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Why People Are Key In The Evolving Digital Workplace?

May 25, 2023

New technologies can transform industries, but equipping people to develop and use them is crucial to business success.

Digital transformation and the adoption of digital technologies could unleash cumulative GDP gains of at least $1.6 trillion over the next 30 years in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to the World Bank. Investing in digital skills development and innovative training is therefore vital to support the workforce, secure the future of business, and unlock potential.

No stranger to technology transformation, Aramco — with our rich history spanning almost 90-years — has a track record of adapting and innovating. For example, since the early 2000s Aramco has been collecting data to track every drop of oil, from extraction to distribution, in order to optimize efficiency across our upstream and downstream supply chains. 

We are now able to harness this data, which is supplemented by insights supplied by our 10 control centers — each of which now collects 5 billion data points a day. They monitor everything from gas flaring, which is already at a minimum, to cyber security. Information flows from all kinds of digital sources, such as robots, drones and smart plants, offering case studies that form the bedrock of a digital transformation program we started in 2017. 

Digital Upskilling

As such, it has been crucial to instill a “digital mindset” across the company, and encourage staff to develop digital skills that will help them redefine their roles and discover new ones. To do so, we offer more than 5,000 digital training courses, ranging from one-hour tutorials to a full master’s degree. 

Upskilling is available to anyone in our network, from contractors to our core digital workforce — which is made up of data engineers, analysts, and scientists. In fact, more than 40,000 participants have taken digital courses since the start of 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic illustrated the value of new technologies, as well as some of the emerging skills required. However, competency mapping can help employees assess their own knowledge so they can close any gaps. 

Even employees not directly involved in IT can drive digital change. For example, Aramco’s Citizen Development Program enables staff to use “no-code” or “low-code” platforms to develop solutions that improve their work environment. This allows them to hand over mundane, day-to-day tasks to digital tools, so they can spend more time on more important duties. A Data Detective, for example, can help the legal team run through cases to find common traits — and thus reduce repetitive work. 

Companies prepared to invest in their people will capitalize most on emerging technologies. But we also believe that contributing to the broader commercial ecosystem provides benefits too. That is why in April we established the AI Excellence Center, in partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, to create opportunities for research and development, commercial marketing and entrepreneurship in the artificial intelligence field.

Future Proofing

Our company might be almost 90 years old, but our workforce is young. The average age of our employees is just 30 — and millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) make up around 65 percent of our people. To put that into context, in the US only 35 percent of the workforce are millennials. 

As an employer, Aramco recognizes its responsibility is not only to keep pace with change — but also to keep our staff engaged. To nurture our wealth of young talent, and to ensure Aramco retains its position as one of the world’s leading energy and chemicals companies, we’ve introduced hundreds of lifelong learning programs in collaboration with leading educational institutions from around the world, including Harvard Business School, INSEAD and the University of Oxford. 

Through our unique scale, resources and a global perspective, we aim to help prepare the workforce to compete and lead in the 21st Century. In fact, we are already priming the next generation of talent by sponsoring over 2,200 high-performing Saudi high school graduates to attend top-tier colleges and universities worldwide, with a view to one day finding them a suitable role at Aramco. It is an approach rooted in our belief that, as technology advances, equipping the future workforce with the necessary skillsets is critical to business success.

Author
Nabil Nuaim

SVP of Digital & Information Technology of Aramco

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