Opportunities exist despite 4IR concerns

It is becoming imperative that government and private sectors work together to do more to empower the current and emerging workforces with new, technology-led skills, and focus on where the future of the job market is going.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

With 4IR technologies slowly creeping into everyday business activities, it’s no surprise that employees may begin to feel their jobs are under threat. While many of these 4IR technologies predominantly reduce the load of administrative-heavy functions, employees should seize the opportunity to play more strategic roles within their respective organisations.

The ability to do this, however, will require that organisations address skills development because according to the Veeam Data Protection Trends Report, 43% of organisations in Africa and the Middle East, cite a lack of IT skills as key drivers in preventing them from effectively pursuing their digital agendas. Skills development will include providing entirely new skills or the upskilling and reskilling of employees to meet the market demands of the changing business environment. While blue-collar workers may feel threatened as sophisticated machinery takes over an increasing amount of labour-intensive jobs, they should instead view this as a time of opportunity to work in unison with these systems and find new ways to access skill sets that may have previously been unavailable to them.

The pressure to adapt is not only being felt by those in manual labour-intensive positions, but is becoming increasingly evident in traditionally high-paying industries such as medical, legal and accounting The key to successfully embracing the uptake in 4IR solutions lies in harnessing the power of technology in new and innovative ways, allowing employees to be equipped for the challenges of the digital market while adding both value and improving on service offerings.

While the automation value of 4IR technologies has the potential to create positive change by eliminating human error, there will always be a human element of interaction needed, particularly when it comes to highly-cognitive skills.

Governments around the world are pushing students to focus on maths and science skills and, particularly in South Africa, there is a drive to focus on entrepreneurial proficiencies. However, the educational focus should be shifted to include 4IR aptitudes that will prepare them for the future of the workplace.

And even though there is relevance to learning technological skills, increased emphasis must be placed on the importance of soft skills related to human attributes that will differentiate people from their robotic counterparts. These include complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility to name a few.

Traditional IT positions in particular are feeling the pressure to adapt. They are now required to be increasingly more data-savvy and offer greater strategic value than before in light of cloud solutions taking the focus away from traditional hardware and software support functions. 

While data scientists are becoming more commonplace in organisations around the world, in South Africa companies are striving to find more effective ways to analyse and understand the wealth of data they have at their disposal. Integral to this is acquiring analytical skills that combine technical knowledge with business understanding.

Data also links closely with business continuity and disaster recovery. Not only can its analysis help plan and prepare for potential outages, but it becomes indispensable for simulations and provides a vital test bed for organisations when it comes to business continuity.

The amount of data being generated will most certainly increase exponentially and the use of cloud solutions to store data will rise. It’s all about business intelligence, understanding data, securing it, and ensuring its continued availability.

And this is where technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) come in, and by pairing the best of technology innovation with human skills, companies can quickly accelerate their momentum in the 4IR world. Overall, those who have adapted to understand the complexities involved will be the ones that are the most successful.


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