Article: Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution

HR Technology

Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Saikumar Swamy, Business 4.0 Evangelist, TCS, breaks down the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revoltion on talent and HR.
Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Navigating the rapidly changing business landscape is hard enough as it is, but when we stop to consider its impact on the talent challenges of today and tomorrow, things get even more complicated. Let’s relate the developments taking place as a part of ‘Industry 4.0’ with talent management practices and envision the future of HR in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: 

Understanding the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Business 4.0

The fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution is a natural progression from the First (the steam age), Second (the age of electricity) and Third (the computer age) industrial revolutions that fundamentally changed the way we lived and conducted business. 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the age of digital technologies, with automation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, data analytics and machine learning as integral components. 

This has led us to create a ‘Business 4.0’ paradigm at TCS, which is built on the principles of mass customization, creating exponential value, leveraging intelligent ecosystems and embracing risks using agile, automated and cloud technologies. Organizations need to follow these concepts to prepare for and thrive in the digital age. Let’s explore these in a little more detail:

Mass customization: Businesses need to offer hyper-customized products and experiences that connect with their customers and employees on a personal level.

Creating exponential value: There is an evident shift from fixed job descriptions and roles to more fluid and dynamic roles, where employees are expected to know a bit of everything.

Leveraging ecosystems: Business processes and systems are no longer functioning in silos, and the need for collaboration is paramount. For instance, recruiters today leverage social media and job portals while looking for candidates, as opposed to simply posting advertisements through traditional means. 

Embracing risk: We are eventually moving from five-year growth plans to more agile and reactive strategies that reflect contemporary business and customer needs. Thus, embracing the risks, change, and uncertainties that come with it is integral to thriving in today’s world. 

What does ‘Business 4.0’ mean for talent?

Traditionally, personnel management has been limited to core HR functions like personnel data management, record keeping, and payroll. However, new-age human resource management systems are less reactive and more proactive. They facilitate better employee and workplace management and have several gaps that fill in existing gaps. These systems were designed after organizations realized that they needed to change existing people practices using newer technologies like data and predictive analytics to create pointed solutions. These systems have further evolved into comprehensive, end-to-end, and integrated talent management systems that work much like Google – with a variety of interconnected apps and tools. 

There are four key tenants which serve as the building blocks of new-age talent management systems:

Invisible: The HR function need not be intrusive, or even visible, in order to be effective and the future of HR systems will also follow the same trend wherein DIY self-service HR tools will become increasingly prevalent. 

Intuitive: The systems and tools need to be intuitive in order to facilitate seamless adoption and immediate usage and the days of training kits and demonstrations are long over. Modern devices and systems need to be as intuitive as online shopping or using an app.

Intelligent: The use of intelligent technologies to make the best of data and continuously improve the offerings and services is also critical. HR leaders need to understand the very concept of ‘AI’ before investing in expensive solutions. Furthermore, well-defined data collection points and data sets need to be maintained so that the HR function can become predictive and agile. 

The use of intelligent technologies can help organizations hire, train, engage and reward their employees better, provided that the technology is used effectively. To begin with, organizations must develop intelligent models for attrition models, course recommendation, and promotion recommendation, by using collecting and analyzing relevant data. 

Social: Talent management and HR-tech solutions need to be social and help employees connect and collaborate effortlessly. We need to keep in mind today’s age of instant gratification and constant notifications, demanding our attention while designing talent management systems.

For instance, having a dedicated social or collaborative platform within the organization can help improve transparency, communication, and engagement. At TCS, we have a platform that helps employees synergize across the company, share ideas, best practices, participate in polls, view live events, and participate in discussions. 

Mantra to success

With all this information, knowledge, and technology at our disposal, it becomes difficult to prioritize changing business requirements. We have developed four basic principles to help HR leaders and organizations successfully navigate digital transformation without being distracted: 

Have transition cycles with focused objectives: It is imperative to know what you want to achieve and define them in as much detail as possible. You may choose to focus on more than one objective, like increasing automation and improving employee experience, at the same time; but, you need to know what to focus upon. 

Aim out of the box but not out of context: Set realistic goals and do not expect automation or AI to remedy complex challenges magically. So, stray away from aiming to “completely automating” existing processes or reducing the turnaround time for lengthy processes to “less than 30 minutes”.

Think big, but scope right: Most discussions in HR-tech tend to focus on pointed solutions, and most products offer one core functionality. Thus, there is a real chance that HR leaders might end up adopting several different tools or applications to cater to different talent needs. However, avoid this pitfall and look for a vendor that offers an end-to-end solution. 

Break the acceptance banner, not the soul: Be more open to change and willing to accept new tools and new ideas. At the core, HR is transforming, which means change is inevitable, and sticking to inefficient practices will only impede the speed of change. In other words, do not shoot down new ideas by saying, “this is how things work here” as this will discourage the ability to be creative and innovative. 

Like all other business domains, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will disrupt existing models and frameworks in HR and re-imagine the talent function to make it more agile and relevant. To sum up, HR leaders and practitioners need to use intelligent systems that allow them to do their job better and simplify existing processes to give a personalized, engaging, invisible, intuitive and social experience at the workplace. 

(This article is based on the session ‘Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution: What does it mean for talent?’ by Saikumar Swamy, Business 4.0 Evangelist, TCS, at People Matters TechHR 2019.)

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Topics: HR Technology, #TechHRIn

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