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As a society, we are on the precipice of The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and we are only just beginning to understand the radical effects it will have on the way we communicate, live and work. Groundbreaking technological advancements are disrupting almost every industry across the globe, and the extent of these changes bring with them the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance.

While the scope is huge for the creation of entirely new industries, job roles and expertise, this also presents a looming threat of redundancy within these areas, as current processes are made obsolete by revolutionary technology.

So the question is: are we adequately preparing our businesses and current workforce for life in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Jessica Knight, a Strategic Manager at CURA Software Solutions, states that the velocity, scope and systems impact of the 4IR creates both risks and significant opportunities for businesses and individuals within the workforce. While risk is rife, adapting to change presents the potential for untold success for your organisation: “The speed of breakthroughs is increasing exponentially, at a rate unlike we have ever seen before. Competitor tenacity – spearheaded by access to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution – can easily overshadow well-established companies, who no longer outrank others based on the quality, speed, or price at which value is delivered.”

She adds, “The opportunity this brings is the ability to elevate your business and eradicate the restrictions that global boundaries present – such as working across time zones and geographic locations. This is driven by unprecedented access to information and processing power, which is amplified by technological breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), nanotechnology, robotics, 3D printing and more. Conversely, technological innovations present a huge risk to less agile companies and industries, who face the prospect of being left behind.”

Because of the rapid rate of technological innovation, it is hard to anticipate the extent of the change the 4IR will bring about for businesses and their employees. Many industries are experiencing the introduction of new technologies and capabilities that create entirely new ways of serving existing needs. Knight says, “The reality is that children entering primary school today will work in jobs that don’t yet exist in our current business environment. In order for the next generation – and indeed today’s generations – to be successful, digital skills are non-negotiable. School curricula and job training must implement digital capabilities frameworks, where adaptive learning, critical thinking and understanding analytics is key to success.”

Knight goes on to say that the onus is not just on companies to adapt to avoid redundancy, but on employees, too. “Fundamental to keeping up with rapid transition to the unknown of the future is providing employees with the opportunity to identify their own career trajectory, and then working alongside them to refine their skills, in order to remain relevant and abreast of technology trends. In order to do this, adaptability and agility are required competencies; we will have to learn new skills but also set aside ones that are no longer required. Teams must be prepared to use tools to collaborate over distance and to transcend geographical boundaries to maximise on efficiency. Thriving in the 4IR requires innovation and creativity in how people and businesses apply the vast amounts of information available to them, and market themselves in such a way that that is not replicable by other individuals and organisations.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is forcing companies to re-examine the way they do business, as well as re-evaluate how they facilitate the development of their employees. Organisations must relentlessly and continuously innovate, and the response to this catalytic technological shift must be integrated, comprehensive, dynamic and adaptive. Knight concludes that an organisation’s potential for success comes down to people and values. “The 4IR presents a shining time for the dynamic capability of both individuals and organisations, and in the near future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. In the development of a truly global marketplace for human capital, companies must take responsibility for ensuring their employees are equipped with the latest skills necessary in order to remain competitive.”