Invest in 3 ‘no regret’ capabilities to win in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Employers are still striving to get ‘the right person, in the right job, at the right time’, but if you ask me, we’ve never been so far off.

The impact of digital on the workforce – now and in the future – has long been a hot topic among business leaders, politicians, human resources professionals, unions and consultancy companies.

Most of what is said and written follows the same discourse: Lots of jobs will no longer exist, making current skills and competencies obsolete. New jobs will be created, requiring new skills and competencies. This isn’t anything new. Every revolution has brought similar disruption. The big difference today is that it goes much faster!

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are building on the Third, which whether we like it or not, has somehow failed to deliver on its promise, at least on the people/employee (engagement) side of things.

In my opinion, efficiency gains brought about by the technological advances of the Third Revolution are (at least partially) being canceled out by an increase in absenteeism, illness and burnouts.

The skills match (and gap) is becoming more difficult and wider each year: witness the growing numbers of unemployed people while employers have a lot of open positions they are unable to fill

Social innovation remains small and slow. Why, for example, is a company like Experience@work not growing faster and/or being copied? Why doesn’t an agency like Nestor ( find sufficient companies willing to employ their flexible and experienced 55 to 70 year-old interim workers?

The volatile political and economic climate adds further complexity. Politicians are reluctant to tackle big changes, while trade unions convince their members that they can hang on to the ‘old’ way of working. The market remains focused on short-term results, leaving little or no time to measure the return on investment of most HR initiatives. Recruitment has also not sufficiently evolved. Most interim offices and headhunters (instigated by their clients) remain more focused on technical skills than human skills and personality. Last but not least, we are facing a generational evolution. The need to work longer means we will soon have more (at least four) generations in the workplace at the same time; four very different generations, at different phases of life.

The time to act is now! 

Organizations can already create their workforce of the future by putting their people at the center of change and investing in the following 3 ‘no regret’ capabilities:

  • Leadership (skills) of the future
  • Skills (technical AND human) of the future
  • Work (environment) of the future

The first step is to build a plan, because reskilling will take time. The willpower needed to do this and to also face the fact that some people within your organization may not be reskillable should not be underestimated. But by thinking broadly and looking both inside and outside of your organization, there are plenty of ways to address this:

  • Why not share skills (and employees) between different companies in your ecosystem?
  • Why not identify shortages of skills sets that will be at a premium in the future (for example care workers) and reskill some employees completely?
  • Instead of giving money to NGOs through your CSR practice, why not ‘give’ people?
  • Why not change to a four-day workweek instead of the customary five? More companies than you might think are considering this move. 

More insights? Read 'Harnessing Revolution: Creating the future workforce'

Ready to take action? Feel free to contact me to discuss how we can help you build a concrete and implementable ‘re-skilling’ plan and how Accenture’s Workforce of the Future solutions can support.

Author: Sandra Vandorpe