Remembering Human Creativity in the Age of AI

Charles Bendotti, CHRO of Philip Morris International

Charles Bendotti, CHRO of Philip Morris International

As organisations adapt for the Fourth Industrial Revolution—finding new ways to leverage AI and technology to keep pace with today’s speed of change—it is crucial that human creativity must not be cast aside or allowed to fade. The organisations that thrive in the long term will be those that harness the integral role human creativity plays in driving innovation.

As their companies’ gatekeepers, HR leaders play a critical role in determining—and managing—the optimal integration of the human workforce and automation. For many HR leaders, this will involve a shift of mindset and strategies. I firmly believe that HR must partner with business leaders to achieve the optimal combination of people and machines for the organisation, while also ensuring the desired impact on society writ large. Yet according to a recent World Economic Forum report, “HR4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” only 36 per cent of chief human resource officers (CHROs) surveyed say they are prepared to think about how automation can be used to execute work in the future. This clearly shows that business leaders have an insufficient grasp of the opportunities and risks technology promises. Implementing technology for its own sake will benefit neither the business nor the workforce—instead, it could, in the near term, confuse and, in the longer term, lead to social unrest and an inadequately skilled workforce.

At Philip Morris International (PMI), where we’re transforming from within to achieve our smoke- free vision, preparing for the future has meant becoming more science-and tech-focused.

“The use of machines and robotics to enhance processes, reduce human error and drive productivity through automation is only possible with the creativity and inventiveness of humankind”

Consequently, we have been consciously considering how best to ensure that technology and human innovation work in harmony. From the scientific assessments of our smoke-free products to improvements in our manufacturing processes and HR applications (e.g., people analytics that allow us to customise and enhance the employee journey), we see technological innovation—particularly the use of AI and robotics—as an enabler and accelerator of the unprecedented business transformation we are undergoing.

We also recognise, however, that we cannot transform without our people—no business can. So, as we leverage this opportunity to disrupt our company and the tobacco industry for the better, we are striving to close our skills gaps and to infuse new skills and expertise across our organisation. Think scientists, researchers and digital experts—to help us transform into the “new PMI” we are creating. Only with these new skills can we become a science and technology leader in smoke-free products that are a better alternative for adult smokers than continuing to smoke cigarettes.

Consider this: The use of machines and robotics to enhance processes, reduce human error and drive productivity through automation is only possible with the creativity and inventiveness of humankind. After all, we, too, are continually evolving. That’s just one of the reasons it’s essential to foster a human-centric corporate culture—one where diverse thinking supported by an inclusive working environment allows constructive disagreement to flourish and drive new perspectives, ideas and (ultimately) breakthroughs. Being human-centric is also the only way to achieve a genuine consumer-centric organisation.

Fostering a human-centric culture also is key to generating sustainable, long-term growth. What’s more, today’s societal and technological advances also play a part in helping businesses to “pro-actively shape a culture of lifelong learning and curiosity,” as noted in the latest WEF report.

That’s why at PMI, we’re investing in tools and platforms to support and empower employees in managing their learning and development transformation journeys. By doing so, we can help employees stay competitive in the job market and move from providing a “job for life” toward offering a “lifetime of employability.”

Today’s changing world of work also requires leaders to recalibrate the traditional model of employee engagement and pivot toward a more holistic, purposeful approach. HR leaders play a pivotal role in promoting a sense of purpose and belonging among employees, building an inclusive culture in which diversity can thrive so that each individual maximises their unique talents and takes pride in their—and the organisation’s—contributions.

Since announcing our smoke-free vision, PMI’s new purpose has helped us attract exceptional talent to our organisation. And we’re consciously working to embed a more inclusive culture where every employee feels they belong, while intentionally taking steps to boost our diversity— starting with efforts to close our gender gap. Only through such diversity and inclusion can we unlock the new thinking required to deliver the innovation that will allow us to meet adult consumer demands and drive better business performance.

In short, leveraging human creativity and taking steps to remain human-centric is essential in the age of AI. For PMI, there is no more significant opportunity to ensure our company thrives in the Fourth Industrial Revolution—so we can achieve our vision of a smoke-free future as quickly as possible.

Weekly Brief

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