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The Industry 4.0 and the role of HR

Time is running fast, has been long time ago, when I presented last article on LinkedIn. This time allow me to face with new challenges with our clients and in short, I can summarize this last 3 months of intensive HR projects related with transformation impact of technologies in the business world. It’s a matter of fact that nowadays technologies are able to influence almost all business areas. Indeed, HR needs to become even more strategic and creative in the age of industry 4.0 as more routine and administrative HR tasks fall away due to automation. Nothing new. I agree with you but let me continue.

When we talk about industry 4.0 we mean the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Like the skilled workers of the first industrial revolution, today’s factory and back office workers are seeing tasks once managed by humans handed over to robots and Artificial Intelligence bots. They are hearing about the factory of the future. And they are wondering what role they will play in the new operating model.

I had the chance to talk with some of my clients about this topic. In general CEO’s and Executives recognize that the adoption of Industry 4.0, will require a massive transition in employee skills, recruitment and training. They understand that, very well, especially considering the fact that turn into such sophisticate automatized World is costly in term of time and financial resources, so the next challenge is related with a good pilot to deal with that. A pilot? Yes sir, do you think you can became a champion in a Formula 1 just because you have the best car in term of technology? You win when there is a combination of tech and pilot, the human being, the HR.

The challenge is significant. HR leaders will need to identify the new skills and capabilities that will realistically be required in the future. Those current employees willing and able to be upskilled and retrained will need to be identified. New talent will need to be attracted, retained and integrated into the business. New ways of working will need to be developed and formalized. And, all the while, the factory floor will need to keep operating and the business will need to keep growing.

Not surprisingly, manufacturing executives are struggling to develop a realistic and practical roadmap for driving this transformation over the next five years. Some of them, want to move too quickly for fear of disruption -and that the hype of industry 4.0 may not live up to reality-…but nobody wants to be left behind-technologically, commercially or in the race for talent. This is the Formula 1 dilemma that company are facing nowadays.

In this perspective, while top management certainly understood the significance of Industry 4.0, few believed that their individual employees fully understood how their contributions helped drive the success of the organization. Better communication, education and training will be needed. What is sure is that Industry 4.0 might be a potential competitive differentiator, supporting their company as a trendy place to work-technologically advanced, data-driven and highly innovative – to attract new talent to the industrials sector.

As understood, there will be enormous managerial leadership challenges as the impact of technology: it is the role of leaders to guide their teams and to be mindful of these forces when making business decisions that would impact on the sustainability of their organisations. They should thus grasp the opportunity and power so as to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects the organisation values and success.

If somebody thinking that no matter what we are talking about, the time for such ‘revolution’ is not coming so far, I just would like to presented some data I found on PWC report about Industry 4.0: “in 5 years, 80% of company will have digitalized their chain”, and “industrial internet and data analysis will create 18% in increasing efficiency in the next 5 years”, “by 2020 EU companies will invest about 140 Billion Euro/yearly in industrial internet application”.

Now, we can be skeptics, keep watching as spectators in the stands what happens, keep safe and do not risk anything, or we can now start our process of evolution that involves both the technological part and the human. To you, gentlemen, the choice!

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