Industry 4.0 is centred around productivity, involving advancements in communication and tech to automate and digitise production, manufacturing, and industrial processes. The key concepts include interconnection, data, integration, innovation, and transition.

Devices are connecting to the cloud and contributing to mass amounts of intelligent data. Businesses of today are using this information to simplify asset management and maintenance, maximise equipment and process efficiency, while improving the quality of products.

Four I’s make up industry 4.0: instrumented, interconnected, inclusive and intelligent and this flows onto Workforce 4.0 or the Workforce of the Future.
Data has become a new revenue stream for all types of industries. The food and beverage sector is another example. Greater flexibility creates more bespoke production, allowing producers to adapt to customers’ changing product specifications to continue innovating. Other sectors applying similar approaches include engineering, the automotive industry, electronics plus information communication technologies.

What does Workforce 4.0 mean for Human Resources?

This has led to a need to reinvent the Human Resources function, making use of data analytics, talent planning and pipelining for regions and industries. The future of job skills are evolving. Workforce 4.0 requires cognitive and physical abilities, process and system skills, content and social capabilities, problem solving abilities, technical aptitude, and efficient resource management.

One company, Festo, is a good example of how they’re nurturing their own talent to become a factory of the future. The manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems, controls and components has embraced Industry 4.0 in their own Scharnhausen Technology Plant factory. Festo Didactic, a company under their umbrella, provides learning factory modules for hands-on training in mechatronics, control technology and automation technology.

Amazon serves as another example. Joseph Sirosh recognised the value of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to reduce fraud, bad debt and the number of customers who didn’t get their goods and suppliers who didn’t get paid. In 10 years, Sirosh grew this niche team to over 1,000 people – who used machine learning to make Amazon more operationally efficient. As a result, the company recorded a 10-fold increase in revenue.

There’s no denying technology’s impact on the workforce. With the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) in all areas of work, companies will need to restructure their attraction, recruitment and selection strategies. Skill improvement in human and technology skills will be the ticket to job security.

Specific technologies will (and are already) enhancing Workforce 4.0. They include agtech and smart farming solutions; AI, machine learning and big data analysis; augmented, mixed and virtual reality; autonomous vehicles and flying cars; IoT, holograms and robotics. Technology will be used to attract and retain talent, exemplified by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). This is a system that helps businesses capture all applicant data and automate the selection process. To retain current talent, technology can be leveraged – such as Candidate Experience, Sentiment Analysis and New Hire Surveys as well as Stay Interviews – all using data gathering methods.

How does Workforce 4.0 impact on education?

Change is also happening across all levels of education – as we start to rethink education systems, incentivising mastery and learning for life, encouraging cross-industry collaboration and multiskilling.  Micro credentialing is an area to watch where education providers produces credentials in the form of digital badges or mini certifications. Working closely with industry bodies, this model can give organisations a modern way to recruit, develop and deploy their people with relevant skills – helping them restructure old business models.

Credentials into consideration that non-formal experience and capability developed through professional practice is just as valuable as formal learning and that this experience must be recognised to meet the requirements of future work.  HR industry leaders also believe there will be a growth in employers investing in their own training content, rather that outlaying thousands for each individual to attend higher education or Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions.

A TAFE Queensland and CSIRO report talks about the importance of the delivery of VET to give students exposure to and confidence with technology, as it’s used in the workplace. TAFE Queensland exceeds the National VET sector in rates of online and remote delivery for health, education, society and culture, and management and commerce.  The report also identified consultation with industry as a new channel to be digitised. This includes one-on-one relationships between training providers and industry representatives to keep courses relevant.

Informal learning will continue to grow in momentum, like xAPI. The Experience API (xAPI) is a new standard that makes it possible to collect data covering the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline). This API captures data in a consistent format about a person or group’s activities from any context, anywhere and anytime that can then be exchanged for formal or informal capability outcomes. This makes it possible for various technologies and systems to safely communicate by capturing and sharing this stream of activities. With xAPI, a lot can be captured – mobile learning, simulations, virtual worlds, serious games, real world activities, experiential learning, social learning, offline learning and collaborative education…. anything!

As part of Australia’s national school curriculum, two subjects are the focus: Digital Technologies, and Design & Technologies. While technologies are made available, it’s not compulsory in schools – leaving it up to the state curriculum and school authorities to decide on when (and how) they’ll be implemented.  For example, the Victorian Department of Education is working with a range of other key stakeholders in order to develop an online tool with information for teachers on terminology, assessment, case studies and lesson plans on the new Digital Technologies curriculum.

What do Workforce 4.0 leaders need?

The biggest industrial workforce change in history is happening now. Today’s Industry 4.0 leaders must:

  • Eagerly raise the bar with a learning orientation, intent on replacing obsolescent processes, materials, and tools
  • Think forward, reimagining processes to delight the customer and predict competitive advantage
  • Grasp the big picture, viewing whole processes, including suppliers, customers and all agile components in between
  • Be an Extreme-lean practitioner, committed to creating smoother changeovers, shorter delivery times, and higher customer values
  • Apply analytics to predict and avoid waste.

How can you learn more about Workforce 4.0?

The World Economic Forum explores more about the fourth industrial revolution in the Future of Jobs Global Challenge Insight Report. A recent TED Talk highlights how the world’s largest economies will have more jobs than people to fill them. One article goes into ‘Service 4.0’ and how it will reduce high levels of waste.

Workforce BluePrint have created experiences and resources to help companies and industries including education to make the shift. The Workforce of the Future Masterclass is a one day program that explores the impact of Industry 4.0 on the attraction, recruitment, retention and development of staff. Following a simple systemised approach called Take Action, these four 90-minute interactive sessions are perfect for organisations, industries or regions to understand and create the Workforce 4.0 that you require.

If you’d like to learn more about the Workforce of the Future, please contact Wendy Perry at wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au.

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