The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here

The HR function has already got impacted as a large chunk of mundane administrative work will be done by AI and bots. HR will focus on initiating learning and development programmes and facilitating transformation in the organisation.


We are at the crossroads of Industrial Revolution 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The extensive application of information technology to every function and level of the organisation has brought us to the edge of another revolution in the manufacturing process. This digital transformation in the manufacturing process has caused disruptions in the economy.

Let’s take a historical approach to decoding the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0 by establishing an understanding of the other industrial transformations that have taken place in the past:

The First IR harnessed power from coal and steam to replace human and animal power with it.

The Second IR was characterised by a new form of power—electricity— that accounted for mass production.

The Third IR witnessed the mass consumption of computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web.

The use of technology in every aspect of life has revolutionised the third phase and brought us to the fourth one. Here, technology is smarter, sharper and strategic. Artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, internet of things, machine learning, cloud computing and other advanced technologies can quickly capture and analyse a wealth of data giving us unimaginable information to work on.

The world is changing and it’s changing fast. What’s fascinating, amidst all the discussion of technologies powering digital transformation, is the growing realisation that leading this transformation is the least digital part of every organisation: people. Read more in the white paper, The Digitalisation of HR.

In Industry 4.0, general-purpose technologies (GPT), hypercompetition
and aging population will make the diffusion faster and wider. Although Industry 4.0 technologies are more evolutive than disruptive, their combination and the context in which they develop promise major impacts on economy and society, which would in fact characterise a revolution.

Industrial Revolution 4.0

The main technology of Industry 4.0 is the Cyber-Physical System (CPS. That is, everything that happens in the physical impacts the virtual, and vice versa.

The pulse of innovation and globalisation has generated a hyper-competitive business environment. This means, shorter life cycles for products and services, and this requires flexibility and agility to keep pace with technological disruptions. The impact of IR 4.0 has started becoming visible at all levels of supply chain functions, from product conception to production and distribution. The shift is immense in the way companies are adopting artificial intelligence to create, dispense and appropriate value within the organisation.

The three-fold advantage of IR 4.0

(1) Pervasiveness— used in multiple fields

(2) Improvement— gradual upgradation of quality

(3) Innovation— results in spawning, as new creations are made easier

All the functions of organisations will benefit immensely from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The HR function has already got impacted as a large chunk of mundane administrative work will be done by AI and bots. HR will focus on initiating learning and development programmes and facilitating transformation in the organisation.

What impact will the Fourth IR have on the HR function of an organisation?

Useful information

IR 4.0 will provide HR with vast amounts of useful information needed to make appropriate decisions regarding talent acquisition, compensation and benefits. Interconnectivity allows it to collect immense data and information from all points in the industry. This aids functionality by identifying the key areas that can benefit from innovation and improvement.

Effortless execution

Artificial intelligence will help to process large amounts of information with precision. It is capable of aggregating, visualising, and comprehending huge volumes of data to assist humans in the process of decision making. This will help HR to complete job responsibilities faster and with precision. Not only this, it accomplishes tasks that are not only exhausting for humans, but unpleasant, and unsafe. For intance, algorithms will help to identify potential candidates for a job from a large database and help HR to find a suitable candidate for a job.

Predicts failure

The technology used in the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help to predict failures and start maintenance processes so as to minimise damage from any loss. These autonomous and self-organised actions are initiated by smart machines. HR will be able to bring down attrition rate in a company with the help of this feature.

Upgrading skill-sets

The fourth IR equips the HR leaders with a radar to sense what people want and a compass to go forward. Here, HR will play a key role to initiate upskilling of the employees through various programmes within the Fourth IR to develop a character among its employees to establish the outcomes. Developing leaders is the primary goal and HR will persevere to develop a crew that can collaborate with them to carry the revolution forward.

Developing soft skills

The workforce of IR 4.0 will depend more on developing soft skills than content-driven traditional education of the previous century. HR will focus on developing soft skills to help employees develop agility for jobs that do not exist today. These skills can be utilised across a wide range of industries and will ensure the longevity of work in a very volatile business environment going through rapid changes.


Creativity will become an exclusive domain for human beings. Robots and artificial intelligence cannot replace human creativity, but rather depend on it for precise functioning. With the volley of new products, new technologies, new processes and automation, workers will need to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.


The workforce of IR 4.0 needs to be trained to think critically to be able to solve problems. There will be new sets of situations and events that will require original thinking and unique solutions. One significant change will be processing time— the new workforce will have to be quick, sharp and strategic.

People management

Since more than three to four generations will be working together, there will be a greater focus on developing talent to manage and collaborate with the others in an organisation. Here, HR will play a role to ensure the above. IR 4.0 offers a multitude of platforms for learning and development in the form of nano- learning, design thinking, and so on. These will train the workforce and empower them with skills to manage, collaborate and motivate employees.

Developing a mindset

HR will help to develop the mindset of the workforce to slowly but surely change the processes within the organisation. The workers need to understand and deal with the fact that change is constant; it is the nature of the new world and the technologies of IR 4.0. They must develop a mindset that equips them with a desire to be eternal learners.

The HR function will play a big role in determining the fourth revolution’s success as the Fourth IR is being defined even before its processes and effects have reached the finishing stage.

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