Preparing for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

Posted in : HR Updates on 11 April 2018
Claire McKee
Clarendon Executive
Issues covered:

Clarendon Executive’s Claire McKee says that whilst robots are no substitutes for people, as we move further towards ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ there is a requirement for successful organisations to accept change and invest more heavily in the ‘human capital’ agenda, visionary leaders and technology advancements.

The fourth Industrial Revolution’ refers to the smart operational systems of the future that will incorporate new innovations such as Artificial Intelligence and chatbots, Big Data, augmented reality, simulation and the Cloud.

Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents opportunities but also challenges ahead. How can businesses harness this new innovative age and deliver in what is an increasingly complex, competitive and dynamic business environment?

The ‘Human Capital’ agenda        

From an HR perspective, the wider business debate should shift from a focus on profit and profitability to considering the ‘human capital’ agenda, and the workforce composition and skills requirements of the future in their organisation. There must be recognition that they will be dealing with a multi-generational, multi-skilled workforce with different wants, needs and expectations.

The traditional view of what makes a good employee might for example need to shift, with an even greater emphasis on softer skills such as emotional intelligence and social awareness – attributes that, for the moment at least, can’t be matched by a robot. Increasingly businesses will need employees who can learn, who can share, and who can build good relationships with colleagues inside and outside of the organisation.

A solutions-focused working culture within the firm that encourages innovation and learning will also be essential for facilitating opportunities for growth and maintaining competitiveness in what will be a changing job market.

By investing in the potential of your workforce at all stages of the employee lifecycle, companies should reap the benefits of a secure pipeline of productive, innovative and experienced employees who continue to adapt and deliver over time.

So, what practical investment is required to achieve this? From an HR perspective it is important to recognise and promote on-the-job training opportunities and, where possible, maximise informal peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

Better understanding of business training needs and strategies is critically important for putting in place the right incentive structure to optimise reskilling opportunities. Businesses can support this process by clearly articulating their skill needs and training plans.

In addition, companies - particularly SMEs who are less likely for budgetary and resource reasons to participate in more formal training courses - might also consider the use of job rotation programs to bolster skills, as well as providing opportunities for adult apprentices, benefiting from experienced labour at reduced costs.

Visionary leaders

According to the World Economic Forum, as we transition further into the digital age, it is the responsibility of business leaders to “navigate these changes with integrity and to provide “positive, impactful leadership” as the business landscape takes a new shape.

The role of the leader has never been as important or demanding as it is today. Leaders at all levels must deliver consistent, sustainable results in leaner organisations and get things done day to day with fewer resources. As well as ensuring that the right people with the right skills are in the right roles, we need a different kind of leader for the digital revolution – ones that can successfully manage employees who are working remotely, and ones that understand how to measure and reward in a virtual workplace in order to deliver optimum results.

Once again, we’ll see the more ‘human’ traits of leaders come to the fore, with those displaying emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to engage their people flourishing in this new environment.

Technology advancements

In order to deliver on all the above, organisations must commit to innovating in the areas of recruitment and talent acquisition, leveraging the power of technology to enhance those processes.

HR will need to be a true enabler of the change that business demands- moving from the provision of transactional HR services to higher value strategic engagement, using analytics and metrics to shape HR strategy and develop evidence-based decision making and investment decision in relation to the ‘human capital agenda’.

The more channels organisations make available to candidates, the broader the access to talent. Organisations and their HR teams must get future-ready for the inevitable demographic tilt and ensure that recruitment processes are aligned with the channel preferences of millennials, as well as leverage available technology to solve challenges and secure the right talent for the long term.

Technology implementation requires a culture shift from the top down, led by those who model the right mindset and behaviours to drive transformation and innovation.

A final word

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is forcing companies to re-examine the way they do business. Now more than ever business leaders and senior executives need to understand and plan for their changing environment in the knowledge that talent, more than capital, and a relentless commitment to continuous innovation will represent the greatest barometers of future success.


This article is correct at 11/04/2018

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Claire McKee
Clarendon Executive

The main content of this article was provided by Claire McKee. Contact telephone number is 028 9072 5750 or email

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