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What the fourth industrial revolution means for talent acquisition and HR

Predicting the impact of innovation on jobs is more of an art than a science – and art at which futurologists have proven far from adept.

We have seen that automation can increase rather than decrease the demand for a service. The first ATM launched in 1967, and yet the number of bank tellers increased from 300,000 in 1970 to 600,000 in 2010. Google Translate launched in 2006, but the number of people employed in the translation and interpretation industry doubled between 2010 and 2017.

Therefore, the role of HR is increasingly not to identify which roles are being eroded, but to explore the more nuanced approach – how jobs will subtly transform over time as more tasks become automated and more new skills are needed to undertake the new requirements of a role. New Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, such as Australia-based Faethm, can support HR and business leaders predict not only how their existing workforce will be impacted by automation, but also identify the transferable skills that current workers have that may make them highly suited to one of the new breed of job types created by automation.

The transition from each industrial revolution, from the first to the current one, has posed significant challenges for people, businesses and society. The current revolution poses old as well as new challenges for both business leaders and HR/Talent Acquisition professionals, including:

  • How do we reskill our current employees?
  • How do we identify which employees are suitable for which jobs of the future?
  • How do we win the battle for in-demand talent when other companies are hiring the same people?
  • How can we be more creative in the way we assess the value and skills people bring to our business?
  • How do we find talent that is comfortable working alongside robots?
  • How do we find talent that is productive now but will remain so in a fast-changing world?


There is no 'silver bullet' to solve each of these quandaries, but the common theme that runs through these challenges is understanding not only what an employee can do for your business now but what they are capable of doing in the future.

Hiring for potential

The pace of change in todays world means that no professionals skill set is future proof. Common recruitment theory suggests you hire someone who is capable of doing the job straight away, to 'hit the ground running', but what if the functions within the job they have been recruited for are very different a year or even six months later. Their specific experience is no longer their strongest asset.

Hiring for potential means playing the long game, looking for candidates who can grow and develop into more complex and challenging roles as the business world evolves.

Experience can only go so far in determining the value that an employee will contribute. By getting to know your candidates during the recruitment process and hiring for potential, you are taking the first step in making a long-term investment in your company’s success.

Assessing for potential

Understanding someone’s potential is quite different to reading a CV or checking an applicant’s references, a systematic approach needs to be applied that provides you with metrics that can be benchmarked.

Assessment methodologies and technology have been in common use in the recruitment and staffing industries since the use of psychometric testing for the screening of recruits during World War One. Fast forward to 2020, and assessment for recruitment is used by over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the US and over 75% of the Times’ Top 100 companies in the UK.

Technical skills assessment boomed in the latter years of the Third Industrial Revolution (the widespread use of automation, computers and electronics), with the adoption of multiple-choice assessment and technical screening tests. However, it is the emergence of assessments focusing on future potential, rather than just current skills, that make it essential to view assessment with a new lens as we enter the latest industrial revolution.

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