Preparing for the New World of Work
The first, second, and third industrial revolutions were built around some form of energy: The first was fueled by steam, the second by electricity, and the third by nuclear power. Enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by smart, autonomous systems that use data and machine learning as their fuel.
Requirements for different skill sets are becoming more prevalent. Job functions are starting to look a lot different as more companies begin to adopt new technologies such as robots, cobots, artificial intelligence, and big data into their supply chains.
Today’s workplace faces significant disruption and begs the question: What should businesses be doing to embrace these changes? Companies need to stay people-centric by envisioning what their business will look like in a future automated world. See which functions computers can’t do and how the workforce can integrate as opposed to being replaced by new technologies.
Specific jobs no doubt will be replaced because robotics and automation can perform many mundane work functions. Instead, look at roles that you can improve or augment rather than replace. Consider, for example, implementing RFID tags on your inventory items. The job function of scanning the items will still exist, but efficiency and visibility will improve through the advanced line of sight and read rates available in RFID technology. The business benefit is significant without any impact on the worker’s job.
Augmented reality (AR) technology can also improve your pickers’ efficiency. AR enables them to visualize exactly where a product is in the warehouse, saving time. AR used for staff training can dramatically reduce costs as staff can log in from anywhere in the world and learn how to operate heavy machinery or robotic tools. No more expensive flights, accommodations, and training room costs. These are examples of how you can integrate technology in your workplace without losing your human capital.
The Future Is In Data
Since data is the key driver in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, data scientists and analysts will be in massive demand, as will robotic and technology experts. Cybersecurity specialists are and will be in high demand. Internet of Things devices and sensors come with incredible risk, so securing your supply chain from cyberterrorism will be a necessity.
Current roles are also evolving. The buyer of yesterday was skilled in transaction processing, while the buyer of tomorrow needs to understand commodity markets and have strong negotiation skills.
Freeing up time spent on mundane tasks will allow your staff to focus on more essential projects such as exploring new opportunities and building relationships with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Technology is unlikely to replace soft skills because robots can’t show empathy, nor do they possess a moral compass (yet). Jobs related to building relationships are increasingly critical to a successful business and will always be in demand.
With all this in mind, encourage your employees to be flexible and to adapt their skill set to include soft skills such as relationship building and problem solving. Encourage them to embrace the changes coming their way and show them how they will fit into the broader business.
Ensure employees understand that the "future of work" is not a robot apocalypse but an era of human-to-machine collaboration. Companies need to look at how the future of their workforce and the future of their technologies align. Stay flexible in your approach and continue to evaluate priorities and tactics to evolve your future business and workforce structures effectively.