The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us, make no mistake. Like the three preceding globally disrupting revolutions, our generation’s shift is poised to usher in a new era of societal advancement that will completely change the way we operate, function, and live our lives. Industry 4.0 sees humanity take a deep dive into the world of digital that will forever change our approach to the world. Today, digital is pervasive and inescapable. And tomorrow? We’re about to find out.
Industry 4.0 is going to have a colossal impact on our everyday lives as it will bring new opportunities at the expense of what has come before. Not only will it change the way we perform even the most basic and mundane of daily tasks, but it will also have massive implications for the working landscape of tomorrow, and our place within it. Things, people, businesses, opportunities, and even perceptions will change with the injection of binary into every aspect of our lives. However, in the spirit of innovative progress, we must look ahead.
So how is Industry 4.0 set to disrupt and reinvent the workplace of tomorrow? Which industry staples of today are in the crosshairs of digitally-induced redundancy of tomorrow? Some of you reading this may already be feeling the machines breathing down your neck looking to perform many of your work tasks more efficiently, accurately, and more cost-effectively.
Here are some of the major factors that are predicted to shape the future of work.
According to Oxford Economics, almost 20 million global manufacturing jobs could be replaced by robots by 2030. But robotic intervention is not only confined to the manufacturing industry. Recently, McKinsey Global Institute predicted that 45 million Americans (roughly one-quarter of the nation’s workforce) will lose their jobs to automation by 2030.
Currently, basic robotic process automation (RPA) handles many of the tasks associated with administration and back-end office processes that are repeatable and rules-based. There are millions of office assistants and administrative positions under threat of being replaced by robots. But increasingly more responsibility is being given to machines that could impact other areas of the workplace. Outside of the office, automation is impacting the manufacturing, storage, and transportation industries that are edging toward almost complete automation in the not-too-distant future.
This means that the global demand for IT-related jobs will significantly increase in the years to come, while others not in the digital sphere will drop (including farming, agriculture, etc.). Consequently, the need for new digital skills will become highly valuable in the job market of tomorrow.
New jobs, new skills
Rapid growth in technological advancements in the workplace will lead to continuous employee training in order to match the development of machines. Workers who won’t lose their jobs directly due to automation will have to constantly improve their skills and know-how to remain productive. Some reports state that roughly 55% of the world’s workforce will have to acquire new skills, many of which will be routinely redefined according to technological advancements.
But this does not spell doom for the workforce of tomorrow. According to Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the World Economic Forum and head of the Forum’s Center for the New Economy and Society, the ‘robot revolution’ will create nearly 100 million new jobs. This will contribute to the evolving economy and job markets requiring new roles in technology fields and content creation, thus growing the technology, design, and digital media industries tremendously. Additionally, Zahidi sees the demand for green economy jobs will rise dramatically, which will bring along with it an evolution in the data, AI, engineering, cloud computing, and product development fields.
“The up-and-coming jobs highlight the continuing importance of human interaction in the new economy through roles in the care economy; in marketing, sales, and content production; and in roles that depend on the ability to work with different types of people from different backgrounds,” says Zahidi.
The need for ‘humanness’ will grow in value
As technocrats and digital pioneers have always insisted, the machines are here to assist and work alongside us to improve overall efficiency and output quality. This frees up a lot of time for us to focus on more complex tasks that require uniquely human qualities, such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Thus, the demand for ‘humanness’ will rise.
The Future of Jobs, a detailed report conducted by the World Economic Forum, listed the 10 skills essential for finding work in the 4th Industrial Revolution. They are as follows:
- Complex Problem Solving
- Critical Thinking
- People Management
- Coordinating with Others
- Emotional Intelligence
- Judgement and Decision Making
- Service Orientation
- Cognitive Flexibility
As these core human attributes that are difficult to replace continue to be valuable in the future, it holds the promise of a delightfully enlightened society of tomorrow: one that allows more people to utilise their indistinguishably human qualities to chart the course for new industry development and widespread innovation.
According to the report, current jobs that are vulnerable in the future are ones that require lots of physical work and repetitive tasks, leaving the job climate in the retail and trade, admin and office support, accommodation, production, transportation, and manufacturing industries in jeopardy.
Remote work will rise
Thanks to the pandemic, the business world has acknowledged the positive impact remote working can have on remaining productive during a crisis. After all, the businesses that survived the darkest hours of the pandemic’s impact were those that leveraged digital technologies that allowed remote work to continue during lockdown. But remote work is here to stay, and thus the need to be digitally savvy is paramount for all workers of tomorrow.
As business digital transformation becomes a prerequisite, the natural step is to move the majority of the workforce remotely, saving costs along the way. With remote working concepts seeming to be a novelty today will very likely be extremely common tomorrow. This means all jobs relying on digital processes, which is going to be the majority in the future.
As Industry 4.0 looms ever closer, the need for digital upskilling of the everyday worker is crucial for jobs that will not be overtaken completely by automation. Like all industrial revolutions that have come before, a new approach and mindset will be required to meet the new challenges of the unknown future.
Yes, we all must prepare ourselves for widespread digital adoption in almost every aspect of our professional lives, but this digital baptism of sorts must be seen as a vehicle to achieve innovation rather than a binary takeover. We can look forward to an age where our human characteristics of creativity, critical thinking, and emotions will be leveraged to fuel our societal advancements through tech. We will be continuously flexing our EQ muscles and thus creating a future where digital is powered by human creativity, and vice versa. How exciting!