That process of clarification must start at the top. Companies need to ensure the alignment and commitment of their leadership teams – two factors which will be critical to the success of the adoption of digital technology to increase value, called “digital transformation”. To achieve this, leaders need to secure buy-in throughout the entire organization. One way to do that is to share what you personally are doing as part of the overall transformative effort. By “walking the talk”, leaders can inspire the devotion of their employees.
Yet companies embarking on such a transformation must take care not to overload their people, or their systems. They should make the shift more comfortable for staff with systematic planning – a planning process that ensures objectivity of approach and acceptability of results. Businesses should also identify viable timeframes for the introduction of those new tools, as well as comprehensive training for employees using that technology.
Adjusting the hiring parameters
Moreover, companies will need to adjust their parameters when hiring new employees. Given the rate and reach of technological change, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to find talent with past experience of new technology. And even if they do have that experience, it is likely to become quickly antiquated given how rapidly tech is evolving. The key is to look for new employees who possess the ability to learn, a willingness to be flexible, and other “softer” skills.
Despite its enormous possibilities and potential, 4IR is not without its risks and flaws. For instance, according to a 2017 University of Oxford study, developed nations can expect to see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years as machines displace humans – even though many such situations will involve technology assuming repetitive, mundane tasks.
In addition, there is a heightened and, in my view, justifiable concern over security and privacy. As technology continues to spread and mature, organizations will need to invest in and maintain the most rigorous security measures and protocols possible to avoid a cyber breach or privacy failure. Moreover, they’ll also need to inform employees, customers, and others of what they’re doing to ensure transparency.
But above all, they must recognize that 4IR is not a technological panacea. Leaders will need to take off the rose-colored glasses when gauging what this host of new technology can and cannot do.
Additionally, they should be aware that such technologies are not “plug and play”, or ready to use immediately. That means patience and commitment will be essential. Leaders must view 4IR as a journey that has no ending. That is because new technologies are emerging like waves crashing on a beach; just as one reaches the shore and begins to settle back, yet another wave follows, creating its own impact.
So, when harnessing novel technology, leaders will need the time and persistence to learn how to use these new tools most effectively – and, at the same time, nurture the mindset and skills throughout the organization to fully embrace them. Leveraging the benefits while avoiding as many pitfalls as possible will mandate connected, comprehensive leadership that recognizes technological possibility while never losing sight of the human element.