The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means for socially responsible business and the integration of AI into the workforce
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution unlike the preceding three, involves a broad spectrum of new technologies that impact all disciplines and industries. It has altered the basic landscape of human interaction with the digital world, creating a hypercompetitive global market as consumers’ expectations move faster than even the most cutting-edge businesses. Moreover, consumers, particularly Millennials, have certain expectations for brands: they want companies to serve their communities and seek a purpose beyond profit-making.
This is where brand activism comes into play. This concept gained traction when businesses started adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs after seeing how consumers reacted positively to their efforts. The increasing importance of CSR in today’s business world, combined with the growing need for business leaders to prepare their employees to work alongside emerging intelligent technologies, leads to three crucial aspects a company should possess: developing a vision with sustainable, long-term goals for societal change, integrating intelligent technologies into all levels of work within the company, and having business leaders who are willing to incorporate AI and CSR into the company’s core purpose.
First, companies must distinguish short-term financial goals from long-term societal goals. Business leaders are charged with determining how these two types of goals can work together so that they company can prioritize a values-driven agenda. Lars Rebien Sorensen, CEO of pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, shared a key insight that speaks to this concern: “Corporate social responsibility is nothing but maximizing the value of your company over a long period. In the long term, social and environmental issues become financial issues.”
Secondly, in addition to corporate social responsibility, companies need to focus on training people to have the skills necessary for jobs that involve interacting with intelligent technologies. Intelligent enterprise has brought the need for reconfigured jobs, and companies are going to have to approach training in a different way. In order to maximize the value of human-machine collaboration, these “new skilling” programs need to be flexible, fast-paced and to specify in interfacing with technology.
Thirdly, business leaders must reimagine work in today’s world. As new intelligent technologies continue to emerge, business leaders are challenged to redefine workers’ roles and adopt new business models in order to stay on top of the ever-developing technological landscape. This technological wave, along with the heightened importance of brand activism through societal impact, is what is leading the companies of today into the possibilities of tomorrow.
It’s time to harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ride the wave.