Did you know that back in the 17th century, the word “computer” was used to refer to “a human being who calculates”? It is a far cry from our understanding of the word today. And like how the meaning of “computer” has changed over the years, the definition of work is also undergoing a rapid shift with the arrival of Industry 4.0. Question is, how can we keep our career growth on track regardless of the changing times?
Actually, the phenomenon of change is nothing new. Over the course of history, human beings have continuously designed and produced machines to take over our work; the machines then went on to do the work of human beings. Accordingly, various predictions were made about the number of jobs that would be lost during each industrial revolution. Yet, human ingenuity has always resulted in the creation of more new jobs than the amount of workers displaced.
So even as we look at the shifts – both past and present – as disruptions, we should also learn to appreciate the demonstration of human resilience. Entering Industry 4.0, we can expect history to repeat itself – except, possibly at an increasingly faster pace.
Sure, we can choose to do nothing and simply look on as transformation unfolds, hoping that we will not be displaced. But why take the back seat when we can be in the driver’s seat to explore the many exciting new opportunities Industry 4.0 presents?
UNDERSTANDING THE FUTURE OF WORK AND ITS COMPLEXITIES
Importantly, we need to understand the complex changes that are unfolding in the world right now. And these changes are not just about using computers to complete tasks faster. One example is the proliferation of artificial intelligence in recent times. Machines have started to take over problem solving and analytics tasks.
And we can only imagine that our future workplace is going to be a lot more fluid and completely different. It will be smart, automated and data- driven – equalising and democratising opportunities for all. In this landscape, humans will need to collaborate naturally and seamlessly with machines. Achieving efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace will also take on a new dimension for the human worker with the augmentation of smart machines.
Foreseeably, future jobs will be dynamic and no longer as well defined as today. Job descriptions and job scopes may change from day to day. Hence, to thrive in such a digital economy, the human worker needs to recognise that change will be a constant and effectively navigate the changes by actively acquiring new skills, including multidisciplinary knowledge, thinking capabilities and digital acumen.
PREPARING FOR TOMORROW’S CHALLENGES
The ownership of learning lies very much with the individual. Learning only the things that are needed for the job today is a reactive approach – it will not prepare us for tomorrow’s challenges because it only solves yesterday’s problems. Learning therefore has to be done in a proactive manner, so that we will be in a position to grab emerging opportunities.
However, much as the human worker needs to build strength to become more resilient, the human employer also has an important role to play. After all, skills learnt will be applied in the workplace to benefit the growth of the business.
At the heart of business transformation plans, skills development should be a key feature where the participation of employees is engaged. Because when business plans and employee development are well aligned, the business will grow and employee satisfaction will be high. But given that the future business landscape will continue to be volatile and complex, we should be mindful that simply sending people out for episodic training is not enough. The organisation itself has to evolve into an environment that encourages and embraces workplace learning.
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITHOUT A COMFORT ZONE
Industry 4.0, like all its predecessors, brings daunting challenges – especially for professionals who are not tech- savvy. But digitalisation is here to stay. It is therefore imperative that we continue to hone our digital skills, recognise that certain technical skills will become less important in time, and take the initiative to embark on a lifelong learning journey.
The disruptions brought forth by Industry 4.0 are more exciting than scary as long as we are armed with an open mind and an appetite to learn. They present immense opportunities for those who are prepared to seize and make the most of them.
As Mahatma Gandhi advised nearly a century ago, which still rings true – “The future depends on what you do today”. The best moment to act is now, so what’s your next move?