Employee engagement in Industry 4.0

By: Maria Bychkova

Rapid advances in digital technologies such as robotics, automation, the Internet of Things, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, are rapidly changing the way manufacturing companies do business and are inevitably changing the way people work and manage.

Professor Klaus Schwab in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution describes Industry 4.0 as “new technologies that connect the physical, digital and biological worlds and affect all disciplines, economies and industries. These technologies have tremendous potential to connect billions of people online and dramatically improve the efficiency of businesses and organizations.”

The worker, as a subject of labor, has consistently undergone a change in his role in labor relations along the chain of a slave - serf - a worker on an assembly line - a carrier of labor potential and, finally, an uncontested source of innovative development. The latter circumstance determines the need for the introduction of fundamentally new forms of labor relations in companies, bringing the organizational conditions for the use of labor in line with global trends based on considering the interests of both employees and employers in innovative development at the level of the modern fourth industrial revolution.

Still creating a sense of community and synergy in Industry 4.0 became even more important as never before. Employees working as an effective team are interested in each other's success. An individual or department cannot succeed in the workplace alone. Without collaboration, communication, and trust, the most profitable companies cannot succeed in the long run.

New data sources, combined with new ways to use existing data, provide companies with depth and dynamism in decision making that never existed before. The combination of people and business data will be especially useful for gaining insights in a distributed organization.

Some examples include the use of recently introduced HR tools such as platforms to match skills to work in real time and predict future skill needs, curate learning experiences, and AI-assisted recruitment to increase efficiency and reduce bias.

Effectively, Industry 4.0 eliminates the silos that create frustration and disagreements between employees about the source of production issues. The best-in-class Industry 4.0 solutions aggregate data not only from machines but from existing third-party systems - MES, ERP, maintenance, SCADA. The Industry 4.0 platform becomes a single source of truth for all manufacturing operations.

Decision makers across the entire organization gain access to the same unified data set, rather than relying on disparate systems or manual data-collection. However, the existing problems related to infrastructure, lack of data management and the speed of data usage make this a challenging task. 

Beyond Digital Transformation: How Industry 4.0 Benefits Your Customers, Employees, and Culture

Western companies already use this approach today. For example, the Sora service helps to automate work processes, build a workspace for each employee, find a partner for a newcomer who will bring him up to date, and so on. Another example is the Personio service, which aggregates big data and tracks the parameters of each employee from the moment of the interview through all stages of career growth.

The service can already play the role of a career coach and mentor who helps an employee in professional development. Russian companies have also picked up the new trend. As Elena Abashkina, General Director of Univertus, told RBC, a decision was recently made to develop an intelligent system that builds a digital twin taking into account the characteristics of an employee.

The employer gets the opportunity to make forecasts, analyze the effectiveness of employees, the necessary investments in training, and also draw up an individual development trajectory for each employee. This gives companies the opportunity to increase the motivation and engagement of individual employees and teams by 20-30%, and the quality of training and development planning for employees by 70%. More on this topic 

RBC: How to improve Employee Motivation

The World Economic Forum White Paper cites the following forces influencing the formation of working relationships in the context of Industry 4.0 

HR4.0: Shaping People Strategy in the Forth Industrial Revolution

It is important to monitor whether all employees receive the information they need on time, whether they are satisfied with the work of other departments, whether they hold grudges against management due to senseless reforms, and whether they are on the verge of burnout.

Creating a sense of community and synergy in any team is essential to success and interdependence. Employees working as an effective team are interested in each other's success. An individual or department cannot succeed in the workplace alone. Without collaboration, communication, and trust, the most profitable companies cannot succeed in the long run.

Getting to know colleagues outside of work can increase interdependence and improve team collaboration and communication.

Improving internal employee communication is not something that organizations have an allocated budget for. However, it is one of the most important aspects of any organization. You may have some of the most talented people in the world, but without a cohesive team there can be no active and harmonious culture. To improve communication, employers should instruct people to share information, concerns, feedback, and anything that will help make work easier.

In this incredible time of competitive pressure—the need for profitable growth, financial market volatility, political uncertainty, global shifts in workforce demographics, and rapidly changing technology—this key engagement question needs to be answered more precisely. Leaders need to ask themselves more than just, “What do employees need to be engaged?” but also "what behavior are we asking them to perform?"

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