers. I think one based on my recent publication as a contributor for Good Work standards, we see that the future skills definitely moved from manual jobs, such as data entry clerks or, it is really based on the demands right, so anything that's more manual, anything that is less about digital is definitely decreasing. We see a trend in obviously data analytics because we wanted to constantly predict and anticipate what's next. And data is something that can really help facilitate that thinking. We see a lot of data in general, the reason being is because as we are a little bit less attached to physical room, physical working in workspace, we communicate with data, we make decisions based on data. So we see that future skills is very much about digitalisation, data and analytics and all that. We also see a lot of interesting skills. This is the second layer I'm talking about. We call it human skills. I personally think it's getting more and more important because. As automation is taking over some of the more tedious work or manual work, we start to highlight every surface importance of building relationships, building service, building what we call experience. And that's something robots can never takeover, I would argue. It's a human touch, so we see a lot more trends where people focus more on critical thinking and thinking, system thinking, negotiation or even like sometimes right now we call it digital leadership skills. So, is it very long answer for a short question, but as you can see, there's definitely trends. Where we elevate what digital is really good at it, but also reemphasising how human beings are so unique by itself, which is creating experience, you know touch, emotions and all of that.

Ellen: Yeah, absolutely so I think that's really good all-rounder, opening that you give us in terms of future skills. I think before Marc jumps in, you mentioned you mention the leader, so I'm going to ask the next question and I'm sure Marc will have a lot to, to follow up on. It’s what you think will be the new jobs of the future defined by the leaders?

Nicole: Okay so. So there's definitely a textbook answer, but there's also going to be like another one based on my observation. I think when it comes to the textbook answer, all leaders are trying to figure out how to maintain agility. The reason being is because, no leader is really know what's going to happen next. I think in this world we have experienced for the past three years, we don't really know how much we can control. So, the best way to succeed in this world is to maintain flexible, agile and hence therefore, what they're gonna ask from students or, or the workforce, are skills that are gearing towards analytical thinking now. This will cause creation of jobs, which is more of like, as I mentioned, right, like data analysts, data scientists, machine learning, AI, big data specialists. These are the ones that can actually create the information or justification that leaders may require to make quick decisions. There are also other things that you would see. There new jobs such as, called like the director of remote working. There are also jobs that focus on wellbeing now, because as I mentioned and also the paper that recently published, we look at total bill being a lot more holistically now because of the new ways of working, you may experience different kinds of pressure, and we do understand that there is such a talent shortage. So we can't just use human beings as just intellectuals or, or intellects. We actually need to take care of them. So that is all sustainable. So, we see there's a little bit of growth when it comes to employee experience. Anything relating to that, we also see a little bit of how people are connecting to each other, right, like looking at social media. So you would see their interesting jobs looking at consumer behaviour also, just like how people connected such as we see like jobs called like social media analysts, looking at how information is being shared, because we do witness the power of communication, and also marketing to boost this idea. So these are just some of the points that I observed as of now. And again we don't know what’s next. But leaders are definitely concerned over these items, and therefore creation of these jobs.

Marc: Hi Nicole, it's Marc here. How you doing?

Nicole: Good, good

Marc: I’ve got a couple of questions just following up on this, I've got, I've got a few things in no particular order. The first one is obviously you’ve gone through skills for the future of work. I'm just wondering in terms of the more technical sort of knowledge that students will need to understand. Can you talk a little more about that?

Nicole: Yeah, sure, sure, for sure. So I mean, I will comment on this based on the top ten emerging jobs that were seeing. So then we can we can kind of map out what skills are required. So right now we do see that this increasing number of jobs such as software and application developers and analysts, jobs that I think behind that it's not just coding. Obviously when it comes to technical skills, different languages may be useful, or the typical bold Python that typical C plus all of that. But I do think it's important that you stay close to. What's the latest? Because technology is ever evolving, so I don't want to say that an expert in this, but if you know the destination is to apply for a software and application developer, it is important to know what are some of the technical skills behind it. There also other jobs such as organisational development specialists like myself. So the technical skills when it comes to the bat is actually having the domain knowledge of your particular industry. So currently right now I work in financial services, it’s very important that you have the knowledge of how the industry is growing, what are the regulations. So, you know your boundaries and also doing project management. Nowadays is not just about understanding what's within the textbook, but more importantly is to know how you can really leverage the resources around you so that you can achieve the strategic goals that set by your leaders. So, these are just some examples. There are also other technical skills depending on which industry you're talking about. So there is also a boom when it comes to healthcare professionals. I think that's also very important given that now everyone is very much concerned over their total wellbeing. So, and again, I'm not an expert when it comes to healthcare professionals, but, those technical skills and getting that qualification will be helpful to support your career path forward.

Marc: Great. Thank you. Then can I ask well, what type of jobs do you think are at risk? I know you mentioned about manual handling of most of things, but what do you think any specific jobs?

