With the Fourth Industrial Revolution comes ‘HR 4.0’

Economy February 25, 2017 01:00


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“WE ARE at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another. There has never been a time of greater promise or greater peril.” – Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, at last year’s WEF.

This is the first article in a two-part series on “HR 4.0”, a term I coined for a call to action for human-resource professionals to assist organisations in the new world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as 4IR. But before going into HR 4.0, let’s first understand what 4IR is all about. 

In Thailand, we are in the third industrial revolution: the age of heavy industries and automation. In fact, we have been stuck here for a decade now. 

Look at our economic growth over the last several years. It’s a paltry average of 3-4 per cent annually compared with annual growth of 7-8 per cent in the 1980s and ’90s. Our productivity has remained stagnant. As a result, we have fallen into “the middle-income trap”, unable to make the jump into a high-income economy.

Well, things are about to change with 4IR. It has the potential to fuel massive growth and productivity. This revolution is where technology combines with the physical, digital and biological worlds. 

Imagine you are aboard a flight and suddenly the pilot and co-pilot are unable to fly the plane. Panic not! With the aid of 4IR technology such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, augmented reality, advanced robots and smart devices to name just a few, a trained pilot on the ground can help you to land the plane safely. That’s the world of 4IR in a nutshell.

At the same time, 4IR comes with a major challenge. According to a detailed study by the WEF called “The Future of Jobs 2016”, covering 15 economies accounting for about 1.86 billion workers, or about 65 per cent of the world’s workforce, a total of 7.1 million jobs will be lost between 2015 and 2020 along with a gain of 2 million jobs in new fields requiring new skills.

Fortunately, the Thai government has got the ball rolling into 4IR with the initiative called “Thailand 4.0”. According to Dr Suvit Maesincee, minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office who is one of the architects of the initiative, Thailand 4.0 is all about “enabling an environment to create growth for people”. 

Under the new normal of Thailand 4.0, businesses will require more “knowledge workers” and fewer skilled and unskilled workers. It is the knowledge worker who will drive innovation and creativity. These knowledge workers will make it possible to have smart farmers, smart small and medium-sized enterprises, smart medical care, smart buildings and even smart electricity grids, to name just a few. 

It is imperative that HR professionals assist businesses in creating “knowledge workers” or smart talents. 

Suvit has outlined “4H” principles as the foundation for human-resource development: Head (knowledge), Hand (skills), Health (well-being) and Heart (being ethical and striving to do good for the collective). 

It is evident that retraining, retooling and changes to the education system are necessary. 

In my next article, I will touch upon putting the 4H principles into action in achieving hope, happiness and harmony under Thailand 4.0. 

SUVIT CHANSRICHAWLA is next-generation HR consultant under the brand Serendipity & Co.