We are at the outset of the next industrial revolution. Unlike the past four revolutions that stretch across three centuries, this one has the possibility to be the first where the optimization of work will be managed not only around profitability and productivity, but also around humanity.
But to get there, three groups not usually thought of as collaborating well together — workers, companies, government — must address some tough issues that precede the definition of a new economic and social contract of work for the 21st century.
The Next Industrial Revolution: Redefining Work And The Workplace
Today, we have an opportunity to think about work in a new way, and then act on what is the most significant opportunity — ever — to redefine work in America.
Many companies have already received the wakeup call, responding to workers’ demands for greater empowerment and flexibility in the workplace. Forward-thinking leaders are tackling challenging issues around where, when and why to scale their workforce and workplace.
Our next industrial revolution could be defined by the moment in which talent, more than capital, becomes the most critical factor for business. As we begin our journey into this new revolution, we face both promise and peril depending on how individuals, businesses and government act — together.
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The Challenges Facing The Next Industrial Revolution
1. Individual Workers
Knowledge, service and factory workers — their lives have been impacted differently through our past industrial revolutions. Some benefited, while others were cruelly left behind.
• Knowledge Workers. There have been innumerable stories and studies about large groups of employees willing to quit if they are not given greater flexibility at work. What is surprising is not the large percentage of workers who say they are prepared to leave their jobs, but rather the smaller percentage of HR leaders who expected these kinds of results.
Knowledge workers need to be even clearer about the specific ways they want to redefine the “how, what and why” of work — and evolve the conversation beyond the single issue of remote work. They need to partner closely with HR leaders who have already demonstrated stewardship tendencies. Those leaders see that an increase in responsiveness to worker needs results in a new kind of competitive advantage around the battle for talent.
• Service And Factory Workers. Essential workers’ concerns around health and career intensified by the pandemic have now resulted in a pronounced labor shortage in many industries. Hiring bonuses and increased wages are less effective than expected. If a seasoned food service worker already has 70% of the skills needed for a customer service specialist position, why wouldn’t they embrace some creative “upskilling” for a new job?
The outlook for factory workers may be more dire at first glance, with the increased levels of automation and AI that companies initiated during the pandemic. But more workers now have a new path to marry their strong human decision-making skills with reskilling opportunities around the technologies of these automated workflows.
Read the other challenges facing this industrial revolution at Forbes.com.
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