Olga Grygier-Siddons, the managing partner for PwC CEE, believes that the CEE region needs to better prepare itself for the arrival of robots and artificial intelligence. “Let’s use this time of prosperity, when economic growth is fast and unemployment is low, to get ready for the next wave of technological change”, said Grygier-Siddons in an interview for Hospodářské noviny, a major Czech newspapers. Read her most valuable insights below.

Снимок экрана 2015-06-24 в 13.04.23

The hunt for key skills is still on and IT is not the sole requirement.

The speed of technological change and its impact on the labour market did not turn out as a great as many feared. On the contrary, IT specialists and programmers are not the only people companies worldwide are looking for. Leadership, problem solving, communication, creativity, innovation, and emotional intelligence are still among the ‘hot’ skills. For technology does not exist in a parallel universe and both ends need to be at play. It is also the first time that the unavailability of these skills represents the biggest threat for the business world, especially in the CEE region (see all results of PwC’s global CEO survey). Graduates are fewer and young people nowadays have the privilege of choice of their future employer. According to CEOs, the solution to the employee shortage lies in a firm’s culture – upgrading to a more modern, agile one, and thus more attractive for younger generation is a must. So is the emphasis on the positive impact of business on the world around us.

The process of automation will come in three waves. The first is already on the move.

The good news is there is still time to prepare. PwC reviewed this issue of automation and concluded it would come in three waves. The first one has already started and will continue until the mid 20s. The jobs at risk in this phase will have to do with simple data analysis in financial and insurance companies such as auditing, accounting, tax consulting or risk analyses. During the second wave, technology will replace positions involving repetitive tasks. The last wave, taking place in the mid 30s, will complete the deployment of AI and complete data automation without human interaction. Companies will relocate their manufacturing closer to their customers, especially to North America and Western Europe. Luckily for us, we are geographically close to the Western European market.

Educational institutions need to learn the most.

Schools and universities need to completely change their approach and switch from theory-based teaching to problem solving, teamwork and communicating. They should also open themselves up to the world through more exchange programmes, cooperation with companies, industries and even start-ups. The same applies to businesses and their range of educational programmes, courses and retraining schemes for employees of various ages.

Tough experience is an ace up our sleeve.

To get ready for technological advancement I always recommend my clients to surround themselves with smart people. This requires a change of their environment and firm culture to maintain their motivation and loyalty. Because talent will be the game changer. Clients in our region already take bold steps and innovate. Because, as opposed to those in developed markets, local companies have a great benefit. That of experience with change. We have been through many radical changes, whether it was hyperinflation, exchange rate fluctuation or a need to quickly train inexperienced employees. In fact, we never even had the chance to rest and take it easy, which will be advantageous now that a great transformation is what businesses worldwide need to go through. That is why I am optimistic we will handle this well.

The full interview was published in print in the 38th issue of the Hospodářské noviny newspapers and is available online (in Czech language).

Lucie Šindelářová, Content Specialist for PwC Czech Republic