Challenging times

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Written by Barry Johnson on 12 July 2018

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4RI) is nigh. There is much about technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.

It will disrupt almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes will transform entire systems of production, sales, management and governance.

This 4IR is, however, fundamentally different from previous industrial change. It is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenge ideas about what it means to be human.

The technology revolution will have greater upheaval than the privatisations in 1970-1996. You may remember or heard of the turmoil and strikes in industries such as shipbuilding, the car industry and coal mines. Other went smoothly such as British Telecom that moved rapidly from loss to profit and staff reduction, and British Airways moved to passenger growth and profitability.

4IR needs leadership. All employees need full training sessions in how to handle change.

 4IR change will be more rapid and will often totally transform entire systems. This will impact people in all functions and increase efficiency. All employees will need appropriate skills training in how to cope with change. This will be a vital area for L&D. All of us will be faced with challenges. From the CEO to little Joe will need to adapt.

We don’t know our challenges, but we can guess. Some will have the ability to accept change, and some will need your help, and some will fight change.

We in L&D failed in the privatisation change. We did not create a learning environment. Many could not integrate their thoughts and feelings. We needed to relate to one another. There was them; there was us, and, um, another us and another them. We needed a sense of shared purpose and trust. What could be achieved that all could benefit from and then act towards a common good?

The decision makers failed to engage with all those that had a stake in the change. They had meetings where one of them presented, and the opposition did the same thing, and those against walked the shop floors, and dismalness prevailed. L&D was not engaged. Management and General Training seemed to close its doors and assumed Technical Training would handle the issues and we thought HR and management would step up and help the employees, they didn’t.

4IR needs leadership. All employees need full training sessions in how to handle change. Not some Exec or HR person doing a twenty-minute lecture. Supervisors, professionals and managers will need emotional management, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and communication skills. Professionals and managers need the above plus presentation skills and problem-solving.

Yes, it will cost, but that is the investment in survival and the foundation of continual change because 4IR is a revolution and survival is the name of the game.


About the author

Barry Johnson BA, CMCIPD, MCMI, is a non-executive director at Learning Partners Ltd




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