As business leaders adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), which marries physical assets and advanced digital technologies, leaders are now taking responsibility for developing the skills of their workforce.
According to Deloitte Global’s 2020 Readiness Report, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: At the intersection of readiness and responsibility, preparing workers to meet the demands of Industry 4.0 continues to be a fundamental business challenge, and leaders lack confidence in how their organizations are faring. Only 10 percent of executives surveyed said they have made a great deal of progress in understanding what skills will be needed in the future, and only one-fifth completely agreed their organizations are ready.
To meet this challenge, executives are focusing on training and development—and looking to hire people with the appetite for continuous learning. In fact, according to the report, three-fourths of these executives are now making workforce development a top Industry 4.0 priority and plan to make their biggest investments in this area. And more than 80 percent of executives say they have created, or are creating, a corporate culture of lifelong learning.
That’s a stark difference from the hands-off approach of the past. Two years ago, executives, suggested there wasn’t much they could do to ready their people for the skills required in the Industry 4.0 era; only 12 percent of executives said their organizations could influence education, training, and lifelong learning to a significant degree.
“Companies are starting to understand that if they want to succeed in Industry 4.0, they must create agile work environments and modernized workplace cultures where employees can continuously acquire new skills to keep up with the changing nature of work,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Chief People and Purpose Officer.
The skills of the future
While technical proficiency is an obvious and evolving need, it’s critical that people also cultivate so-called “human skills,” which will have even greater value in a more-automated workplace. Not only will developing uniquely human skills create a more adaptable workforce as jobs are restructured, it will also help human workers specialize in areas where machines are less likely to excel.
According to IFTF research, the top skills that future employees will need to be successful include contextualized intelligence—a nuanced understanding of society, business, culture, and people—and an entrepreneurial mindset.
While many human skills are often considered to be innate traits, they can actually be taught to future workers and are linked to improved performance. According to a Harvard research study, social-emotional, non-cognitive skills are malleable into adulthood and can be developed with the right resources, environment, and incentives.
Young professionals are eager for this kind of training, according to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey. “They understand that automation can free them from repetitive and mundane tasks to focus on assignments that require a more personal touch,” Parmelee explains. “So, they’re especially seeking help building confidence, interpersonal skills, and—particularly for Gen Z—ethics aptitude.”
However, millennials do not believe their employers are focused enough on nurturing soft skills. More than a third said it is essential to a company’s long-term success that its employees and leaders have strong interpersonal skills, but only 26 percent said they were offered much help or support in developing them. They said similar support deficits existed in the areas of confidence, integrity, critical thinking, and creativity.
Universities and companies are starting to take note and develop their own “emotional intelligence,” or “EQ” programs. Stanford University, for example, offers a Compassion Cultivation Training course to help people develop compassion and empathy for others, while one of the courses in Deloitte’s internal leadership program is “The Art of Empathy,” which helps leaders learn to walk in the shoes of others.
“I think the best way we can serve our organizations and our people is to create a company culture that actually trains and equips people to be flexible, self-reliant, and empowered,” says Pierre Naudé, CEO of nCino, a software company that provides cloud solutions to financial institutions. “And they should feel that they can use their own brain power and experience to actually mold their jobs as we go forward, to adapt at the pace of change.”