The Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolding in the GCC

At Propel International’s recent breakfast seminar in Dubai we collaborated with Robert Walters and Propel International’s CEO Martin Adams to look into the future of work in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC).

Our session; ‘Assessment, AI and the Age of Algorithm’, focused on how organisations in the region might adopt AI and machine learning to help them recruit and develop the people they need now and in the future. Given the region’s ambitious growth plans, using technology to find and develop talent offers many opportunities but also some risks.

We enjoyed the discussion session that was led by Sova’s Founder and CEO, Alan Bourne. During the debate we shared thoughts on how the shape of the workforce is changing for organisations in the region, and the opportunities and risks of using AI in assessment in this market.

The fourth industrial revolution and talent in the GCC

In November this year the UAE Cabinet announced it will appoint a Fourth Industrial Revolution Ambassador. The rationale for the role is to strengthen the UAE’s position as a global hub for future technology, and to further the adoption of technological advancements to make a positive change in peoples’ lives.

This appointment fits well with the Government’s talent agenda; developing local talent and ensuring nationals are employed and learning the skills they need, as well as selecting and attracting the best diverse talent into the nation to accelerate growth.

A truly global market for talent

Attracting and developing talent is central to the UAE’s Vision of becoming a knowledge economy by 2030 and change is happening quickly – The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, 21% of core skills in the countries of the GCC will be different compared to skills that were needed in 2015.

In terms of finding talent, The Global Talent Competitive Index ranks the UAE 24th worldwide and the first in the MENA region for competitiveness based on the country’s high quality of governance and strength in attracting talent. The GCC, and the UAE in particular, have a truly international draw for talent but the profile of the skills in demand is changing.

The opportunities and risks of AI in assessment

AI in assessment has the potential to support talent strategies by identifying people with the right competencies and behaviours accurately and at scale. However, we need to exercise a degree of caution in adopting it as recent news stories have demonstrated.

For example, Amazon scrapped its AI tool that favoured male candidates, Google was shown to be less likely to show women adverts for highly paid jobs, and flaws have been found in the use of AI technology for facial recognition. As Alan showed us, some of these technologies are not yet quite as powerful as is often assumed. It’s vital that technology is applied thoughtfully and responsibly, without it, there are risks of driving bias and exclusion that are damaging to individuals and organisations.

It was clear from our discussion that while HR teams in the region are keen to adopt more advanced technology, the appetite is rightly tempered by the desire to get it right. To sum up, Alan shared five questions to check whether your talent assessment process if fit for the future.

Is your talent assessment process fit for the future?

  1. Are your assessments aligned with your business objectives?
  2. Is the way in which you attract talent into the business time efficient and cost effective?
  3. Are your assessments engaging and a positive reflection of your brand?
  4. Are you measuring the right things and are they aligned to your future needs?
  5. Are you able to understand the data from your assessments and link it to job performance and organisational success?

The region’s HR teams have a key role to play in ensuring the adoption of any technology for assessment is done well.  Adopting AI into recruitment and development has the potential to support the Government’s strategic aims for building a knowledge economy, but it needs to be led by science as well as technology and HR is the guardian of ensuring the right approach is taken.