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Four core capabilities to meet the challenge of Industry 4.0

HR must foster an environment where employees can embrace disruption, rather than succumb to it


Nowhere is the disruption of Industrial 4.0 more likely to be felt than the workplace. (PeopleImages/Getty Images)

In his 1992 book, Managing at the Speed of Change, consultant Daryl Conner speaks of change that is overwhelming, where the speed, volume and complexity of change is so great that many simply shut down. He offers strategies for dealing with such significant change.

Fast forward to 2021 and the word “change” can easily be replaced by “disruption” — radical change to our businesses and our markets.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) has blurred boundaries between physical, digital and biological worlds. It is a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, machine learning, cognitive platforms and other technologies. It is the collective force behind many products and services that we now take for granted.

Think GPS systems, voice-activated virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, and personalized Netflix recommendations. This perfect storm of technologies is paving the way for transformative changes in the way we live and the way we work.

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This is all happening at an unprecedented, whirlwind pace that has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Think of 1992 and speed, volume and complexity.

Nowhere is the disruption of Industrial 4.0 more likely to be felt than the workplace. As with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will profoundly affect people’s lives as AI and increased automation see many types of jobs disappear and, at the same time, entirely new categories of job emerge.

With that in mind, our goal for our employees should be to ensure that they have a positive work experience from the time they hear about us throughout their employment until they leave.

At Dexterra Group, we have developed four core capabilities to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0.

At a high level, these four capabilities can be described as shaping the workforce for the future, nurturing a purpose-driven culture, designing a consumer-grade employee experience, and data and analytics to generate evidence-based insights to help us improve.

Workforce shaping

Workforce shaping will align Dexterra Group’s business and human resource needs to make sure we have the right employees with the right skill sets at the right time to help the business run efficiently, effectively and profitably.

This is our defining challenge. Fifty-six per cent of executives surveyed by KPMG agree that preparing the workforce for digital disruption will be key.  

It means upskilling employees by expanding their abilities and minimizing skill gaps. It means increased use of employee data, critical skills no longer being synonymous with job roles, and prioritizing resilience for the organization as much as efficiency.

Purpose-driven culture

We create value for our employees by promoting a healthy, safe, and inclusive work culture, supporting their career objectives with opportunities for growth and development and by inspiring employees to embrace initiative and drive innovation.

This, in turn, creates an environment where employees can embrace disruption, rather than succumb to it. We have all heard “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

No matter the quality of our strategy, if our culture is not set and accepted, we will have little chance for our strategy to be the huge success it is intended to be.

Employee experience

Generations now entering the workplace expect a consumer-grade experience at work. The employee experience is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization — every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment.

To be clear, employee engagement and employee experience are different.  Engagement is more quantitative, while experience is more qualitative.

Consider an engagement survey that asks: “Here’s what we we’ve decided to do, how happy are you with that decision?” Contrast that with the more qualitative question: “What matter most to you at work?”

In these times, employees are in the driver’s seat. Employers must start to analyze issues and solutions from their point of view, not from the organization’s point of view.

Feel-good surveys are no longer the answer. Instead, we need to develop a picture of what employees feel most strongly about, with emotion being a powerful window into behaviour.

Data and analytics

Data and analytics are the foundation that provide support for workforce shaping, a purpose-driven culture and, most importantly, the employee experience.

Every organization collects information, but it is the analysis of that information that provides the organization with decision-making information.  Typically, the collection of data is after the fact.

Think of turnover. While turnover data may have some value, what if we could predict a resignation and prevent it, saving the hard costs of replacement and training.

The development of evidence-based information that could be predictive is a key to future organizational success.

Most Canadian workplaces currently employ four different generations of workers — boomers, generation X, generation Y and, most recently, generation Z.  Not surprisingly, each of these cohorts brings unique aspects to their approach to working and the workforce.

Our challenge is to create a more employee-centric workplace while delivering business value.

Cindy McArthur is the chief human resources officer at Dexterra Group in Mississauga, Ont.

 

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