As you remember I had started to look for answers to the following question:
How will the fourth industrial revolution affect our profession?
The first answer to this question was that talent acquisition, which is the most critical HR function, would evolve into talent procurement (click for reading more) as a result of the changing structure of the workforce from full time employment to freelancers.
As the full-time employment becomes oldfashioned, some new problematic areas arise, although they seem to the advantage of employers. Daniel Callaghan of Talmix, a company connecting companies with consultants on demand, says “you can now get whoever you want, whenever you want, exactly how you want it. And because they’re not employees you don’t have to deal with employment hassles and regulations.” This kind of perspective signals a working environment where companies does not bear costs and responsibilities for minimum wage requirement, employer tax or social benefit payments.
Considering the words of Daniel Callaghan from a different perspective, here comes an inescapable question raised by Klaus Schwab in his book “Fourth Industrial Revolution“:
Is this the beginning of a new and flexible work revolution that will empower any individual who has an internet connection and that will eliminate the shortage of skills? Or will it trigger the onset of an inexorable race to the bottom in a world of unregulated virtual sweatshops? If the result is the latter, would this create potent source of social unrest and political instability?
Honestly speaking, I cannot confidently answer that the result would not be the latter. This is because of the fact that there is an unpaired rate of change in technology and public policy as we see on the below graph of Deloitte University Press.
This brings us to a brand-new issue: What will be the role of HR for closing the gap between technology and public policy? Most of the legislation regulating employment are designed for full-time or part-time workers. However, when freelancers are of concern employment law becomes obsolete. This is due to the fact that freelancers are not connected to the employer with an employment contract, which means their rights are not protected by current laws.
To sum up, in order to prevent modern companies to turn into modern sweatshops, the fourth industrial revolution will require HR to not only abide the laws but also enforce the law makers to adapt employment legislation to changing structure of workforce and nature of work.