The Workforce of the Future: Navigating Industry 4.0

Benito Almanza, Arizona Market President for Bank of America.

Tech innovation is prompting massive change—a transformation so significant it’s referred to as a fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.  From facial recognition software to voice-activated virtual assistants and self-driving delivery trucks, the lines between human and machine “work” continues to blur. Businesses who embrace these technological advances will reap the rewards of increased efficiency and, ultimately, boost their bottom lines.

Here in Arizona, we continue to set a brisk pace for both population growth and jobs growth. As a matter of fact, Maricopa County ranks as the fastest growing county in the United States, adding 96,000 people in 2018 alone, and Arizona ranked #2 in the nation for year-over-year job growth, according to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With job growth expected to continue, employers must prepare, because the workforce of the future will likely to look very different in the coming years than it does today. Here are a few insights into the workforce of the future and how businesses and employees can capitalize on new developments for greater performance.

Who will do the work?

A defining element of Industry 4.0 is rapid automation across all industries. Today, robots are not just replacing assembly line workers in manufacturing plants. With the rise of technologies like self-service ordering kiosks in restaurants, cashier-less convenience stores and driverless vehicles, they are even taking the place of some customer-facing positions.

And while technology is undoubtedly replacing some jobs, its implementation is also creating new jobs and opportunities for employees. Now is the time for employers to start thinking about redirecting and retraining their workforce for roles that offer higher value work and require greater skill – not to mention training for the positions that will be needed to service the robotics and other technologies automating the workplace.

Harnessing the power of Industry 4.0 will require higher-skilled positions and technical talent. Therefore, businesses will also need to be more effective at identifying, attracting and retaining the talent they require. And as automation becomes more prevalent, it will be critical that businesses not to lose sight of the uniquely human qualities that have enabled them to succeed. The workplace of the future will need employees who can show empathy, adapt in the moment and understand customer needs.

How will work get done?

Some jobs will become fully automated, but other positions will require a unique blend of technology and the human touch. Businesses will increasingly use automation to manage repetitive processes; this will create a workplace in which some jobs are shared with technology as a transition, while some are shared permanently.

Workers will need to up-level their talents to qualify for higher-skilled positions.  According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs report, no less than half of all workers are expected to require significant reskilling or upskilling over the next three years. Businesses should consider offering employees the resources and training support they need to be adequately prepared for these changing roles.

When will we do our work?

For many, the meaning of work-life balance has changed to be less about a distinct separation between work and personal life and more about being able to easily pivot between the two, no matter whether in the office or on the go.

Employees want the flexibility to make it to a child’s soccer practice or a family vacation, without missing a beat on their professional obligations. The workforce of the future will demand speed, convenience and ease of use from the technology they use to do their jobs, in the same way they expect those qualities from the products they use in their personal lives. Employees will need the ability to do things like approve payroll from the airport, access company files on their phones or sign a contract electronically.

This will be become increasingly important as Boomers retire and younger generations look for a work environment that offers anywhere, anytime flexibility and the technology they need.

The workforce of the future

Many businesses are already living these Industry 4.0 trends while others are just beginning to grapple with their company’s inevitable digital transformation. The shift may seem daunting, but automation was created to enhance our lives, and this will be as true in the workplace as in our personal lives.


Benito Almanza is a Business Banking Market Executive and the Arizona market president of Bank of America.

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