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What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and What Does it Mean For Your Company?

Categories: Economics of Gender Equity  Events  Gender Equity  Gender Pay Gap  Pipeline Platform  

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) refers to our current period of rapid technological growth which is fundamentally changing the way we live. By drawing on a multitude of advanced technologies, 4IR blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. So what does it mean for your company?

Technological advancements, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, disrupt how we conduct business. Augmented decision-making, the use of computer systems to support human thinking and planning, is one way 4IR is changing the way we work.

For example, every year, your organization makes three key decisions per employee that impact gender parity. What if you had the technology to know you’re making equitable talent decisions every single time? Now, thanks to the tools of 4IR, you have that technology.

Let’s take a closer look at the implications of this technological revolution.

With Great Change Comes Great Opportunity

4IR is the most recent in a series of industrial revolutions that disrupt our global economy through rapid change. Uncertainty, skepticism, and fear about the future often accompany these periods of change.

4IR is no different. Dire predictions of mass unemployment—McKinsey predicts that the tools of 4IR could displace 800 million workers by 2030—stunt conversations about how this period of technological growth may positively impact the world’s economy.

Remember, industrial revolutions are a product of human decisions to employ technologies and adapt to the changes they bring about. Humans have the power here. Plus, job opportunities and living standards tend to increase with each industrial revolution. It’s about using the tools available to make life easier.

The Tools of 4IR

From stone axes to 3D printers, humans develop tools to simplify tasks and improve standards of health, happiness, and comfort. The tools of 4IR have the potential to better our lives, and it’s up to us to identify how to use those tools so they work for our benefit.

So, what are the tools of 4IR?

While there are many technologies associated with 4IR, eight essential tools will have an outsized impact on businesses:

Artificial intelligence
Augmented reality
Internet of things
Virtual reality
3-D printing

That isn’t to say every business will employ each of these tools. However, the way companies strategically integrate and combine these technologies will have a profound effect on their success in the changing global economy.

It’s important to note; these tools also have the potential to negatively disrupt the labor force and lead to greater workplace inequity. However, by consciously using technology to shape the future we want to see, we exert control over the technological revolution. We can choose (today) to limit the groundswell of pessimism that robots are stealing jobs from the human workforce.

Ultimately, the tools of 4IR have the power to transform our social, economic, and political systems. For the better. Turning our back on the capabilities made possible through these technologies means turning our back on the new opportunities they afford to both humans and machines.

Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace

Leaders the world over are giving a fair amount of attention to artificial intelligence (AI), so let’s take a closer look at this technology. AI refers to the use of software algorithms to mimic the “cognitive functions” that humans use for decision-making and problem-solving. The end goal of AI is to automate processes that rely on human input.

Let’s break this concept down further.

Simply put, AI frees up our time. It works to automate processes and thus reduce human intervention.

Think about grocery stores, where shoppers can check out at a machine rather than waiting in line to check out with a cashier. The machines speed up the shopping experience for customers and lets cashiers turn their attention to more strategic tasks. It’s a win-win.

Yes, automation may allow machines to replace humans in certain jobs. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By speeding up systems and freeing human talent from mundane tasks, automation saves organizations vast amounts of resources and improves employee engagement.

Following the implementation of automated systems, 92 percent of organizations reported an improvement in employee satisfaction.

By taking over repetitive tasks, AI gives employees the opportunity to spend more time on creative projects. Freeing human talent from the tasks that a) they don’t enjoy doing, and b) machines do better, automation helps organizations drive productivity and retain the strong workforce that differentiates them from competitors.

AI makes automation possible for an increasing number of complex processes. Imagine giving a computer thousands of data points and asking it to analyze the data, locate patterns, and deliver an output. That’s now a reality. Computers successfully handle tasks like data analysis faster and more accurately than humans.

Humans are still an important part of the equation, though.

Augmented Decision-Making Is Not Synonymous with AI

Augmented decision-making is the use of computer systems to support or guide human thinking and problem-solving. Computers illuminate the information humans need to make better-informed decisions. But humans are the ones in control of the decisions.

By unlocking the analytical power and speed of AI’s data processing capabilities, we’re able to consider more factors when we make decisions.

For example, let’s say your organization needs to make a promotion decision. There are multiple people up for promotion, and you have years of data on each person—performance reviews, background experience, tenure in the role, and KPI metrics. It’s time-consuming and cumbersome for humans to take each of these data points into account when coming to a decision. So, how do you ensure you’re making equitable decisions by promoting the most qualified person?

That’s where augmented decision-making, and the Pipeline Platform™ come in.

Pipeline’s AI-Based Platform

With the tools of 4IR, the question isn’t whether or not we can close the gender gap – it’s whether or not we choose to close it.

We’ve built the Pipeline Platform™ to close the gender gap. And keep it closed. That’s why we’ve designed our always-on SaaS platform to use the data your organization already has to analyze, locate, and address areas of bias across all five pillars of talent: Hiring, Pay, Performance, Potential, and Promotion.

When consultants look to close the gender equity gap, they work from an out-dated, manually intensive, offline approach to data analysis that looks at data from a single point in time.

Pipeline’s different. We have the tools to automate this process and streamline the path to gender equity. Through direct integration with your organization’s human capital management system, our platform uses AI to take action against gender biases in the workplace.

For instance, we’ve found that, on average, 34% of customer performance reviews include biased phrases. Our platform uses natural language processing to flag those biased phrases and recommend equitable ones.

Interested in learning more about how Pipeline™ uses the tools of 4IR to close the gender equity gap?

Click here to download the Equity for All® Report.

© 2020 Pipeline Equity, Inc.

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