The Fourth Industrial Revolution - what it means for people in business

Westray Recruitment Consultants, Headline Sponsors of People Power 2020, on what the Fourth Industrial Revolution means for your business.

Across the globe, we’re faced with the transformational effects of the fourth industrial revolution, bringing inherent opportunities for individuals to flourish, and for both society and the economy to prosper. Crucially, these are opportunities, not guarantees. As automation continues to develop at a faster and faster rate, questions will be asked of you and your staff in roles most susceptible to automation. Chief among them, are you ready to change?

The ‘Future of Jobs Report’ (World Economic Forum, 2018) offers cause for optimism. Augmentation – the potential for new technologies to vastly improve job quality and productivity/efficiency by supplementing the work of existing human employees – will create a range of new tasks and livelihoods for human workers. Concurrent to this however, is that technological advancement will reduce the number of workers required for certain work tasks.

Research found that demand for new roles will offset the decreasing demand for others, making a need for significant investment in developing new skills for workers globally abundantly clear. Governments must adopt an enabling role in ensuring that this investment is possible (and works) and you too must be proactive in reskilling or upskilling your workforce so that the business can most effectively take advantage of the possibilities of augmentation. As well as being better placed to take advantage of augmentation, businesses must ensure that existing skills gaps at every level don’t actually hamper the adoption of new technology.

The meteoric rise in the popularity of e-learning is also set to continue as businesses across the globe realise the cost-effectiveness and quality of training available via self-paced e-learning programmes. Time-savings are clear too, with e-learning requiring 40-60% less employee time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom setting (Brandon Hall Group, 2019). Promising too, is the establishment of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace the European Social Fund we lose access to as Britain departs the EU. The ESF provided more than £358m of funding to SME businesses to promote ‘skills for growth’ in the 5 years up to 2019 and the government have committed to replacing this funding in its entirety. It remains to be seen how this fund will be administered once enacted, whether by the individual nations making up the UK or centrally from Westminster but it’s at least encouraging that the funding will continue.

Clearly then, the potential for technology to enhance productivity across virtually all sectors is something which you and your businesses need to take advantage of, but you also need the human workforce to be capable of working with and running this technology too. Bespoke, high quality e-learning platforms can certainly facilitate this and whether this comes at a cost to businesses or via government funding, it’s imperative that both you and your staff embrace the need for life-long learning and a commitment to working with technology rather than against it or face automation rather than augmentation of their roles. Once you’ve identified the technologies most likely to augment your operation and enhance productivity, the next step is a thorough understanding of your workforce and the training that different departments and individual staff will need. Both of these steps are crucial to continued business success and early adopters will almost certainly see the competition fall behind.

Westray Recruitment Consultants are proudly family-owned and run and have served the recruitment needs of businesses and inhabitants of the North-East for almost 30 years. We are delighted to be headline sponsors of People Power 2020 and are passionate advocates of the key themes of the event.