Offices around the world see people working with an increasingly sophisticated array of software and hardware. Technology and the human side of business came under the spotlight on the third day of Davos 2020. Here’s our summary of the world of work-related updates that you should know about.

Microsoft looks to culture

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella linked technology closely with culture as he set out four keys to corporate success in an interview today.

  1. Power broad economic growth through tech intensity 

  2. Ensure that this economic growth is inclusive 

  3. Build trust in technology and its use 

  4. Commit to a sustainable future 

The development of AI is one field where this interaction is key. “The best way to ensure there’s no bias in AI is to have the team creating the AI representing the diversity we want it to have”, he said. “My biggest job as CEO is a curation of culture – to get your products right you need a sense of purpose and then a culture to pursue that mission.”

Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation, USA – World Economic Forum / Valeriano DiDomenico

How will we work with robots?

Insights into future human-robot interactions were provided at Davos today by Henny Admoni, a leading roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University. Depictions of robots in films – with legs, arms and heads like humans – are wide of the mark.

Henny Admoni, Assistant Professor, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA – World Economic Forum

Empathy and dexterousness are among the toughest challenges. So, while robots can collect stock items in Amazon warehouses, they don’t have the fine motor skills needed to pack them into boxes. Wrapping presents, talking and showing sympathy are things we take for granted, but as babies it takes us years to master these skills.

The upshot: don’t expect robots to replace humans any time soon. “We should let people do what we’re good at – and let robots do what they’re good at,” she suggests.

Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap

Business leaders fascinated by talent and growth, should be turning to the 1.3 billion people in the world who have a disability. Yet, even though nine out of 10 companies claim to prioritise diversity, only 4% have specific programmes that are disability inclusive. You can’t become what you don’t see, said Edward Ndopu, a 29-year-old activist and humanitarian talking about the representation of disabled people in the workplace.

Edward Ndopu, United Nations Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, New York – World Economic Forum/Jakob Polacsek

When businesses fail to realise the value that people with disabilities can bring to a company, they are missing out on talent. Ndopu says on top of offering a skill set other workers possess, people with a disability have enormous resilience and tenacity a result of their situation.

Gender parity still work in progress

Strategies for delivering equal representation for women were discussed at Davos today alongside a World Economic Forum report on the issue. A law in France requires at least a third of board members to be female. Nevertheless, Muriel Pénicaud, French Minister of Labour, readily conceded that legislation alone is not enough. A cultural shift is also required in the workplace.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland\rMuriel Pénicaud, Minister of Labour of France – World Economic Forum/Walter Duerst

We have to free men and women from the stereotypes to allow them to have a choice, says Sanna Marin, Finland’s Prime Minister. It’s no coincidence that more women go into the care sector and more men go into the tech sector. Marin also mentioned parental leave and explained that “too few fathers were spending time with their children while they were young.”


News and Research