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Building an Industry 4.0 Competency Framework

“Power is competence” – Jordan Peterson

It seems as though Industry 4.0 has the majority of us caught like deer in headlights, staring at this blinding change almost in awe of it, but not knowing if we should run towards, bury our heads in the sand and hope it passes, or turn tail and run.  Automation, has a fear-based immobilizing grip on most of us at present. We know we have to act, but the question is how?

What the fear mongers would have us believe is that automation will replace humans, leading to massive job displacements. In reality though, automation is in fact currently capable of performing half of the tasks that we currently pay a human to fulfill. However, the research also shows that only five percent of these jobs are comprised of tasks that can be fully automated. This points to job augmentation as a result of automation rather than complete displacement. McKinsey estimates that this job augmentation will impact at least sixty percent of occupations, and that each of those affected occupations will need at least a one third augmentation (Mckinsey and Company , 2017).

Thus, the challenge we are facing is not how do we deal with job displacement but how do we address the complexities associated with job augmentation.

The transformational impact of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) means that employees will need to adapt on every front.  According to Loina Prifti “I4.0 will influence our working environments significantly. E.g., it will change processes in purchase, production, manufacturing, sales or maintenance by including concepts as smart manufacturing, smart maintenance as well as a high degree of automation and integration in all enterprise processes. It will have far-reaching implications on business value creation, business models, downstream services, and work organization. As a consequence, employees will be confronted with transformed work processes and business models as well as with new technologies. The model of work organization will transform due to the disruptive nature of emerging technologies and modified structures for communication and collaboration. Processes will become interconnected and more complex. The technical, organizational and social spheres of work activities will overlap. The way we work will be one of the most affected changes in I4.0. I4.0 will not only affect technology and production, but the way we will work in all its dimensions. (Loina Prifti, February 12-15, 2017,)

Due to these transformational impacts to adapt and flourish employee’s competencies need to adapt and evolve. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, 210 million people globally will have changed occupations and more than 800 million people will be at risk of labour disruption due to the impactful and disruptive forces characteristic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (World Economic Forum, 2018) If we look at the research presented below, put forward by the WEF in their future of jobs report and included in their recent online article titled: “We have the tools to reskill for the future. Where is the will to use them?” (World Economic Forum, 2018), we see that 35% of the job skills required across industries will have chang ed by 2020.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Established in 1960 for the purpose of collecting and using a wealth of information on a broad range of topics to help governments foster prosperity and fight poverty through economic growth and financial stability. The OECD helps to ensure the environmental implications of economic and social development are considered.
The OECD is currently comprised of 35-member countries.
foundational skills like literacy and numeracy, they need competencies like collaboration, creativity and problem-solving, and character qualities like persistence, curiosity and initiative.” (World Economic Forum , 2016)
Effectively this means that not only do we need to build new skills but we have to do this at pace. Welcome to the age of rapid re-skilling. 

Rapid Reskilling

What we need to solve for at this current pace of change is defining the competencies we need to develop in order to stay relevant. What competencies will we need in order to meet this artificially intelligent, hyper-connected world head on with any measure of success?

Both organisations and individuals have to place greater emphasis on continuous skill development. Thus, putting added strain on already stretched Talent Management resources as Talent Management and Career Mobility practices will need to undergo their own transformation to keep pace, as they need to shift towards becoming progressively agile enough to enable them to adapt to the increasingly fast pace dictated by Industry 4.0 and through digital evolution.
As individuals we will also feel increased pressure as we will continuously be asked to do more with less as organisations continue to downscale to remain profitable in stormy economic seas, while at the same time placing increased focus on our learning and development as we strive to keep our selves relevant.

Developing a different mix of skills has huge implications for our current workforce as the demand for people with higher education will continue to grow whilst labour intensive work declines due to increased automation.  (Loina Prifti, February 12-15, 2017, ) However, although the term Rapid Reskilling strikes fear into the heart of any organisation, it is not as terrifying as the 4.0 fear mongers make it out be. This is because when we talk about rapid reskilling we predominantly refer to the augmentation and extension of skills in response to automation and other Industry 4.0 impacts as opposed to complete overhauls of vocational training.
This means that employees in some cases will need to develop different sets of competencies or at least make adaptive changes to the construct of others.   It is important to mention that although we are seeing a rise in the importance of behavioural competencies put forward by bodies such as the World Economic Forum in their 2020 critical skills framework (World Economic Forum , 2016)

World Economic Forum 2020 top 10 skills
these will not eclipse the functional more technical skills that will need to prevail.
Instead what we need to understand and consider is the intricate interplay of functional, behavioural and experiential competencies that will be required. The combination of knowing with and through application becomes even more critical in future.

In the age of Rapid Reskilling, unlimited, unrestricted access to learning is becoming the game changer. Access to knowledge is becoming increasingly available there has been a sharp rise in the enrollments into the various course offered through MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses offered freely through some of the best Tertiary institutions in the world). However, for us to harness the benefits of this unlimited, unrestricted access to learning we need to develop into self-directed, agile, learners with a strong growth mindset.

What does add an additional layer of complexity to the challenge of rapid re-skilling is that we are designing competency frameworks for jobs that have yet to be defined. According to the World Economic Forum “By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments, and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends – and to mitigate undesirable outcomes”  (The World Economic Forum , 2016).

However, this concern for developing future skills and understanding the competencies needed in future is not only critical for understanding how best to shape and equip our youth but also how to rapidly reskill our adult and ageing population. If we look at a 40-year-old today, taking into consideration the rapid advancements in medicine and technology and the amplification of these when combined and add positive advancing socioeconomic factors, their life expectancy is pegged at an average of 107 years. Given this, it means that todays’ 40-year-old will be far too young to retire at 65, thereby making the case for organisations having to find a way to rapidly reskill at all generational levels.  (Dixon, 2015).

The onus therefore rests both internal and external to the learner, i.e. with the individual and with the organisation. For the individual we are responsible for developing our ability to rapidly learn, unlearn and relearn, for as long we wish to remain productive and economically viable members of society. Whilst the responsibility to identify and define the right mix of Industry 4.0 competencies falls on the organisation.

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