The Demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos included the Fourth Industrial Revolution as one of its primary themes in 2016. The Fourth Industrial Revolution centres on the blurring of lines between the physical and digital spheres. We are looking at a phenomenon that has the scope to disrupt production and organisational systems across the globe.
What is different about this revolution is the speed at which the change is taking place. Digital automation is taking over repetitive and mundane tasks at an exponential rate, often performing better than humans with lower margins of error. This gives us the opportunity to take up more productive and creative roles, rather than jobs that can be automated.
Companies need to ensure that they are ready to embrace these disruptive changes emerging across industries. A key step in this direction is to build an adaptable workforce, one that evolves with the changing technological scenario. This future workforce should have a whole new skill set that goes beyond proficiency in a particular task. In fact, the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report that surveyed IT and business executives found that “deep expertise for the specialized task at hand” was only the fifth most important characteristic required for people to do well in a digital work environment. They ranked ‘ability to quickly learn’ and ’ability to multitask’ or ‘willingness to embrace change’ higher.
Here is how to start with building an adaptable workforce:
Firms should develop training programmes that are not just an ad-hoc requirement, but a continuous aspect of the organisation. This will allow them to create the kind of skilled workforce they require, rather than wait for it to emerge. This also helps in keeping the workforce updated with upcoming innovations. They are also an investment towards enabling your old workforce acquire the skills required to transition into the digital age. And when your teams are armed with the right skills, it is possible for them to identify the opportunities created by changing technology and act on them much faster than the competition. For example, GE’s FastWorks methodology, that embeds lean startup practices into the workforce, “enabled it to build a new regulation-compliant diesel engine for ships nearly two years ahead of its competitors”*.
The second element that firms need to incorporate is “agility”. This means the project teams and companies themselves, should be able to change directions and adapt to every major innovation in their industry. Companies have to give up the age old rigid division of work, and create free flowing structures that enable the people to move between tasks and projects, contributing their skills wherever required. An agile workforce is one that is built for change, and will bring in immense rewards in the digital age.
The Future of Jobs, Executive Summary document states that “Firms can no longer be passive consumers of ready-made human capital. They require a new mindset to meet their talent needs and to optimize social outcomes.” This is exactly why they need to reconsider hiring policies and prioritise the search for talent that is in sync with an evolving technological landscape. This new workforce of the future has been aptly described as the “Liquid Workforce” in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2016. This workforce needs to be, above all, a free flowing entity that will mould itself according to the needs of the time. And in a digital age, it is set to become a huge competitive advantage.
According to the 2015 Talent Shortage Survey by the Manpower Group, 38 percent of global businesses are struggling to find the right talent. We have our work cut out for us. At Arrows Group Global, we work towards finding talent that has the essential qualities to become a part of your ‘workforce of the future’. Working together, we can ensure that the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a world characterised by new opportunities that demand scientific and creative expertise, rather than replaceable cogs in a wheel.
*Accenture Liquid Workforce Technology Vision 2016