The Record - Issue 16, Spring 2020

81  MANU FAC TUR I NG & R E SOUR C E S global industry director, manufacturing solutions at Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise. “This industry is constantly creating new jobs, global supply chains, business processes and even new economies, and the pace of change is accelerating.” Empowering people with the skills to harness that technology is another matter. “Manufacturers face a growing talent gap as an ageing workforce begins to retire, taking its knowledge and experience with it,” says Masson. “At the same time, the younger generation of workers isn’t attracted to manufacturing as a career. In addition, a skills gap has emerged among the existing workforce as rapid adoption of advanced technologies on the plant floor is often not met with a corresponding level of skills development or training.” It’s imperative that manufacturers equip themselves to attract tech- savvy talent while upskilling and reskilling existing staff to succeed in the digital workplace. “Manufacturers need to build a culture of trans- formation that is ready to continuously develop and innovate, so the entire organisation can fall into step with new and disruptive technolo- gies, now and in the future,” says Masson. “Those that do will be able to quickly adapt to – and even drive – market changes.” Far from automating people out of their jobs, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are ushering in a new era of collaboration between people and technology. For example, Microsoft’s Future Computed study found that much of the AI technol- ogy being built is intended to increase productivity and collaboration and enable better and faster decision-making for workers. And while the evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could displace 75 million jobs by 2022, the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Not only will digital transformation change the number of people needed to do work, it will rewrite how that work gets done. As such, those planning or going through digital transformation quickly realise that managing the human element successfully can be the most difficult aspect of the journey. That makes sense, as machines don’t ‘push back’ when it comes to change, but people often do. Also, these transformation initiatives almost always have direct impact on humans. Knowledge and expertise, hiring practices and staffing levels, teams and organisational design, sales and support, customer engagement, etc. are all eventually affected. Organisations need to apply as much, if not more, energy to managing workforce and culture change as they do technology improvement. This focus needs to start in the initial discovery phase of digital transformation. As the organisation outlines short- and long-term objectives, it must ask human-centred questions, such as: • What roles and resources are needed to begin digital transformation and how do those shift over time? • What skills are high-value in an increasingly digital and data-driven organisation? • How will knowledge management change? • Will the expectations for leadership evolve? If so, how? As digital transformation occurs, the value humans bring to highly digital environments will increase. Opportunity to apply creativity and soft skills will open up as never before. Enabled by technology that mimics humans, people will be able to do what they have always done well – identify challenges, adapt to their circumstances, and find new ways to solve problems. Mike Guilfoyle is vice president of consulting at ARC Advisory Group The human element of digital transformation V I EWPO I NT