The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Is it time to re-skill our employees?

Posted Jan 05, 2020

The use of machines to conduct work previously done by humans continues to expand at a rapid pace.  According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), machines will complete more jobs than humans by 2025.  This new development has been coined the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In putting America to work, this blog explores the status of the changing workforce.  It relates to psychology and the impact to careers, communities, and workplaces and how all are connected to the mental and emotional space we share within and outside the workplace.  Sharing information with readers on the changing face of the workforce is vital to raising levels of awareness for workers and companies.

In this latest post, we are examining the WEF's research on the rapid progression of machines.  The Fourth Industrial Revolution is built upon the digital age and has been characterized by the synthesis of physical, digital and biological spheres of technology.  According to the WEF, it is the fusion of technology and artificial intelligence merging together that has transformed the entire workforce.

automation dreamstime
Source: automation dreamstime

The WEF shares data on the rapid pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on the workforce through research in its published report entitled, The Future of Jobs in 2018.  They highlight how the potential for new technologies can bridge the gap between quality and emerging roles for human beings in the workforce.  Yet, the collision of technologies with artificial intelligence has begun to not only transform the workforce, it has disrupted it.  The disruption can be seen in the need to reskill employees participating in the new workforce.  Reskilling is the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job. Upskilling employees is designed to improve employees' skills by training them in new areas, as well as adding additional skills. The WEF states that by 2022, there will be approximately 133 million new roles created as a result of the new division of labor between humans and machines, as well as algorithms.  In addition, the report finds that "54% of employees of large companies would need significant re and up-skilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Cann (2018).

Re-Skilling Employees

Automation is changing the needed workforce skills. Technical skills are critical in keeping pace with automation and digital changes. With the changing landscape, companies will need to reskill in two areas: technical and human skills. Businesses and corporations must utilize training in programming for data analytics and artificial intelligence to address most technical skills. Human skills, such as critical thinking, innovation, leadership, and emotional intelligence are the other skills employees will need. The technical skills can be addressed through training, but the human skills will require contextual learning, which may be more difficult to scale up. Human skills will need to be acquired through contextual training. For example, how can you identify an effective leadership model when close to 80 percent of your workforce may be working remotely? To ensure employees can be successful in the area of human skills, companies will need to provide customized training. Companies must train employees where they are located and also send them to training. Flexibility in training will be a vital investment to ensure employees and companies are prepared for an effective transition, Harve (2019).

Companies need to invest in reskilling their employees, and employees also need to be flexible and open to continual development. According to Jan Brna, Director of postsecondary and workforce education at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, “Most of the time, companies are willing to make some investment in their folks to upskill them. If you have a talented workforce, why not upskill them and allow them to advance into higher technical skills?” The Fourth Industrial Revolution will require employees to continue to evolve in order to keep pace. According to Katy George, Senior Partner at McKinsey, “People at all levels will have to continue to evolve their skills more rapidly than in the past, because of the technology evolution," Kaplan (2019).

According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairmen of the WEF, “It is critical that business take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment to facilitate this workforce transformation, Schwab (2016). Collaboration is important for success in this area.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has made it clear that the jobs and skills landscape have changed forever. New technology brings about new opportunities for both employers and employees. We need to approach this new revolution with a positive perspective on job creation to maintain a viable economic and humanitarian approach to the world of automation. 


Cann, Oliver.   World Economic Forum (September 17, 2018). Machines will be more tasked than humans by 2025, but Robot Revolution will still create 58 million net new jobs in the next five years.

Harve, Antara. (September 26, 2019).  Reskilling the Workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Training Industry.

Deborah Abrams Kaplan (May 14, 2019). Reskilling the workforce in the age of automation. Supply Chain Dive.

Klaus Schwab (January 14, 2016). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond. World Economic Forum.