The Fourth Industrial Revolution and HR 3.0 – Part 1 by George Kemish

When reading articles on the Fourth Industrial Revolution it becomes obvious that this relates to digitisation and the way in which it will impact both the working life and private life of the individual. However, there have been a number of articles written with regard to HR 3.0 which range from The need to transform the provision of HR services to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution; to Putting the Human back into Human Resources and the Expectations of Millennials with regard to the services provided by HR. My own view is that there are two main requirements of HR 3.0. The first is to ensure that the services provided by the HR Professional meets the needs of the Value Chain. The second is to help facilitate the introduction of digitisation in this ‘new age’. However, to do this there needs to be a shift of emphasis away from the common ‘threads’ of building a corporate strategy linked to the Return on Investment (ROI) and the Bottom Line and producing an HR strategy that is employee-centric but not linked to the Value Chain. It is the customer that will have the biggest effect on the ROI and on financial returns to the organization. I do not see this changing in the foreseeable future.


In order for Corporate Strategy to provide value to the customer and support digitisation, there is a need for collaboration across all departments within the organization. This means that no department should be excluded from the Corporate Planning Process (CPP) and that HR cannot be an afterthought in business planning. Yet we still see the Corporate Strategy Document being passed to the HR Professional, in order to try and interpret HR needs, after the business planning process has been completed. The inclusion of the HR Professional in the CPP has a number of advantages. Firstly, the HR Professional will have first-hand experience of the interactions that have taken place between the other Heads of Department whilst formulating the Business Plan and will have a better understanding of the needs of those departments. Secondly, other heads of department will have an opportunity to have an input in the formulation of the HR Strategy and, hopefully, have more trust in that it will meet their needs. However, there is also a third consideration. If the HR Strategy is written directly into the Corporate Strategy Document, against each individual goal to be achieved, then it can be easily and quickly amended, at the same time that the goals are reviewed, in order to take advantage of changes in the internal and external environments.

This brings me on to Business Scenario Planning in times of uncertainty, ambiguity and turbulence. For those not familiar with Scenario Planning, Scenarios are internally consistent views of the future that focus on discontinuity and change (not on continuity – the past cannot play a part in determining an uncertain future) and involve exploring how the underlying systems in the business environment may generate change, whilst taking into consideration how the competitive players (existing and new) might behave. It is a bit like films were made in the old days – scenarios are presented as a series of pictures that can be ‘spliced’ and ‘reframed’ to take account of change. There is a ‘storyline’ that enables the pictures to hang together (based on working back from where you want to be in the future to where you are in the present). It is a pattern of future events and of the interactions, as envisaged by the planners, between customers, competitors and other key players.

But note: This is not about creating abstract pictures, scenarios show specific actions by players in the market. You cannot use them to make broad or vague generalizations. In short, they are ways of picking up, amplifying and interpreting weak signals in the environment. Having said that ‘the past cannot play a part in an uncertain future’, it can play a part in determining where you are in the present and, in doing so, confirm or dispel the planners understanding of the same. When putting together scenarios there can be no place for conflict. If the scenarios are to add value to the planning process, then there is a need for collaboration and agreement. So, in short, scenarios are not: Mere Forecasts; projections from trends; fixed or rigid world views; complete in all details; or static. Managers need to accept that there is likely to be a discontinuity between the past and the future and to keep a close eye on the internal and external environments in order to identify changes required to the scenarios themselves (Reframing). HR will have a significant input to such scenarios. This may include (but not limited to): Is there a requirement for additional staff? If so, what skills will be required? Is there a shortage of people with these skills in the marketplace? Do we already have people with these skills? If so, are their skills still current? Is there a need for retraining? This will all need to be costed for each scenario that has been produced (there may be more than one).

Looking at both HR Strategy and Scenario Planning there is a need for the HR Professional to have a wide understanding of business administration and management (not just of the HR Function) and an inquiring mind in order to ascertain an understanding of the requirements of departments engaged in production and/or the provision of services to the customer (which is likely to be across all departments). This brings me on nicely to looking at the Customer; the Value Chain; and the danger of becoming too HR Centric.

Continued in Part 2…


George Kemish is a consultant specialising in HR Strategy, Workforce Planning and Business Scenario Planning. Having started out as an apprentice in the engineering industry he moved into business administration where he held management posts in both HR and Financial Management from 1978 to 1993.

For the next 14 years George held a senior management position in the Education Sector with responsibility for Management & Financial Accounting; HR Management; Secretarial Services; Facilities Management; Events Management, Catering Management; Marketing; Public Relations; Management of Freedom of Information & Data Protection. As Secretary to the Board of Governors he was also responsible for: Advising on the interpretation of all legislation, regulations & best practice relating to corporate governance; committee administration; drafting of the annual corporate report (including year-end accounts); drafting of the business plan to support short, medium and long-term strategic planning.

In 2007 George moved to the Ministry of Defence where he was responsible for HR Strategy and Manpower Planning in respect of worldwide operations until 2016 when he founded his company; specialising in Business Planning from a HR perspective.