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As a new decade dawns, it has become clear that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us. Along with disrupting industries and compelling organisations to change how they do business, it’s also resulting in the rise of a digital workforce and generating new ways of working.
Today’s employees, particularly knowledge workers, can have access to all the data they need to do their job remotely and when on the move. Truly mobile working is encouraged by falling data prices and increasingly powerful smartphones. Both factors are making mobile devices increasingly effective channels for an emerging digital workforce to be more effective and more productive beyond the constraints of having to work from a centralized office.
Responding to the times
Furthermore, sporadic power cuts which greatly increases traffic delays, also add to the digital workforce momentum locally. It’s not practical to spend two to three hours in traffic getting to work, as this amounts to lost productivity that neither today’s businesses, nor the country, can afford.
As workforces become more dispersed and able to respond outside of the traditional centralised location or set times, we expect to see greater collaboration occur from anywhere, at any time. Thus, it comes as little surprise that there is a notable trend in the growth of collaborative tools.
The rise of a digital workforce is compounded by young people who are digital natives that are now entering the workplace. Having grown up with the internet and technology, they have different expectations as compared with their Baby Boomer or Generation X counterparts. How companies employ and contract with these workers will need to change in this 4IR era because for them, work is not about an eight to five grind. Rather, younger workers report that feeling like they are making a meaningful contribution ranks as a high work priority.
There is no reason why organisations cannot use output as a metric for performance rather than time spent in the office. With the use of digital platforms, KPIs and worker output can be measured by the completion of set tasks and digitized in an online report.
There are a myriad of other ways in which the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the tools it brings, can help transform the workplace. From digital platforms and virtual learning tools that can be used to train up employees and locating workers in mines in the event of a cave-in, to using IoT to monitor cables so as to mitigate against cable theft, the solutions are boundless.
At Vodacom Business, we have been preparing for the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for some time. At this point, we already have complete solutions to manage remote workforces, mobile ERP applications, products that digitize applying for leave and contract management. Additionally, we currently offer mobile invoicing so that SMEs can invoice customers from within an App.
In a broader context, embracing new ways of working in a 4IR world offers an opportunity for South Africa to accelerate economic growth and realise its potential of becoming a centre of excellence for the rest of the continent. Ultimately, it would enable the country to contribute to the global community as an innovation leader. However, realising this vision requires us to be bold and forward-thinking around what we do differently and how we approach work in this digital era.