Industrial revolutions change the way companies create and distribute value. This means the way companies organize work also has to change. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is no exception. One of the clearest indications that we are experiencing a revolution is the shift in how work is organized.

Accenture has done a lot of research on this, including research specific to South Africa. This is because of the huge opportunity that South Africa could seize.

According to our research and best estimates, by capitalizing on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), South Africa could unlock as much as R5 trillion in value in the next ten years. To unlock this value, we need to understand how work is changing.

When they graduate, two thirds of the children who are at school now will hold jobs that don’t exist yet. And in the developed first-world OECD countries, 10% of jobs are at risk of automation—further changing what we mean by “work.”

There is a lot to unpack in the world of work. Here are four things that struck me as I read through our research.

1. Instead of being organized by role, work is increasingly organized by project.

2. The gig economy and liquid workforces will become more prevalent.

3. The emotional intelligence (EQ) of individuals and teams will become even more important than it is now.

4. Employees will be more valuable for their “growth mindset” than for the skills they have today.

Let’s look at them one by one.

Firstly, work will increasingly be broken into tasks that use an individual’s unique skills and knowledge. As far back as 2016, we found that 80% of business leaders across industries believe the future workforce will be structured by project, and not job function.

That brings us to the second point: when workforces are designed around individual skills, companies can supplement their internal staff with full-time or part-time contractors from outside their organizations. This is not a new phenomenon, but the trend is increasing. In the last 20 years, task-based workers have increased 27%, which is more than full-time employed workers. This is because Internet has made it more convenient than ever before to employ contractors and task-based workers. Task-supply platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr, a platform called Thumbtack, and even LinkedIn can deliver specialized skills to a global marketplace.

Technology is also uncoupling work from finite hours and locations. Accenture’s 2017 Technology Vision survey found that 85% of IT and business executives planned to increase their organization’s use of independent freelancers and contractors over the next year.

What effects will this liquid workforce have on the world of work as we know it? That’s the subject of our third point: collaboration and teamwork will become even more important. We call this basket of skills We’Q, which underlines how important social skills are. We’Q skills start with communication, collaboration and teamwork and culminate in leadership, delegation, storytelling and a service mindset.

In the digital economy, when people are working for multiple employers, or on multiple projects with multiple teams, workers will need to constantly learn new skills.

We call this the “Growth Mindset”, a term coined by Stanford Psychology professor Carol Dweck, and it includes skills like taking the initiative. Think about how this is fundamentally different from any time in our history – we will employ people based not on what they know today, but on how they will learn and grow tomorrow.

In fact, the demand for candidates who take the initiative has increased almost 300% in job advertisements since 2010, and more than 90% of interviewees rated adaptability as one of the top skills needed in the future.

Interestingly, interviewing frameworks often omit the Growth Mindset skills—which presents an opportunity for companies that build a requirement for adaptability into their interviewing process.
South Africa is a country facing multiple challenges, including high unemployment and declining productivity. There is growing optimism, however, as the arrival of the 4th Industrial Revolution coincides with a renewal of political will to address the fundamental socio-economic and development issues facing the country with the help of digital technologies.

There is good reason for optimism. South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned this opportunity by name in the 2018 State of the Nation address. He said: “We will soon establish a digital industrial revolution commission which will include the private sector and civil society to ensure our country is in a position to seize the opportunities—and manage the challenges—of rapid advances in information and communication technology.

And the ability to seize those opportunities begins with understanding how the way we organise work is changing.

Accenture has helped companies across Africa structure their organizations more effectively to meet the challenges of the 4IR—and to manage the culture and systems changes that comes with that. For more on this and other research, read our research report “New Skills Now—Inclusion in the Digital Economy