Are you noticing the changes?

The world is becoming even more confusing and complicated as we are faced with increasingly rapid and dramatic technological advances. The most disquieting aspect of it now is that it is not just physical activities, using robotics for example, but now it is cognitive skills as well.

We are surrounded by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Autonomous Vehicles (AV), and Disrupting Demographic Destinies (DDD). Things are changing very rapidly.

This is sometimes called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

We are also seeing this affect different generations in different manners. From Millennials to Baby Boomers these technological changes are viewed very differently. And not everything is positive.

The technology around us has been something that millennials have grown up with and they are very comfortable with it. Baby Boomers not so much. But there are other aspects of technology that are beginning to come under more critical scrutiny. It seems that social media has the same effect on the brain as alcohol and drugs. You get a hit of dopamine, the very same response in your brain to alcohol and drugs, every time you get a response to your posts. Think about that for a moment.

Technological advances, particularly in cognitive activities, are not going to be slowing down anytime soon. Robotics will be coming to your operations. Order processing in the parts departments have been changing over the past four or five decades. I first saw an automated distribution center in Stuttgart, Germany. It was a Kodak plant. When I walked in the warehouse the lights went on. There was not one person in the building. This was the central distribution center for Kodak for Europe. When an order was entered, at any region in Europe, for which there was a need for a “part” robots went to work. They were given instructions by computer and they then went out to the warehouse, found the right aisle, turned into it, found the right elevation, went up to it, found the specific location and centered in front of it and then it picked the parts. They scanned the units and in so doing they were able to pick the correct quantity. It was very eye-opening experience for me. That was 1973.

Today, a friend of mine, who currently works for Google, has multiple patents pending where he can control the cursor of your computer only with his eyes. No mouse, no keyboard, exclusively with his eyes. Imagine that? Just pause and think about the prospects of things to come when there are inventions and innovations taking place like that already in the works.

The problem with all of these advances in technology seems to be that we are not realizing the gains in productivity that should be a byproduct of these changes. After all the main indicator of productivity gains is the average hourly wage. That hourly wage is starting to increase again after a few decades of gradual declines. That is not a good thing for society as a whole as the haves get more and the have nots struggle more.

As a society we need to work on solving this productivity problem. I have often said that we spend trillions of dollars on technology but very little on sociology. How society evolves to embrace the new technologies and jobs will be interesting to observe.

Today there are more job openings than there are people looking for work. The employment participation rate is finally starting to grow again after nearly a decade of decline. New and younger employees approach their lives in different ways than my generation. They are less patient than we were in their progress in a company. They want to be constantly learning. They are very curious – often asking the magic question “Why do you do it that way?” They don’t like the answer “because that is the way we have always done it.” They also want to continue to learn, to continue to grow as individuals. If they aren’t learning something from you they will leave. Gone are the days when people would think that when they left school learning was over. Today it is just the beginning.

With more job openings than employees to fill them we are on the cusp of some big changes in wages. John G Fernard, an economist at the Federal reserve Bank of San Francisco is quoted as follows – “You could meet the demand for a while by hiring workers, but with the unemployment rate at 3.8%, eventually you are going to run out of easy-to-find workers. Because workers have other opportunities, you end up having to pay them. And once you see wages going up, you say -We have to become more productive to cover our costs.” We are right at this point today. What is interesting to note is that the last time productivity grew dramatically was also when unemployment was at 4%.

This Fourth Revolution, is about adapting yourself to the New Realities of the work place. There will be differing methods, and processes, and systems brought into life. That will also require more adaptable employees. People who will embrace change because that is what they expect to happen. A constant evolution of work. This will focus on the customer and their needs and wants and also about being the “Lowest cost supplier of the highest value products or services.” That will only be possible with talented, well trained, properly paid loyal employees.

We are presenting you with the learning tools. You have to provide the opportunity to your employees.

The Time is NOW.