Over the last few years, the World Economic Forum and other prominent institutions have pointed out that we are witnessing a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter our lives. They call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it is a consequence of the introduction of digital technologies in almost all spheres of activity.
Everywhere we look, digitization is rapidly transforming the world. The magnitude of this phenomenon is greater than many organizations initially estimated, and its speed is, at times, overwhelming.
“Going digital” is the norm. We have all digitized our lives, and companies and institutions are increasingly digitizing their operations — even though many are struggling to reinvent themselves in order to survive in such a rapidly changing environment.
Digital disruption has made organizations exponentially more efficient. But what are the implications for people, for jobs and for life as we know it? Many jobs are already obsolete, and many are about to disappear. At the same time, new types of jobs are appearing at the horizon, and more jobs — many of which we can hardly imagine today — will be needed soon.
We cannot stand still. The risk of massive unemployment on one hand and a massive lack of qualified resources on the other is urgent. What we need is a joint effort in which individuals, businesses and other organizations cooperate to enable an effective digitization process in all fields and to secure people’s empowerment and progress at the same time.
With that goal in mind, here are the three pillars of a successful transformation.
1. Believing in People
The history of humanity has shown that, despite crises and dark moments, we have the ability to adapt, innovate and progress. Our resilience and creativity are exceptional, and our ability to learn has resulted in positive leaps in the economy and in society. We need to invest in people in order to maximize the benefits of our investments in technology.
We need to define employees’ roles in new ways and help them change their interaction with new technologies and machines. Be ready to let go of traditional job descriptions, and, instead of writing new ones, focus on skills, key responsibilities and required outcomes. This approach will enable a more agile way of working, which will ultimately benefit employees and the business overall. In this endeavor, functions and rigid structures will become less meaningful, while flexible work will become the norm.
This new approach to work will create a greater focus on customers and clients. Machines can support the business with intelligently aggregated data and information, while humans provide the emotional connection and warmth that lie at the heart of the business and that generate customer satisfaction and loyalty. Ultimately, these shifts will create a win-win solution — good for people and good for business.
2. Fostering Employability
Organizations that promptly and meaningfully invest in their workforce through upskilling, reskilling and repurposing will gain competitiveness, optimize their costs, enhance their reputation and build employees’ commitment. At the same time, by focusing on skills rather than jobs, they will create a workforce that is more agile and able to use those skills for different jobs over time. Being proactive and focusing on the employability of the workforce allows us to tap into the potential of our people and support them as they un-learn and re-learn.
3. Creating an Ecosystem
Partnerships among businesses, institutions, academia and civil organizations are vital to creating an environment where technologies are more effectively shared and connected. They will also enable people to contribute to different projects for different employers over time.
Ultimately, in a positive loop, the workforce of the future will be supported by machines that free up our time by performing repetitive tasks better and faster. We can then devote this time to providing better services and delivering positive experiences to customers and users, in both the private and the public sector. This digital economy will also create many new jobs aimed at solving our most stringent problems, such as saving the planet or reducing global inequality.
In other words, people and machines together will improve the economy and society.