Work 4.0: what it is and how to relocate professionally

In the face of constant technological development, the world of work is constantly changing to the extent that, alongside the Industry 4.0 paradigm, we now increasingly speak of Work 4.0.

This definition refers to a vision of work capable of responding to and participating in current organizational changes as well as the transformation of production processes.

Indeed, with the pervasive spread of new technologies, we are witnessing the emergence of new business models and the birth of new professions that require the acquisition of specific skills, particularly in the fields of IT and digital.

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Work 4.0 between innovation and training

According to data collected by the World Economic Forum and released in the report The Future of the Jobs, it is predicted that by 2022, 42% of work will be handled by machines, while 58% will be handled by humans.

A trend that is destined to grow further in favor of the adoption of mechanized systems, so much so that, again by 2022, several activities, including data processing and the transmission of information, will be 62% performed by machines, an increase of 16% compared to 2018.

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We are facing a landscape that is radically changing the labor market. By 2022 there will be a decrease in the employment share of those doing repetitive work from 31% to 21% while emerging professions will increase from 16% to a share of 27%.

A quantitative analysis of the data shows that although 75 million jobs will be replaced by machines, 133 million new high-skill jobs will be created.

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What are the professions of the future

Indicative of this is the survey on the professions of the future conducted by InTribe, a big data research and analysis company, which led to the identification of the professions that will be most sought after by the labor market in the next five years:

  • Cyber Security Expert;
  • Blockchain expert;
  • Data Scientist;
  • Expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • Mechatronics expert;
  • Expert in IoT and ubiquitous computing;
  • User Experience Expert;
  • Expert in virtual and augmented reality;
  • Fog Computing expert;
  • Growth Hacker.

The top ten is characterized by jobs that require high technical skills and is, in a way, a witness to the major change taking place where industry and economy are the protagonists of a profound transformation promoted by the spread of increasingly advanced, networked, and interconnected technologies

Advances in the Industrial Internet of Things, and thus in the integrated automation of production processesCloud Manufacturing, digital intelligence, robotics, and augmented reality, are reshaping today’s more flexible and changing economic framework and impacting work and employment.

Working times, places, and spaces are changing over the years. We are witnessing the progressive increase of forms of remote working, both in the service and manufacturing sectors. The physical presence within factories seems destined to be reduced thanks to the possibility of controlling the various stages of the production cycle even remotely.

work 4.0 examples

A real revolution is taking place, allowing machines to be set up, and any problems to be resolved, without having to intervene forcibly in the workplace.

Therefore, in Work 4.0, the figure of the “simple worker”, low-skilled and assigned to mechanical and repetitive operations, is destined to disappear to gradually make way for highly skilled workers capable of mastering complex technologies and systems.

We are talking about figures capable of remotely interfacing with machines through the use of their own devices, so as to remotely and in real-time manage the progress of production, starting with the stocking of materials.

Most wanted growth jobs

According to the World Economic Forum, in Work 4.0 there will be a strong need for:

  • Data Analyst Specialist and scientists
  • Software and application developers;
  • E-commerce Specialist;
  • Social Media Specialist.

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The most sought-after professional figures will therefore be those capable of advanced use of technology. Roles based on “distinctly human capabilities” are also expected to grow, such as:

  • Customer service employees;
  • Sales and marketing specialists;
  • Specialists in training and organizational development;
  • Innovation managers.

There will also be “an accelerating demand for a variety of completely new specialist roles related to understanding and using the latest emerging technologies: artificial intelligence and machine learning experts, big data specialists, automation process experts, information security analysts, user experience and human-machine interaction designers, robotics engineers, and blockchain experts”.

As set out in the dossier, by 2022, at least 54% of workers will require retraining to cope with the effects of technological innovation. Current job profiles will therefore have to develop the skills needed to master new technologies and respond to the changing division of labor between machines and humans.

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The comprehensive WEF research highlights 3 strategies that companies would like to adopt to manage the skills shortage associated with the expansion of new technologies:

  • Recruitment of new staff with new technology skills;
  • complete automation of certain work activities;
  • retraining of employees.

Dwelling on the last strategic point, it is important to ask in which terms companies will retrain and upskill their employees. Interviews indicate that companies will focus primarily on “retraining employees currently in high-value roles”.

Fewer than 33% of employers stated that they will retrain, giving priority to “employees in high-risk roles”. Essentially, companies are choosing to focus their efforts on high-performance employees, reserving training and skills enrichment for them.

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How to relocate in Work 4.0

It is not easy to predict how much the world of work will change and, consequently, how intensively professions will emerge and/or evolve.

In this phase of transition and professional conversion dictated by the impact of new technologies, the flexibility of the labor market, and the uncertainty of the fixed-job, training represents the coordinate on which to move in order to anticipate the changes taking place, a way of fully grasping the potential arising from what has been called the fourth industrial revolution.

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As stated in the WEF report, “skills shortages, both among workers and managers in organizations, can in some cases accelerate trends towards automation, but they can also hinder the adoption of new technologies and thus hold back business growth”.

Therefore, working on skills shortages is now more necessary than ever. This means aiming to build a sound and solid education and training system involving schools, universities, training institutions, and organizations in a way that ensures social development and inclusive, lasting economic growth.

In fact, we should not forget how new technologies can, on the one hand, create new emerging professions and jobs and, on the other hand, lead to the disappearance of professions that are ill-suited to today’s times, through the process of automation and substitution of tasks.

