Hiring for the Fourth Industrial Revolution




Finding 21st century skills to help build a more adaptable workforce

The Industrial Revolution took place in the 19th century, marked by the development of the steam engine, and large factories, and the beginning of urbanization. The Second Industrial Revolution took place in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, with the introduction of electricity, steel, and oil. The assembly line, the light bulb, and internal combustion engine were part of the advances during this time. What is known as the Third Industrial Revolution is more familiar – in the 1980s – where we saw the personal computer, the internet, and information and communications technology.

We are now entering the 4th industrial revolution – 4IR – a world of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, nanotechnology, quantum computing, an internet of things, (IoT), 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.

The world of work is being transformed. Given the rapid pace of technological change – and the threat of worker displacement - how do recruiters and HR professionals secure the right talent?

Every company is a tech company now. So, clearly, hiring engineers is important to every company’s success. How do we look past the shortage of engineers today and find the right 21st century skills?

Let’s look at the gap between the jobs that will be replaced, and the customer needs to find answers.

We will soon see the end of humans staffing roles in telemarketing, cashiers, salespeople - and if we move up the food chain – potentially surgeons, teachers, lawyers, police officers, and airline pilots.

So, given this dystopian future of high unemployment rates - with more and more human tasks being handed off to computers, AI, robots, and automation; what are the skills to look for in hiring a 21st century workforce?

There is broad support, including the National Education Association (NEA.org), for skills in four top areas

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication

While machines / robots make take over many structured thinking tasks within jobs - from lawyer to surgeon to cashier – there is still a need for humans to interact with other humans. The results of cancer surgery need to be delivered with empathy from human to human – not something you want to read on a screen – even if a machine did 99 percent of the surgery.

So, as we hire for non-engineering jobs in the 21st century, finding those who bring uniuely human skills to the table will be paramount. Being able to work with others, being creative, empathetic, imaginative, critical and the ability to think out of the box to solve problems and communicate solutions will be key to augmenting the world of AI.

We are entering a new era – one in which our human role is in question for many of the things we’ve done in the past – and its critical that HR professionals – with “human” in the official job title – understand and delineate how we hire and work together alongside our machine-based co-workers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Looking for new skills will help build a capable and competent workforce of the future.


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