Nicole: Yeah, there are and again that we see there is some sort of top ten declining jobs and I’ll name a few just to support my answer. I think data entry clerks mainly not because of this particular title, just it's because of the task required, right. So right now we see that technology can take over any sort of data entry, because now that we have platforms now, users can plug in their own numbers. We also see that such as customer service worker, I think your experience walking into supermarkets now or even in any sort of shopping centre is that a lot of automation is taking over the cash now, the cashier and all that. So, we do see that technology might takeover some of these jobs and which would cause some sort of risk. We also see that automation is being introduced into many supply chains so. Theoretically, assembly factory workers, these are some of the jobs that might be at risk as well. There are also general and operations managers, and again I would say that one of the main reasons why these jobs are at risk is because of automation is not because of the value. So, I just want to make sure we interpret this correctly, but All in all, anything that is being threatened by automation will be at risk at this point.

Marc: Great. Thank you. Good. I'm just going to ask another one if that's okay, in terms of student knowledge. I mean, obviously has a lot of change at the minute. Do you, do you have any sort of recommendations for the general websites that students should be sort of reading, looking up at? You know setting up alerts so that they are notified of these changes?

Nicole: Yes, yes, there is so many trusted sources out there, given my background, obviously I would suggest the World Economic Forum. I think anywhere that is very research based that has a global coverage. It will be something that you want to stay close with because these are great platforms where they constantly hold conversations with world leaders and also experts, so they can actually capture the landscape as soon as possible. So, just to recap, I think World Economic Forum is absolutely great, subscribe to their emails or even their LinkedIn, will be definitely a great head start. I think the World Bank is amazing. And again, if you’re, if you're very interested in a certain industry staying close to particular geography and subscribe to the Chambers, subscribe to the ambassadors or even some leaders. Because right now, I think it's more important to be exposed to multiple sources and then to cross validate and then also form your own opinion. I think is very important as students right, it is to really have your own strong point of view an once you have all of these sort of ingredients gathered you'll be able to make the right next move and guide your career path moving forward.

Ellen: Thank you, Nicole. I think that's all really interesting, especially I picked up the jobs that you said that going at risk, but rather than the jobs that you mentioned, is the task required. So that made me think of the next question, which is you know what, what skills would it be brand knew or do you think there are more transferable into the future? And which ones do you think they will remain from the skills that we need today, please.

Nicole: Yeah, I think the increasing demands when it comes to skills, is any skills that supports machine learning, AI and digitalization and transformation. So this could be anything all the way. As I mentioned a few times, right? So cyber security because the more we share data, the more we put everything on cloud based that would be a skill set to have. I experienced this a lot when it comes to financial services because while we're trying to put everything up in a cloud, we're also being threatened by, you know, the security and the risk management that comes along with that. I also mentioned transformation. I think project management is very, very important change management, very, very important because changes like the new norm nowadays, like I don't think we expect any sort of stability anytime soon. To have that sort of skill sentence, Anan is definitely emerging moving forward. As I mentioned quite a few times human skills, I know, but there is also like kind of a myth thinking, that allowed jobs are being taken over by machines or robots or AI. That's not particularly true, because if you really look at the stats. While, so this is from the World Economic Forum, while we have 75 million jobs probably being taken over by machinery or AI or automation. There is also 133 million jobs being created. So, there's actually net positive of everything. And where this is all come from is because. We start to study internally and look at what human beings are good at and is everything about, you know, creation, even art nowadays, or even experience anything that gives like a great experience or emotional touch is something that we see, and I don't think there's actually a long list of what the skills are is just anything that contributes to that. Now. You also mentioned like what are some of the things that we see stability. I think when it comes to data, anything data, I think it's today were in a data world. I think it's still going to be very, very strong moving forward for the next. I know 10-15 years just coz I think this is like is it's it's already new way of thinking nowadays, right? Everything that you need to justify any decisions that were making, we highly rely on that. So I do think that it was important it will important it is so very important. When it comes to decreasing skills, I think. I mean, that's the best word to relate I’d describe it is anything that's being threatened by efficiency, or anything that a machine can do instead. I would say what I mentioned, right, data entry clerks, this very typical example to the value that it creates currently right now. It's just input, but I also highlight that even though we have that shrinking needs of that particular data entry clerk, this particular person can be upskilled and become someone what we call data analysts, where someone who can look at data from a more insightful way, so I don't want to say that role is gone, we just need to kind of re skill down to make sure we feed it back into the workforce. And that's the whole phenomenon that we've been talking about, which is skills, re-skill, upskill and I hope we all take this sort of information with a very optimistic lens.

Ellen: That's great, Nicole, Marc, have you got any follow up questions from that?

