Priority Consultants kicked off our in-house talk show, TalkPriority which aims to share ideas and stimulate discussion on hot topics, while building confidence within the team to express and communicate ideas to clients, influencers, and the media.

The first topic, “the changing nature of work” has little to do with Human Resources (HR), resonating far more with Industry 4.0. Historically, industrial revolutions have been about adding strength or speed with tools to increase productivity. However, Industry 4.0 is very different in that it introduces and promulgates tools and systems that can mimic human behaviour.

Commonly associated with Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often deployed for business and marketing purposes such as gleaning insights from data or automating business processes. The accelerated deployment of automation and AI is one of three key trends that have emerged in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The other two are the exponential proliferation of digital transactions and e-Commerce and the transformation of remote and virtual interactions inside and outside the office.

With increased automation and more widespread use of AI, McKinsey estimates that more than 100 million workers will have to find a new job by 2030. Lower-skilled jobs are likely to be replaced by sophisticated mechanisms and automation while we can expect new jobs, demanding higher levels of education or knowledge in data sciences, data analytics, and cybersecurity will begin to emerge. McKinsey estimates this number to be between four and five million.

Therefore, workers will have to differentiate themselves by learning new skills or improving on their existing skills in order to stand a fighting chance in the new economy. When it comes to generational differences among the workforce, older workers are already adopting digital skills to sustain the same level of productivity while working remotely. In this environment, everyone must learn to communicate more clearly and effectively. They must gain the confidence and willingness to express their ideas and concepts.

In 2020, across Southeast Asia, all countries implemented some form of lockdown forcing their citizens to turn to the internet for their shopping and retail needs. In 2021, some countries still grappling to contain the Covid outbreak, such as Malaysia, have continued to enact movement control orders to protect public health interests. Therefore, many Southeast Asian consumers are continuing to turn to online shopping and delivery. Even though Indonesia has a lower Internet penetration rate compared to its neighbouring countries, consumers are keen to continue shopping online.

From a work perspective, history may identify the year 2020 as the world’s largest remote working experiment. Companies previously unwilling to allow remote or flexible working, largely because they feared a loss of control or productivity – had no choice in the face of government mandated restrictions and had to implement whatever steps were necessary for their staff to work from home. For many it was a gigantic leap from a technology and equipment perspective while for others it was a people management challenge.

In the upshot, many of these fears were largely proven wrong. In the face of the Covid-19 uncertainty, most individuals came to the table willing to put in the same time and work effort while appreciating an unexpected benefit of working safely from home. For many companies this forced experiment helped kick off a change in mindset and as it turned out, many remote employees continued to deliver outstanding results with well-equipped collaboration tools. Pleased with similar productivity levels and the amount of output, Microsoft is considering a permanent shift to remote work.

There are multiple ways to improve remote and hybrid work experiences. One such way to do so is to improve communication and engagement. There is no “one size fits all” way of managing and communicating with people, as all employees have their unique strengths and weaknesses.

At this point of writing, approximately 20 to 25 percent of workers in advanced economies can continue working from home three to five days a week, a close to five-fold increase from before the pandemic. This will likely adversely affect real estate, mass transit, restaurants, and retail in urban centres.

As far as we’re aware, remote work appears to be continuing through 2021 as many Asian countries such as Singapore experience their second waves of infection. It is becoming more important for managers and team leaders to foster a sense of community among remote workers, which can be easily done through regular videoconferencing sessions and structured meetings with clearly defined goals and agendas. Most importantly, the changing nature of work is about the willingness to learn and to stay aware.


The next TalkPriority session is regarding the ASEAN Economic Bloc. Stay tuned for more!

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