HR in Industry 4.0

When robots, artificial intelligence and other technologies play an increasingly important part at the workplace, the role of human operators becomes increasingly important as well. This may sound like a paradox but it isn’t. The 21st century will be the era of knowledge workers. Whoever wants to know tomorrow’s competences, can consult the texts of the United Nations or the World Economic Forum on the internet or they can also come and listen to Fons Leroy, who will talk about HR in Industry 4.0 during the Flanders Make Symposium.


HR in Industry 4.0: competences for a sustainable future

Fons Leroy has strong views on the skills that will offer plenty of work opportunities to future employees and those that won’t, and on what this means for the competences in the industry, both for knowledge workers and shop floor operators.

This is connected to the transformation that the manufacturing industry is going through following three trends. The first is the demand for complex, customer-specific products that will oust the mass production of the 20th century. The second trend is the evolution towards smart and connected machines and a full-fledged service economy. The third trend is the interaction between man and machine, such as the cooperation between humans and robots.

This has far-reaching consequences for the shop floor. For example, the products to be assembled become more complex, more unique and change rapidly. As a result, also the instructions for the different products change time and again. Paper user manuals and instructions no longer suffice and are replaced by up-to-date digital information shared via tablets, google glasses, augmented reality or a combination of these technologies. New here is that operators are cognitively supported and even reinforced: thanks to the technology, they are able to assemble more complex machines than ever before. They will need other competences for this though.

Companies reflect on how they can best prepare themselves for this future: who will in future be the most successful employees and how can we prepare ourselves for this? HR in Industry 4.0: how should we go about it?

Technology and digitalisation seem magic words but to HR developing a learning culture within the scope of Industry 4.0 is a task that is, at the very least, equally challenging. The rather unflattening Eurostat statistics show that lifelong learning is quite low on the priority list of most Belgian people: the number of Belgian people between 25 and 64 following a training is below the European average. Perhaps, we could make our employees dream a bit more, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said: ‘If you want people to build a ship, let them dream about an endless ocean first’.

Doing well for oneself in this world: everyone a superhero?

To be a successful employee in this context, we need a good understanding of our talents and our actions. We are in the cockpit of our career and take the driver's seat. We can and should make much more choices. When two generations ago you had a notary public as father, you usually became a notary public yourself. One generation ago, young people were offered more freedom to choose their own professional path. The current generation of employees prepares itself for a career with several consecutive roles and professions. Job security makes way for career security. This provides more opportunities but for some also more stress.

Next to an understanding of our talents, we must also be aware of our energy balance: what gives us energy and what drains us of energy. The right balance makes us resilient. This is about more than the combination of one’s private and professional life. It mainly concerns a good balance and equilibrium for an entire range of aspects: from a financial and material point of view, from health to meaningful employment, a stable relationship, family and friends and me-time.

Elke Van Hoof is such a person who does well in this world. She is highly appreciated for her expertise and resilience. She attracts packed houses with her lectures in which she combines her scientific expertise with useful tips for the day-to-day practice, for both employees and employers. She is the business manager of the renowned ‘Huis voor Veerkracht’.

The organisation for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 challenges businesses. The traditional organisational structure with superiors having the overview and taking hierarchical decisions is well past its peak. Knowledge workers require another way of leadership with a great deal of autonomy and the recognition of their expertise. This doesn’t mean that leadership is no longer needed. On the contrary. It is another kind of leadership, focussing on coaching and on building ecosystems for sharing and building knowledge.

Workitects builds the architecture of the organisation of the 21st century. Seth Maenen, Industry & Services Coordinator, loves to share his insights and experience with you at our Symposium.

Do you want to know more about the impact of Industry 4.0 on HR, your organisation and employees? Register now for our annual Flanders Make Symposium: the Future of Manufacturing on 26 November.

Register now for the Flanders Make Symposium

Greet Heylen - HR & Business Process manager

Greet Heylen - HR & Business Process manager

Greet Heylen is HR & Business Process manager of Flanders Make since 2013. Greet is Master of Science in Mathematics. She has 20 years of experience in management in Research and Higher Education. Her focus is people, organizations, change and business processes.

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