Strategic HR for a New Industrial Revolution


There’s a rumble in the atmosphere as technical advancements of the last three decades convene together upon something larger than themselves.  Enter the workplace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where the data points we have carefully collected over the past several decades are now connected in ways that would be the envy of The Jetsons.

Will you remain a complacent absorber of the experience or an active channel for change? My guess is you don’t have time to think about it.  “Digital transformation” isn’t in your Human Resources plan, is it?  And I imagine you’re thinking, “we’ve been digital for a long time – so what’s transforming?”

  WE should be transforming.

The Third Industrial Revolution has provided unprecedented access to data, connectivity anytime anywhere, VOIP, video chats, full computer processing functionality literally in a handheld device and more.  Knowledge is in our fingertips.  Thirty years ago we couldn’t have imagined the way we do work today.

  Anticipate – no — FORESEE change. 

You want to be prepared for tomorrow?  Look for trouble.  There’s a notable quote in the book Antifragile by Nassam Nicholas Taleb: “Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”  If we wait for things to get difficult and then react, we may survive.  But we will not thrive.

Right now we need to pause and imagine how we will work 2 years from now, 5 years from now and more.  THAT’s the future we’re talking about – because the pace of change has accelerated exponentially in the last decade – and is only going to be more rapidly disruptive.  If you cannot imagine the future, there’s a good chance your company won’t be in the future.

Reshape Human Resources Management into WORKPLACE ENABLEMENT.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution we will still need to pay people, manage the daily functions of “hire to retire,” attract the right talent and maintain competitive compensation and benefits.  But it’s time for a reimagined department that is focused on enabling the business to excel.

Imagine a future where we are managing more than Human Resources. Robots are already a very real part of the workforce. Earlier this year, a new hotel opened in Nagasaki, Japan, that is run almost entirely by robots.  What impact does that have on HR?  Fewer physical workers?  Yes.  Retraining existing workers?  Yes.  Hiring a different kind of worker?  Yes.  And – to get into the nitty gritty – what about scheduling workers?  I mean – what happens when the robot calls in “sick?”

 The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – where true Digital Transformation propels the business – will rely upon HR leadership to make it successful.  And that is precisely why you need to care about what’s happening with technology and the possibilities of the future workplace.

Here’s five things that can help you to excel in your organizations’ journey to the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  1. An agile org structure with the ability to create focused teams that are given the time, space and resources to achieve success in creating a digital workplace.  The traditional hierarchical model will not provide the flexibility or empowerment needed to support rapid decision making, appropriate levels of risk taking, acknowledgement that transformation is an investment that cannot easily be assessed through traditional cost-benefit analysis.
  2.  A flexible workforce – one that can integrate and adapt quickly to change; a workforce that can shift their skills from a fixed function to constantly changing models for meeting business objectives.  Think less in terms of “Jobs” or “Positions” and more in terms of “Capabilities.”  Create a recruiting strategy focused on the ability to adapt and change more than on textbook knowledge.
  3. Continual learning, assessment and adjustment of capabilities as the new norm. For many workers in business, necessary capabilities in the workforce will be in a constant state of flux.  Profitable management of capabilities will require an agile training program, with tracking and measurement of individual success.  High turnover may actually turn out to be a valuable metric in this capabilities driven workforce.
  4. A modern technology infrastructure and strategy.  You will want to spend less time administering, creating and maintaining complex rules and platforms and more time enabling success in your business units; helping to predict and manage to future needs.
  5. Engagement with others who are future focused, who encourage a future focus, who challenge ideas and are disruptive creators.  Immerse yourself with other thought leaders.

(Originally published on Linked IN )

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