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London Tech Week: Invest in people as much as tech

13th June 2024
Caitlin Gittins

Investing in people as much as new technology was emphasised in various talks, panels and presentations that were held at London Tech Week from 10-12 June, which invited back innovators, investors and tech companies to share ideas and innovation.

London Tech Week is energetic, with calculated risk and fun, said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, in an interview given to the event. “I challenge anybody who comes to London Tech Week, whether it's from Shoreditch or Sri Lanka, not to have a great time here,” he said, with a kind of excitement that would set the tone for the event, now in its 11th year.

“It's great to be back at London Tech Week, at such an exciting time for the industry as AI continues to accelerate,” said Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK. “I was left inspired by the range of speakers all seeking to innovate with the latest technology. We shared more about how Microsoft is delivering AI innovation at scale and I'm looking forward to helping the UK continue to realise its potential in the year ahead.” 

In recognition of its importance as a technology, London Tech Week named AI as a major theme, alongside other topics including tomorrow’s talent; the future of security and data; social impact, and more.

During a panel discussion, ‘The roadmap to digital skills for all’, AI was discussed in relation to the workers using it - in making sure people have the proper skills and training to use it appropriately.

Moderator Emma Stone, Director of Evidence and Engagement at Good Things Foundation spoke to panelists David James, Chief Learning Officer at 360Learning; Srikanth Iyengar, CEO at upGrad Enterprise; and Nimmi Patel, Head of Skills, Talent and Diversity at TechUK.

On the question of why digital skills matter to you and your organisation, Iyengar said: “We train about three or four million people a year … But the bigger reason why this is critical is that it makes a difference in people’s lives. We [the audience] just came off a panel on AI and we all talk about technology being ubiquitous and how it can overtake human lives. 

“And if we've got to stay abreast and use technology to our benefit, I think upskilling is very, very critical.”

During a panel discussion, ‘The power of nurturing people - how to inspire talent, growth & innovation’, Future Reporter Jane Thier asked Hanno Renner, Co-Founder and CEO of Personio and Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of Royal Academy of Engineering whether they thought AI capabilities will be “must haves” for workers looking to scale the corporate ladder.

“I think the short answer is yes, of course,” said Renner. “But not in the way that everything has changed… I think it’s the same as with other technologies, it’s an enhancer and it’s really important to figure out how you want to use them.”

Renner explained that they thought about AI in multiple ways: “For our customers, where does AI and algorithms have an impact in the way we serve our customers and where can we implement it inside Personio to help our customers.

“For example, HR people don’t always tend to be the most tech savvy people. And if they want a full customer report, it would be really powerful if they can just ask Personio in natural language to get that customer report built. So there are some of these opportunities to democratise and enable access much easier for non-technical people.”

“I think for the vast majority of workers that most of us will be simply benefiting from Ai through its investing in products that we've already used,” added Sillem. “But I do think that we have to be honest about the fact that there is such a spectrum in terms of digital skills in the workforce. So, Future Market analysis is there are 54% of the UK workforce today that can't complete all the basic digital skills that are agreed just as necessary.”

Both Renner and Sillem hammered home this point about investing in technology being as important as people, discussing being “organisation centric” and “human centric”.

“I found as a leader it was hard to know how to get that balance right,” Sillem admitted.

Renner echoed this sentiment and said without investing in the right people, a company is at risk of crumbling. “It’s really important that you are bringing the right people with the right behaviours,” he said. 

Human centered work, in practice, looks at focusing on human outcomes, Sillem said. “You’re committing to focus on human outcomes, which technology is an enabler of that, but it’s human outcomes that matter.” 

Although a hub of new innovation and technologies set to change the landscape of the workplace in the future, people continue to be as important as technology was the main message put across by London Tech Week.


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