Which skills to focus on?

Identifying the skills that will become increasingly valuable in the labor market in the next few years is a first step towards understanding which skills need to be developed.

The World Economic Forum, in its report “The Jobs of Tomorrow”, has identified and grouped the skills that will be most in demand for workers into five macro-areas.

required skills for a job

Business skills

They are the set of skills needed to start and run a business. They include business skills in marketing, project management, budgeting, and business development.

Specialized industry skills

They cover specific skills related to a particular industry sector. Included in this category are knowledge of Cloud Computing, video editing, and Sales and Content Marketing skills.

Tech baseline skills

These are the basic technical skills essential to access and use the main IT tools.

Tech disruptive skills

They embrace the most advanced digital skills. They are knowledge and skills that enable the use and design of technologies that can have a profound and lasting impact on business models and the labor market. Tech disruptive skills include Data Science, Natural Language Processing, Automation, Robotics, and Cyber Security.

Soft skills

Alongside hard skills, which refer to skills and knowledge that are easily quantifiable and measurable as they can be demonstrated, for example, through degrees, certificates, and work experience, in the era of Work 4.0, so-called soft skills have gained particular importance, i.e. the set of personal skills and qualities that a person acquires throughout life and which affect the person as much as the working sphere.

Hard skills are already a prerequisite in personnel selection and are instrumental in carrying out a specific professional role, soft skills, on the other hand, are peculiarities of a person’s character and therefore difficult to quantify. They concern the way one relates to others and one’s surroundings.

Today, soft skills have become a differentiating element in the world of work, they represent that extra something that makes us perceive ourselves as someone capable of contributing to the growth of the company and, therefore, are absolutely complementary to technological skills.

Relocating to the world of work 4.0, therefore, means developing specific technical skills to meet the demand for highly qualified professionals, but also working on one’s human skills so as to stand out and be appreciated within a given work context for one’s interpersonal skills.

According to The Future of the Jobs report, the soft skills most in demand by 2022 will be:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation;
  • Active learning and learning strategies;
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative;
  • Technological design and programming;
  • Critical thinking and analytical skills;
  • Solving complex problems;
  • Leadership and Social Influence; Emotional Intelligence;
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, ability to come up with ideas;
  • Systemic analysis and evaluation.

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Industry 4.0

Deloitte’s study on 4.0 sees our country at the forefront of new technology development. On the investment front, the government is committed to supporting technological evolution by providing aid to companies in the purchase of new machinery and financing investments in digital technologies.

One example is the National Business Plan 4.0, which takes the form of a series of measures, funds, and tax breaks to promote and support the technological development of our entrepreneurial fabric.

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As explained in the report, it is confirmed as a country rich in resources and potential in terms of advanced technologies. And public investment has created fertile ground for the development and modernization of companies.

However, in order to express its full potential in the field of Industry 4.0, it is essential to act on a number of issues that represent a major obstacle to technological innovation and the development of the production system.

Among the emergencies that need to be addressed are the backwardness of the infrastructure and poor digitization, the gaps in the training system and the uncertainties of executives on the strategies and action plans to be adopted to meet the challenges introduced by the ongoing transformation.

The lack of an education system is one of the main weaknesses. In the area of digital skills, our country lags behind the European average. The greatest criticalities emerge when it comes to the most advanced digital skills.

deloitte survey

The backwardness of the education system in fact prevents the full development of such skills, creating a gap between other Member States in the diffusion of digital skills in the workforce.

The Deloitte survey shows that the lack of technological know-how is one of the primary challenges organizations face when it comes to adopting new technologies in-house.

It is clear from the above that training must assume a strategic role not only within companies but also in society as a whole. As technology advances, there is a demand for increasingly well-prepared and constantly updated figures capable of taking part in the new production processes.

Hence the need to intervene both in terms of education, favoring a series of projects such as alternating schoolwork and the realization of professionalization courses, and in terms of professional updating for those already working.

The labor market is changing rapidly

The world of work is rapidly changing, creating scenarios that are difficult to predict. In the coming years, many professions and jobs will no longer be the same. In order to proactively respond to the changes taking place, business leaders will have to consider the influence that technologies will have on the organization and the labor market.

According to the Deloitte survey, an increasingly intense work interchange between people and robots can be expected. Corporate culture will therefore have to change and adapt to these new demands. Enterprises and workers will have to adapt to the new work models that will produce more rapid and fluid transformations.

The labor market is bound to change because new technologies will impact every professional level and not only on lower-value jobs; this will also entail a change from a contractual point of view, with arrangements based mainly on flexible and project-specific forms of contract.

work evolution

Workers will increasingly find themselves working and collaborating with each other remotely, with companies adopting different models of work organization, including smart working. This new relationship between companies and workers will be a source of risks and new opportunities that must be exploited with a change of mindset on the part of both workers and companies.

Rather than focusing strictly on saving labor costs through automation, companies suggested adopting a “talent acquisition strategy” that takes into account the human potential in creating value at the very moment when people, freed from performing repetitive tasks, can use their talents and contribute significantly to company growth.

However, for individuals to reach their full potential, they will need to be adequately trained to provide them with the necessary skills to support the development of Industry 4.0. Investing in human capital requires a collective effort involving schools, universities, training institutions, and companies.

Only by proceeding in this direction will it be possible to develop a culture of continuous learning that enables people to stay up-to-date with the times and respond to market needs.

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