Marc: Yes, Nicole, can I ask a slightly probably controversial one maybe. You know, obviously you know that sort of acceleration of technology is come about because of covid, and working from home and obviously that that's been increased, at the minute obviously because the situation, I'm not sure if it's the same way you are, but certainly in in the UK where flights are being cancelled, you know, everywhere from the airports in the UK and what's missing is the human element in terms of customer service. So do you feel that actually, you know, employers or sectors have introduced technology too quickly in some respects? I appreciate your saying customer service will be something will be affected by this. But, you know where we've got, you know, sort of families whose. You know, flights been cancelled. There's no one around to talk to. There's no one who gives any sort of direction. Do you think that's move too quickly?

Nicole: I think depending on the industry. But then I think generally yes, because I see the reason why we introduced so much of this technology in the past three years is because, we have to keep moving, right? We have to establish that bridge to make sure that we are sustaining the life that we want to have, and the observation you mention is totally true. Part of what I used to do is actually creating customer experience and often times at every touchpoint we call, or moments that matters when it comes to being a customer is that we need to make a decision, should this touchpoint be engaging? Should it be empathetic, or should it be efficient? So if I implement it right, we can obviously use technology to recruit people very quickly through LinkedIn. However, without the human touch, we might not be able to get the best candidate because you're just really entertaining a certain crowd. And sometimes people like to choose your organisation because they think that, oh gosh, like I'm really talking to a robot. That I would, I would not really like talk to people, experience good enough, because oftentimes what would you remember most is experience, is your feelings, is your emotions. So this is an again along answer to short question. But yes generally I think we're being too excited about efficiency sometimes that we lose the human touch, and ultimately it might hurt us because we are not, we would I say it like, we're not empathetic enough, to create a system table value for, for the market, but then we're playing catch up. I'm seeing a lot of people like, you know, reviewing their process right now, and trying to inject human beings back into the process. I am hopeful. I'm hoping that we’ll create a balance and it's all about moderation.

Marc: Great. Thank you. Could I just ask another one? Sorry Ellen, again. I suppose it's like, a contentious one, but one that I have been sort of asked about by students’ not necessarily just employers. That's, you know, a lot of employers are now putting in place of wellbeing activities, if you like, you know. Yeah, they're aware of, you know, the sort of the stresses of maybe being on screen too long or working longer hours. But you know what some people have said is that employers are the ones that dictate the hours and they're happy that the employees are working those times. So wouldn't it be better to actually identify that? Rather look, putting wellbeing, sort of, activities instead. So is it slightly contradictory do you feel to have that?

Nicole: Yeah, it, it is something that I feel like a lot of organisations are trying to figure out and is this because of pandemic? I think its way before pandemic because a lot of people right now or at least in newer generations, they do value work life balance. However, technology actually blends the line between work and life, and in some ways some can even argue work defines your life because of status, power, resources, money and all of that. So, while we are progressing, I remember the first question that you ask is how work is changing. I think depending on which generation you are talking to, I feel like word takes a different role in your life. Let's just say Gen Z. What I do observe it's that. Because we're spending over 80% of our time at work, they’d much rather choose a job that has a sense of purpose, an it's close to what they believe in, or even give them the identity that they want. Much rather than compensation. And this is kind of the trend that we see. Now there is a danger to that because once you find something, love if you can imagine, right, this is definitely meet like by going to, going to work. I'm actually working on myself. It might burnout people, so the trick here is. Corporations, organisations or even labour laws will need to help create those boundaries, and is hard to comment from a global perspective because every country has their limiting laws. But I do see the effort especially when I was working with the World Economic Forum, is to make sure that can we put total wellbeing measurements as part of the ESG reporting, and this is something I'm super passionate about and that's why I spent seven months writing this paper with WEF and my colleagues. It's because nowadays we look at human being as part of the corporate resources, however, were not totally protecting them, and total wellbeing, which I'm super excited to say, that is part of the ESG metrics now, and we are looking for to see more listed companies to be reporting, monitoring to make sure that we’re protecting labours in general.

Marc: Great. Thanks. Thanks, Nicole, thanks, Ellen.

Ellen: No problem at all, I think that's all very interesting and informative, but sadly that's all we've got time for today. And Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today and it's really great to have you back.

Nicole: Thank you. Thank you. I had such a lovely time.

Ellen: Fantastic. Well, I think we all hope for a crystal ball and know how to future proof citizens ability to work, but sadly that's not realistic. So, will continue to explore, to obtain new skills, and continue to reskill and upskill. But overall, as we say in other more opportunities other than risks, and using the new ways of working as a baseline because human very resilient after all, I hope you are all agree with me that there is so much to take away from this episode, and for the next episode will look at more researchers say about the future of skills. As always, if you're interested in finding out more about this topic. Please subscribe to our podcast series. You can also connect with our speaker today, Nicole via LinkedIn by searching Nicole. Luk. You're also welcome to get in contact with us by either sending us an e-mail or book online appointment on My Career with Marc, our details available in episode description. Lastly, I shall leave you with a quote from Peter Drucker. The only skill that will be important in the 21st century ace the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete overtime. Thank you for listening until next time. Take care.