Businesses Require Employees to Be More Flexible in the Working World 4.0


On behalf of acatech, ZEW and IAB investigated the extent to which German businesses currently make use of Industry 4.0 technologies and how these technologies are changing task profiles.

The progressing digitalisation is changing the competency and qualification requirements of employees among businesses in the manufacturing and services sector: employees are increasingly expected to adapt to the changed processes in the working world 4.0. At the same time, businesses consider the German educational system flexible enough to adapt to the changing requirements of the digital era. These are the findings of a recent representative survey among businesses conducted by the Centre for Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim, in collaboration with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nürnberg, on behalf of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech).

On behalf of acatech, ZEW and IAB investigated the extent to which German businesses are currently making use of Industry 4.0 technologies and how these technologies are changing task profiles as well as competency and qualification requirements. In view of the changing work processes and contents, ZEW and IAB researchers also assessed educational and vocational training programmes in enterprises. These analyses are based on the representative IAB-ZEW Working World 4.0 Survey conducted among 2,032 companies in the manufacturing and services sector in May 2016.<o:p></o:p>

The study shows that approximately 50 per cent of German businesses have already implemented innovative technologies in their work processes. However, on average, the businesses reported that the share of 4.0 production systems makes up only five per cent and the share of 4.0 office and communication tools only eight per cent of their operating resources. Although German businesses are yet to reach a high level of digitalisation and automation in terms of their operating resources, a tendency towards fully automated work processes can be observed.<o:p></o:p>

"Work contents are becoming ever more diverse and complex in the course of digitalisation"<o:p></o:p>

The progressing automation brings about changes with regard to workplace activities that come at the expense of routine tasks, as well as of manual tasks in the production sector. More abstract tasks, however, are gaining importance, regardless of the level of automation. "In the course of digitalisation, work contents will become ever more challenging, diverse and complex in the future," explains Terry Gregory, senior researcher at ZEW and co-author of the study.<o:p></o:p>

These changes in tasks profiles are also reflected in the requirements employees have to meet. For example, requirements are increasing for comprehensive competencies such as process know-how and interdisciplinary working methods, as well as for superficial skills such as personal and social competencies, and problem solving competencies. Future employees are expected to be more flexible and willing to constantly adapt to the changing requirements of the working world. While these changes reduce the physical strain at the workplace, employees are at the same time subject to a higher cognitive load. The researchers, however, observed a different trend in terms of qualification requirements.<o:p></o:p>

Businesses include ICT skills in their training programmes<o:p></o:p>

While the automation of office and communication technologies shifts qualification requirements in favour of technical, specialist and academic know-how, the production sector sees an increasing polarisation in demand between high-skilled jobs on the one hand, and low-skilled jobs on the other hand. "Lower work requirements in some fields of work may reflect automated production environments, where workers are left with monitoring and control tasks," says ZEW economist Terry Gregory.<o:p></o:p>

From the businesses' point of view, the current educational system is flexible enough to be able to adjust training contents and job profiles to the demands of the digital era. To this end, companies do not focus their training programmes on new professions or create new programmes altogether. Instead, they adjust the training contents by setting the focus on the use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT). In addition, professional skills that go beyond one's specialisation is becoming ever more important in further training. All these changes are reflected in the educational and further training programmes provided by the businesses, whereby digital learning material is increasingly gaining importance.

For more information please contact

Dr. Terry Gregory, Phone +49(0)621/1235-306, E-Mail