Hong Kong Employers Need to Stop Giving Lip Service to AI

Hong Kong business leaders see the value in adopting artificial intelligence (AI) for augmenting employees.

In the study Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI, almost three in four Hong Kong managers see AI as “instrumental for their organization’s competitiveness. In fact, 40% noted that they have begun their AI journeys.

The study was from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific. It surveyed 1,605 business leaders and 1,585 workers from 15 Asia Pacific countries, including 100 business leaders and 101 workers from Hong Kong.

The strong AI adoption will help improve Hong Kong companies' competitiveness. IDC sees the technology increasing competitiveness by 2.6 times by 2021.

“AI is the defining technology of our time that significantly accelerates business transformation, enables innovation, boosts employee productivity, and ensures further growth. Economies and businesses that have yet to embark on their AI journey run a real risk of missing out on the competitive benefits that are enjoyed by leaders,” said Cally Chan, general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau.”

The survey respondents also ranked the top five business drivers for adopting technologies like AI. They include higher margins (30%), higher competitiveness (28%), accelerated innovation (13%), more productive employees (13%), and business intelligence (8%).

“Last year, organizations that have adopted AI saw tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 13% to 14%. They forecast further improvements of at least 2.2 times in the three-year horizon, with the biggest jump expected in higher competitiveness and business intelligence,” said Victor Lim, vice president for Customer Research and Consulting Operations, IDC Asia/Pacific.

Positive Impact on Jobs

Hong Kong business leaders and workers were bullish about AI’s impact on the future of jobs. More than half (58% of business leaders and 68% of workers) said that AI will either help to do their current jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.

"When it comes to augmentation of jobs, workers are more optimistic with 41% of them believe AI will help them to do their jobs better, and 27% agree that AI will reduce repetitive routine tasks," said Lim.

But Chan warned that the nature of jobs will change with AI. Focusing on technology skills will not help companies in the long run.

“The jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow, and we have already seen demand for software engineering roles expand rapidly beyond just the tech sector. However, building an AI-ready workforce does not necessarily mean an acute need for technological skills,” she added.

The study showed that Hong Kong workers were ready to reskill as a result. In fact, more than what business leaders thought they were. While 27% of management felt that workers had no interest to develop new skills, only 17% of workers said they were not interested.

Reality Gap

While Hong Kong companies are embracing AI, the study highlighted the need to do more. One area is getting their organizational cultures ready for AI.

Respondents felt that the cultural traits that support AI journeys were not pervasive enough. These traits include risk-taking, proactive innovation, and cross-function partnerships among teams,

“Overall, workers in Hong Kong are more skeptical than the management about the cultural readiness of their organizations,” added Lim.

Lim advised employers to start making AI a core component of their corporate strategy. He also urged them to develop a learning agility culture.