Talent Management in the Era of Industry 4.0


My first tryst with Industry 4.0 was when one of my resources opened a program manager position and looked for a profile with an exposure in Industry 4.0 program management. My immediate reaction was “What does it mean? A new dot net boom?” I had heard about Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence etc. but this seemed completely new and the big question was where do you get these people?

“A mindful research made me believe that, this is a big revolution in the manufacturing and factory set-ups and one needs to drive right talent management strategies to upskill their current workforce or hire the right talent”

Industry 4.0 is a name given to a system of automation and data exchange in a manufacturing set up. It is commonly referred as the fourth industrial revolution – a “smart factory” playing conjunction to multiple systems, as well as, to humans on areal-time basis.

Building Blocks of Industry 4.0

There are four design principles in Industry 4.0. These principles support companies in identifying and implementing Industry 4.0 scenarios and building an informed talent management module around it.

  • Connected Devices: The ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT). It opens a whole new world of connected devices.
  • Transparency in Information: The transparency enabled by Industry 4.0 technology provides users with vast amounts of useful information and data needed to make appropriate decisions. This also helps in identifying key areas that can benefit from innovation and improvement.
  • Automation:Automating processes to support employees by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensively for making informed decisions and solving urgent problems on short notice. Enabling Robotic process automation or having BOTs to support employees by conducting a range of tasks that are repetitive and monotonous.
Number of BOTs working in Amazon Warehouse | Source: EY Report
  • Decentralized Decisions: Make decisions on their own and perform tasks as autonomously as possible. Only in the case of exceptions, interference, or conflicting goals, tasks are escalated to a higher level

While the platform positions itself as a propeller of efficiency to the industry, the adoption of Industry 4.0 assures profound impact on the manufacturing workforce.Amidst the background of an impending transition, organizations must not only begin planning its execution today, but also focus sharply on Talent Management, as a key requisite.

While Industry 4.0 is still evolving, one of the key challenges is to appreciate the transition and invest heavily in identifying and bridging skill gaps. Even with a landscape change through automation, artificial intelligence and technology, making a manufacturing plant Industry 4.0 competitive would be an impossible task. Building the right capabilities in terms of potential, people strategy and talent management will be the key differentiator in driving and sustaining the transition.

Four key areas, which I find very useful, in facilitating the transformation of the talent strategy from a traditional to an Industry 4.0 approach are:

Traditional Approach Industry 4.0 Approach
Product driven regime Many organizations follow a conservative approach in addressing the need for change where the focus is heavy on the product shift and not on the internal stakeholder implications of the proposed change. Develop Transition Enablers Implementing change in the world of Industry 4.0 depends first on getting employees to embrace the change. That process starts by developing “change champions” who are ready to embrace innovation and can influence others in their networks to adopt transformation.
Employee engagement is good to have, not must have Traditionally, decision-making in manufacturing was made from the top down, with lower-level workers awaiting instructions from their managers. In that environment, having an engaged workforce was a bonus, but less important than having people who could effectively implement orders. Employee Engagement, a Driver of Organizational Effectiveness As manufacturers are increasingly driving toward lean, high-technology environments, it’s critical to have a highly engaged worker who take ownership over their work and can quickly solve problems. In fact, DDI research shows that companies with high leadership quality and engagement are 9 times more likely to outperform their peers financially.
Skill and know-how: criteria for hire To hire people with higher experience and skills to meet the expectations of a job role is common practice. However, with evolving industry trends the right fitment of a talent in terms of his/her behavioral competencies is much more relevant.   Learning streak, value creation for the organization Behavioral competencies such as strength in adaptability, readiness, continuous learning, transactional communication, and problem-solving approach should be advocated for in talents, by the leaders of Industry 4.0.  
Evolutionary Leader Organizational leaders often determine their approach to leadership by observing their bosses on the job, and end up copying the behaviors they like or vowing to do things differently Learning curve to leadership A purposeful learning journey combining face-to-face learning, as well as, online learning… that helps hone on-the-job-skills can help manufacturers achieve more consistency in their leadership. This learning should be spread out over a specific time frame to avoid overwhelming participants
Top 10 Skills (2015) Complex Problem Solving Coordinating with others People Management Critical thinking Negotiation Quality Control Service Orientation Judgement and Decision Making Active Listening Creativity Source: Future of Job report, World economic forum Top 10 Skills (2020) Complex Problem Solving Critical Thinking Creativity People Management Coordinating with Others Emotional Intelligence Judgement and Decision Making Service Orientation Negotiation Cognitive Flexibility


To conclude, most of the companies today are appreciating the power of this concept. It is critical for the sustainability and growth of any organization which thrives on innovation as a way of working. It is “the future way of working”! Around the world, the concept is identified with different names such as ‘Smart Factory’, ‘Internet of Things’, ‘Digital Economy’, ‘power of connected’ etc. but all of them essentially mean “non-human entities autonomously interacting with each other and humans to perform its intended function, intelligently, through making more data-dependent decisions using cyber-physical transformations”.

Examples of Product Evolution: Connected and Smart Products

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Sumedha Pal, HR Director, Honeywell India. As a head of Human resources for Honeywell technology in India, she provides HR leadership across all sites of Honeywell technologies in India . She is responsible for designing and executing people strategies focusing on Leadership, talent and culture to meet business specific needs of the region and more than 5500 employees. Sumedha joined Honeywell in 2004 and has held multiple roles at the Local and global level. She has completed her PGD in Personnel Management from XISS , Ranchi. She is passionate about inclusion , employee productivity and leadership development.


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