Welcome to the future

Read time 7min 10sec

Welcome to the Fourth IndustrialRevolution (4IR). It’s the great discussion. The ultimate business reset. Thedigital frontier for new skills and new ways of working and thinking. It’sintelligence and transformation. It’s redefining the shape of engagements andemployees. And it is ensuring that the organisation is capable of moving at thespeed required to gain the scale and agility it needs to thrive in a constantlychanging business landscape. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, the world is in the midst of a global reskilling emergency. Yes, approximately 133 million new jobs could be created by 4IR by next year, but who will do them? What skills are missing? And what should companies be doing to fix the problem?

The first point, according to McKinsey, is ‘intentional learning’. Organisations and people need to learn new skills, constantly, to keep their feet paddling through the detritus left behind by the pandemic, rapid digitisation, and even more rapid modernisation. Unlike ducks, the surface view isn’t smooth. People are battling to find their feet as their skills become redundant. To help your people and your business dodge that oncoming 4IR train, you have to remind them of the value of learning and give them opportunities to undertake that learning. In short, build a culture of intentional learning within the organisation by providing employees with reskilling programmes that fill business gaps and fulfil career goals.

A recent whitepaper released by Yellowwood, entitled ‘Africa’s opportunity in the future world of work’, points out that companies benefit from having a highly skilled workforce while employees are looking to leverage all of their skills to maximise their earnings. The report also unwraps another skillset that’s considered to be vital in the new era of digital work – emotional intelligence. The shoulder pad, high-hair, string tie, hardcore, no emotions, just work ethos doesn’t, well, work. This became abundantly clear over the past year when traditional models of working, mashed together with digital and remote working, did little more than ignite wide-scale burnout.The Global Leadership Forecast 2021 found that 60% of leaders were showing signs of burnout on a daily basis, alongside 86% of high-potential employees.

Technical nous

The soft skills of empathy, understanding and cognitive flexibility are those that are more likely to create a culture that’s strong enough to withstand the complexities of an uncertain future. These skills are not, as myth and legend would have it, only for touchy-feely startups or crazed billionaire entrepreneurs. They’re the hallmarks of successful leadership.

Society will begin valuing jobs that are uniquely human and require a high degree of empathy.

Refilwe Maluleke, Yellowwood

Additional skills that are worthy of the business stepping into 4IR confidently also include complex problem-solving, creativity, people management, negotiation, adaptability, technical skills, digital proficiency, and data-based decision-making. Technical nous and rich digital skillsets will always be invaluable to an organisation, especially in the current global skills shortage, but these can be trained, learned, taught. The skills that will really shape success in the future are those that tap into what it means to be human – a good human.


Brainstorm: Why are 4IR skills so important?

Kerry Morris, CEO, The Tower Group: To design, develop, implement and operate 4IR technologies, some serious technical skill is required, yet this will not be the gamechanger everyone is looking for. Adaptability – this is the single most important skill required in any organisation, from CEO to shopfloor. It’s that simple.

Alfie Hamid, regional manager, Corporate Affairs, Cisco: Talent is global; digitisation is levelling the playing field for digital workers around the world, independent of geographic location, language, socio-economic level, or proficiency in technology. So, people have a choice, and with the right skills and connectivity, they can be part of the global job market.

Andrew Sutherland, senior VP: Technology, EMEA, Oracle: We will have new tools and technologies available, and we need to make sure we’re using them to create the best value for society. Many current roles just won’t be needed.

Juliet Mhango, chief human capital, diversity and transformation officer, Cell C: These skills are important in understanding the needs of your customer – to offer and package products and services that they want and need – as well as service them in a way they prefer.

Brainstorm: What happens to the company that doesn’t pay attention?

Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD, ManpowerGroup South Africa: Already there’s a notable difference between superstar organisations, such as Amazon, that are reaping the benefits of digitalisation efforts before the pandemic. As such, companies that are investing in digitalisation, workforce skills and innovation now, are already capturing a greater market share and benefiting employees and customers.

Steve Briggs chief sales and marketing officer, SEACOM: Companies that don’t pay attention to skills development will fall behind in competitiveness, their ability to attract and retain talent, and may very well go out of business.

Priscilla Rampathi, MD, Altron People Solutions: If organisations fail to understand that their people are the drivers and supporters of technological advancement, chances are that their systems and processes will fall short of expectations and they will probably face high attrition rates, with staggering IP and financial losses. Investing in 4IR skills also addresses the social responsibility aspect that companies are required to embark on.

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, director: Solutions Engineering, and lead technologist at VMware Sub-Saharan Africa: Companies without the desired skills among their employees will be stuck punching time cards when others are using hovercrafts.

Seugnet van den Berg, executive director, Bizmod: This is not a case of keeping up with the Joneses.Rather, it’s ensuring you can operate and thrive as an organisation in an environment that will look vastly different in a few years’ time.

Brainstorm: How can a company build the skills it needs?

Portia Thokoane, chief human capital officer, Dark Fibre Africa: Success in the 4IR will be about more than just technology skills – from an early age, children must be taught to solve complex problems, to think critically, to be creative, capable of working together with others, be emotionally intelligent, and be flexible and adaptable. These types of skills, often dubbed ‘soft’, will elevate the results that we can achieve to incredible levels. It will also help us to sustainably address real-world problems and challenges that technical skill will never be able to solve.

Siyabonga Madyibi, executive director: Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft South Africa: The skills development journey is a long one, and public-private partnerships play a critical role in accelerating digital transformation, and through a combination of partnerships with government, academia, businesses, non-profits and citizens, we can build an enabling training ecosystem to meet the challenge.

Marilyn Moodley, South African country leader, SoftwareONE: When you focus on training your employees, you won’t have to disrupt your productivity to teach new workers the appropriate skills and systems. Additionally, you will save on recruiting expenses, which could be used to train and certify existing employees instead.

Charl Coetsee, business unit manager: automation and integration, First Technology Digital: For a company to build the skill necessary for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it will need to understand what the revolution entails.

Colin Timmis, general country manager, Xero South Africa: For businesses that are struggling to hire external talent, focus on upskilling tech champions in your current teams. Even if your budget is modest, look at what skills you currently have in your organisation that can be built on and make use of free online training.

Liesel Dentlinger, group director: HR, Omnia: Businesses must be discerning in their hiring process, taking a holistic approach to assessment, but it’s also imperative that they make the right learning and development opportunities accessible.

* This feature was first published in the July edition of ITWeb's Brainstorm magazine.

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