Surviving the 4th industrial revolution (Industry 4.0); ready or not, here it comes


My desire to work in the corporate world was heavily influenced by my mother, who has over thirty years’ experience. She began her career as a secretary and was an expert at using the typewriter machine, a mechanical machine for typing characters. At the time, typewriters, telephones and fax machines were cutting-edge workplace tools. She tells me that for many decades nothing much changed in the world of work – and then everything exploded at a breakneck speed.

The introduction of computers caused a major disruption at her workplace. Suddenly everyone had to reskill to stay relevant. Those who couldn’t upskill either resigned because they couldn’t cope with change or were eventually made redundant.

Most people perceive change as a threat, and members of the world’s workforce are no different particularly when it comes to adapting the changes that are technology-powered. The main concern is the fear that automation will replace people. However, since beginning of the 18th century the world has experienced three industrial revolutions which were spurred by a novel and disruptive technology.

These changes are referred to as revolutions because they completely transformed how goods were produced and work was done. These changes heightened the fears of people in the world of work; and in the face of fear, humans either choose to fight or take flight. For instance, during the second industrial revolution a group of weavers in Britain chose to fight in literal terms. They started a riot and destroyed machinery because they lost their jobs to large factories.

Here is a quick run-through of the three industrial revolutions;

The First Industrial Revolution began in 1760 and witnessed the exponential growth of machines that were powered by water and steam. Reading and writing were desired skills in this era, since printers were able to use steam-power to print newspapers and books cheaply.

The Second Industrial Revolution began in 1870, which saw the replacement of water steam with electricity to power machines. This birthed the innovation of the assembly line and introduction of mass production for cars, refrigerators and telephones.

The Third Industrial Revolution ushered in the speed of computers and was also known as the digital revolution. It was categorised by the introduction of information technology, electronic devices and electric automation. For workers to stay relevant in this era, they were required to know how to use a computer, typewriter, fax machine, comptometer, etc.

Currently, the world is neck-deep into a new revolution that can either be seen as threat to people’s usual way of work or a call to actively make learning, reskilling and upskilling a daily career goal. Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)

In 2015, the world of work transitioned into the 4th industrial Revolution – also known as Industry 4.0. By advancing connectivity and AI, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the computer and Internet age. This term was coined by Klaus Schwab at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos. Industry 4.0 will bring together our physical, digital and biological worlds.

Artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and The Internet of Things are becoming ingrained in our daily lives – to the point where even our basic human features are being merged seamlessly with technology, in terms of voice-activated virtual assistants, face ID recognition and healthcare sensors.

The Boston Consulting Group has identified nine technological pillars of the 4th Industrial revolution: namely artificial intelligence, system integration, 3D-printing, Big Data & Analytics, simulation, the Internet of Things, autonomous robots, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and augmented reality.

How Industry 4.0 will impact tomorrow’s workforce

The fourth industrial revolution will continue to disrupt the way we live, communicate and work. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, the combined impact of automation and COVID-19 will result in the displacement of 85 million jobs by 2025. Half of the jobs that are expected to stay will require reskilling. The report also implies that both the youth and business professionals must build futuristic and resilient skills that will help them adapt and thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

As per research, Deloitte states that organisations continue to struggle in ensuring their workforces possess the skills needed to succeed in an Industry 4.0 environment: only a fifth of executives completely assert that their organisations are currently ready for the fourth industrial revolution.

While these figures may appear depressing, they might simply represent a shift in the workforce and displaced employees may be able to take on more beneficial roles with the right skills. Below are my top-five career skills to help you survive Industry 4.0.

  1. Data Analytics: Millions of businesses rely on big data to succeed and provide better service to their customers. According to Forbes, unstructured data is one of the top challenges for nearly 95% of businesses worldwide. Data management and data analysis are at the heart of all the transformation and innovation that we are witnessing in Industry 4.0. Data scientists are in high demand globally, and in almost every industry from logistics and e-commerce to health care and banking.
  1. Cybersecurity: As many organisations prepare to operate in Industry 4.0, they become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Every day, approximately 30,000 websites are hacked – with a new attack occurring somewhere on the Internet every 39 seconds. As a result, many businesses are devoting increasing resources – in terms of time, money and talent – to detecting and preventing cyberattacks. Demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is growing faster than the rate at which people are gaining the necessary skills. Deloitte predicts that there are over 700,000 cybersecurity positions to be filled.
  1. Digital Marketing: In today’s world, consumers are extremely reliant on digital platforms for a variety of purposes, including online shopping and streaming. For entrepreneurs, be it large- or small-scale entrepreneurs, the traditional method of marketing as we know it will not be enough to keep businesses afloat. Hence, every entrepreneur needs to acquire some basic skills in digital marketing to stay relevant.

Digital marketing is booming – and just as the importance of online media grows, so does the significance of digital marketing. A successful digital marketer must be able to think analytically, be creative, and make data-informed decisions.

A career in digital marketing, though very popular in recent times, is a never-ending learning curve. It entails working in a fast-paced environment where something new is always on the horizon; meaning digital marketers must stay current on new tools and changing guidelines governing the various channels. Lifelong learning is unquestionably an important aspect of their job.

4. Soft Skills: Soft skills are the ability to interact, communicate and collaborate with a variety of people such as coworkers, clients and leaders. Even in the face of artificial intelligence, machines are unable to replace essential human skills. The World Economic Forum predicts that critical thinking and problem-solving top the list of skills that will grow in prominence over the next five years. Other relevant soft skills include creativity, complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence and people management. In simple terms, a robot cannot be a team leader.

  1. Technical Skills:Technical skills represent the knowledge and capabilities required to perform job-specific tasks. Even though it is expected that the fourth industrial revolution will displace many jobs, it is also expected that new jobs will be created due to technology. This implies that there will be a demand for skilled professionals who possess technical skills such as computer programming, coding, project management, financial management and technology-based skills.

Although there is a growing concern that Industry 4.0 will replace people with machines and robotics, the fourth industrial revolution will be people-powered according to Mckinsey. While robots may be better at quickly, efficiently and safely completing physical predictable tasks, they aren’t better at everything. Currently, most robots lack social and cognitive skills – and this is where humans come in.

To survive in the fourth industrial revolution as business professionals we must be forward-thinking and rethink how we approach our careers, as well as develop a passion for continuous learning, upskilling and reskilling. Whether you are ready or not, Industry 4.0 is here and the world will not wait for you to catch up.

About the writer

Joseph is a seasoned marketing professional who is passionate about marketing and mentoring the next generation of corporate leaders. He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), United Kingdom.

Email: [email protected]

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