Fourth Industrial Revolution

4IR, Industry 4.0

There’s been a lot of talk about Brexit and we are all grappling with the questions and implications for our businesses big and small, but the risk is that if we narrow our focus to reacting to this immediate challenge we could miss the bigger one already coming down the track, namely the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR, Industry 4.0).

“The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” – Professor Klaus Schwab.

This revolution means that the complexities, challenges and opportunities that organisations and leaders are facing are much broader and more universal than we have ever imagined. With this level of change comes huge uncertainty for sure but also potentially massive oportunities for those who are willing to take a more proactive approach.

The Future

When I talk to colleagues about the changes that could be on the horizon they point to a number of key fears for themselves and their organisations:

The Robots

Robots are going to take our jobs.

Personal Skills

Skills that we have spent years developing will no longer be relevant.

Organization changes

Organizations will have to change command and control doesn’t cut it in this new world.

Robots are going to take our jobs

This was a key discussion point at the World Economic Forum in January. The conclusion of IBM Chief Executive Ginni Rometty was optimistic; her view as part of a panel discussion was that advances in AI (artificial intelligence) will lead to job losses yes, but new forms of employment will take their place.

“It’s not man or machine,” she said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. Our purpose is to augment and be in service of what humans do.”

Ms. Rometty acknowledged some jobs will become obsolete because of AI, history though, has demonstrated that technological breakthroughs lead to new employment opportunities, she said. “There’s so much fear about jobs,” she said. “But most of us will be working with these systems.”

Skills that we have spent years developing will no longer be relevant

The Manpower Group, one of the world’s largest recruitment and resourcing companies released their report in January of this year entitled “The Skills Revolution” detailing how the technological revolution is going to change the employment market forever as a result of interviewing 18,000 employers in 43 countries. The report suggests that there will be a decrease in headcount or slow growth in some areas but overall it will actually create a lot of jobs too. Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO at Manpower Group says:

“We are seeing the emergence of a skills revolution where helping people upskill and adapt to a fast changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time. Those with the right skills will increasingly call the shots, create opportunities and choose how, where and when they work”.

He went on to say “now is the time for leaders to be responsive and responsible: we cannot slow the rate of technological advance or globalization, but we can invest in employees’ skills to increase the resilience of our people and organizations. Individuals also need to nurture their learnability: their desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable”. The report also points out that skills cycles are shorter than ever and 65% of the jobs that Gen Z will perform do not even exist yet.

Organizations will have to change command and control doesn’t cut it in this new world

‘The How Report’ a new cross industry statistical analysis of 16,000 employees spanning 17 countries, offers an alternative view on the way forward. It shows that self governing organizations, those that are purpose driven and give people autonomy and flexibility to do their best work are poised to achieve the best results in this new working world.

So, change is coming. Not new news but we need to take off the Brexit blinkers or we’ll miss it. We have a choice to give into fear or to embrace this extreme change and harness it to ensure a real focus on humanisation of leadership, on creating more purpose driven organisations with employees who are focused on increasing their skills. Doesn’t sound all bad does it?

Join Us

28th February 2017 – The Royal Academy of Arts, MayfairIf you fancy joining a lively breakfast discussion on the topic then join us on February 28th, 2017 in central London when we will be running a dynamic, interactive working session to scope out implications for HR. We will focus on how our strategies to get, grow and keep talent need to evolve in a climate of constant change and uncertainty, as well as the critical role leaders have to play as organisations navigate often stormy and uncharted waters.

28th of February, 2017, Time: 8:00am – 10:00am

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