Blog | Reshaping the workforce thru connectivity and intelligence

By Tommy Leong

We are living in a fast-changing digital world – from new business models to energy and power systems – digital transformation is rolling out in full force all around us. Within this increasingly competitive business landscape, the success of enterprises today is dependent on how they leverage connectivity, predictability, and simplicity to empower employees, increasing their productivity and expertise to create value and growth.

Digital transformation, driven by technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and Industrial IoT (IIoT), is slowly being adopted by various industries. Besides the digital transformation of current business models, it is essential for businesses to ensure that employees are also “digitally transformed”. Digitally savvy or smart employees can better leverage opportunities arising within today’s IoT era, to work more effectively and efficiently.

Enabling the Workforce Through Partnership and Training

While companies recognize the importance of reshaping their workforce, there remains a widening skills gap. According to a report by Accenture, 40 percent of employers report talent shortages and this figure is set to increase with various shifts in the digital age. In a rapidly changing technological landscape, companies need to nurture and build a future-ready workforce – investing in training, upskilling its people while fostering a culture of lifelong learning.

For instance, we provide opportunities for employees to train at different offices to gain different skills as well as fresh perspectives. This allows them to accelerate the advancement of their career and promote business growth.

Today’s business leaders must go beyond developing the technical skills and equip them with soft skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking. This is in addition to government efforts such as “SMEs Go Digital”, SkillsFuture and Workforce Skills Qualifications.

Companies also play an important role in nurturing talent before they enter the workforce through engagement with educational institutions. This can include partnerships with universities to equip students with technical skills through onsite training and internship programs as well as conducting real-life business case competitions.

Over the last 15 years, we have hosted an international recruitment program called “Marco Polo”, giving graduates an opportunity to work at a Schneider Electric office outside their home country for two years. 470 employees across 61 nationalities have been welcomed in 57 countries since the programme launched in 2001.

Students can also leverage trainee programs such as Energy Generation – X, a management trainee program that attaches students to one of Schneider Electric’s global hubs. This program is supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB) for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS) graduates.

Benefits of Smart Workforce

A workforce that is equipped to leverage the benefits offered by IoT will go a long way in future proofing companies in this digital age. Digitization has paved the way for convergence of data from planning and production, to waste and asset management – with IT and data analytics helping plant operators visualize the profitability of a project before it begins, or maintenance works before an asset is damaged.

Combining technologies such as augmented-reality devices with IoT can empower workers with a new set of skills and knowledge to improve inventory management.

The greater connectivity brought about by IoT allows manufacturers to employ predictive maintenance using data to anticipate failures in advance. Employees can work smarter by carrying out repair and replacement work before the machine malfunctions and impacts productivity.

Advancements in machine intelligence also help employees to interact with sensor systems to be more productive and effective in their work. For instance, predictive maintenance technology, an AI solution, uses advanced pattern recognition and machine learning technology to learn about an asset’s unique operational profile and its processes. Existing data from machinery sensors is compared with real-time operating data, providing early warnings of equipment issues and allowing operators to identify issues beforehand.

Technologies of today will be replaced by newer ones tomorrow. The workforce of the future needs to be able to harness ever-changing technologies to provide companies with a competitive edge. Companies need to invest in nurturing and developing their existing talent. At the same time, it is important to train new talent to ensure a constant pool of skilled talent entering the workforce.

Change is the only constant in life, and we need to play a part in securing our future.

The author is the zone president of East Asia and Japan at Schneider Electric

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