The Future of Work is already here.
In the last few years, experts and thought leaders have weighed in on what the future of work will look like, especially with more widespread adoption of trends such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence.
According to a report by McKinsey, there will be a shift in the skills and capabilities required for work; people will use social and emotional skills more, while physical or predictable activities such as gathering and processing data will be left to machines.
Other trends such as globalization, mobility and contingent workforce are expected to bring radical changes to the work environment as we know it.
Therefore, for those aspiring to leadership roles, there is a great responsibility and need to understand skills required in the future workplace and prepare accordingly.
1. Technology Understanding
Business as we know it is being impacted immensely by technology; artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain technology have been predicted to change the way we live, work and do business. Consumer tastes and expectations are also constantly changing with emerging technologies.
As a leader, it is crucial to have a very good understanding of how these technologies will impact your business and the changes your organization might need to make to accommodate them, so as to remain relevant in business.
You must be able to make sense of data, spot opportunities and leverage on opportunities offered by technology.
2. Managing Man/Machine Collaboration
With the impact of technological disruptions, we are seeing more automation and more human-machine collaboration. Leaders must adapt leadership styles to manage a human-robot workplace.
While humans still work in roles where human traits such as creativity, innovation, imagination and empathy are required, machines and robots will take on roles that are routine or repetitive.
For example, while you need a customer service person to pacify an angry customer, receiving payments and checking-out can be handled by machines in a retail environment. Leaders must be able to manage this work combination effectively to achieve results.
3. People Building
As people work more often with machines and robots, it becomes necessary that you learn new skills to manage the collaboration effectively.
Leaders need to develop their people in this regard and support employees to continually upskill, by receiving the training that helps them work alongside machines and also develop their cognitive skills for functions that machines cannot perform.
For example, Google created an internal training program in machine learning for its employees in 2016 and the training is now being extended to the public.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is one of the most crucial skills business leaders will be expected to have in the near future.
According Laura Wilcox, the director of management programs at Harvard Extension School, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly.
Most of today’s leaders understand that the days of authoritative and overbearing leadership are long gone, and leaders are expected to be emphatic, caring and listening people.
The core of emotional intelligence, according to Wilcox, is self-awareness, as it is impossible to develop an understanding of others if you don’t understand you own motivations and behaviors.
To attract and retain the best people, emotional intelligence is a must. Employees no longer work in one organization for thirty or forty years until retirement and people will easily quit jobs where they don’t see empathy and understanding.
5. Adaptability to Constant Change
Change is a constant phenomenon. However, the rate of change and disruption brought on by technology in recent times has been massive. As the digital revolution continues, consumer expectations keep evolving and businesses have to stay ahead of such changes.
For example, commercetools, a cloud-based retail platform underwent an innovation project which allowed the business to add new customer touchpoints, which are 90% faster than before. The company’s Chief technology officer explained that customers now shop with multiples devices which traditional web shop solutions cannot support, and omni-channel sales and logistics are now must haves for customer loyalty and retention.
Business leaders must be willing to continuously adapt to industry changes that will boost revenue.
6. Diversity and Inclusion
The future workplace is expected to be more diverse and inclusive, bringing people together regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, personality, beliefs or geographical location.
Research has shown that diverse workplaces tend to be more successful and future leaders must have a good understanding of all forms of diversity and how best to manage it for the workplace be effective. It is important to have in place hiring policies that encourage inclusion and also build a work environment that addresses major needs of different types of people.
An example of companies working on improving diversity is Nike, the sports shoe and apparel company, which published its diversity numbers where more than 50% of the workforce identified as racial and ethnic minorities.
Another example is Salesforce, where the CEO Marc Benioff kept his promise to gender equality by making adjustments to the salaries of women to address pay disparity.
Years ago, I worked in a business that faced challenges due to the economy. The company’s income dwindled since new businesses were not coming in and there were pay cuts.
One thing that kept the organization afloat was the fact that the CEO had exceptional motivational skills. In spite of the challenges, he was always upbeat and continuously encouraged everyone to put keep doing their best.
Things gradually became better in the company as the economy improved. This was a far cry from a previous company I had worked where the CEO blamed the staff for any dwindling fortune of the company.
If you do not want your team members to lose faith (which leads eventually leads to low productivity) or even jump ship in the face of adversity, motivate them continually.
Motivational skills will play a big role in the future because most people are less likely to stay on a job for too long, and are more likely to leave in times of adversity.