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Are corporate executives ready for 4IR?

The majority of global business executives think that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – change currently taking place as a result of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous cars – will lead to greater economic and social equality and stability. But the move to new technologies also raises questions of what the future workplace will look like and how businesses will be able to control and influence how new technologies are used. The research by Deloitte found that most UK executives think that employment contracts will change considerably, with an increase in temporary, contract-based and ad hoc employment (in other words an increase in the 'gig' economy).

The research suggests that executives “doubt their own ability to influence key societal factors” that would help achieve greater equality and stability:

  • 17 per cent of UK respondents believe they have the influence to deliver a level and fair marketplace;
  • 11 per cent said they can influence environmental stability; and
  • 6 per cent said they have influence over education and training.

Embracing the gig economy

One of the biggest challenges to business is employee skills: the research found that just a quarter of global executives are highly confident they have the right workforce composition and the skills needed for the future. Just over half of UK respondents believe their existing workforce can be trained in the skills they require.

And another challenge is being able to adapt to and harness the new technologies that are part of 4IR. Only 16 per cent of UK executives are highly confident that their organisations are ready to fully harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0, yet 55 per cent say they’re highly capable of using advanced technologies to enable their employees to be more efficient.

Deloitte's David Sproul commented: “For stability to be felt, gig economy workers must be made to feel financially secure and confident in navigating traditional roles, while permanent employees will need to be supported in their adjustment to workplace automation. Organisations that embrace a new stance on how they support and develop all of their people will map a clearer path to a stable and equal future for all.”

The research surveyed 1,600 C-level executives across 19 countries, including 150 in the UK.

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