25 Oct WORKFORCE INNOVATIONS: HUMAN CAPITAL MUST COME FIRST
Why is investing in human capital key to sustaining growth going forward, even if you live in one of a growing number of countries so advanced that they’re introducing robotic patrolmen to their police forces and providing centralized facial ID recognition networks and free online skills training to thousands of workers? Or a category-leading destination that 80% of the world’s top 100 technology firms already have a presence in?
The answers lie in strategic thinking, and planning for tomorrow. As surveys of hundreds of the world’s most innovative companies show, having more time, money, or manpower is no longer the secret to getting ahead in business, or creating competitive advantage. Instead, as we found while researching recent books Make Change Work for You and Lead with Your Heart, the world’s most accomplished governments and organizations instead stay ahead of the curve by working to encourage disruptive thinking in hires – and constantly giving their people more opportunities to speak up, share their insights, and experiment with creative new solutions. (In other words, in the face of changing environments, they constantly strive to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking in workers, listen more closely to target audiences, and find better ways to tap into the power of their people to find ways to adapt to new cultural shifts or market evolutions.)
Naturally, finding ways to more actively promote creative thinking and make cultivating a growth mindset a routine way of operating across the board will only become more important for world-class organizations in coming years as well. As a reminder, the next 10 years will bring more change than the prior 10,000 – and CEOs in every region of the world and every industry remind us that the big theme coming into 2021 and the next decade is unpredictability.
According to business leaders, in fact, uncertainty is now the only certain, and confidence in enterprises’ ability to achieve both short- and medium-term growth is at an all-time record low. Great talent is also still hard to come by, studies show, and there’s a huge shortage of workers who possess the skills needed to translate the mountain of data we’re all gathering these days into actionable business results. Even more eye-opening, despite investing billions in digital upskilling, business executives across the globe are still struggling to get key info they need to make intelligent choices in a world that’s growing increasingly volatile and fast-moving. Worse, even having made such sizable investments, they say that their ability to gain these insights hasn’t improved in an entire decade.
Oh, and by the way, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all being forced to adapt to exponential new advancements from blockchain technologies to 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and virtual reality solutions – all of which are hitting us harder, faster, and from more angles than ever before.
The net result? Regardless of which industry you’re operating in, from government to consumer products, life sciences to transportation, odds are that the way things have “always been done” are no longer the best way to do them. And organizations of every size and scope need to be more active about promoting meritocracies when it comes to decision making, and championing cultures of learning and growth, since succeeding is now less about our talents as individual professionals, and more about empowering our collective workforces to make change happen.
In essence, right here, right now – while things are going well, and you can most afford to take chances – is the best time to be doubling down and investing in initiatives that drive continuing learning and growth. Likewise, it’s also the best time to be encouraging yourselves and your colleagues to embrace the idea of continued learning through constant trial and error – the surest way to succeed in any fast-changing environment.
Because in uncertain times, you’ve got to take more risks, not fewer if you want to get ahead in your field. However, these risks have to come in the form of small, smart, cost-effective bets designed as ongoing learning experiments that can help you quickly gain deeper insights into the shape of changing audiences preferences and markets and make better and more informed choices as you get smarter. Likewise, you’ve also got to start being more deliberate about putting systems and solutions in place that can help frontline employees more effectively stay attuned and responsive to shifting cultural or market landscapes. Risky is the new safe, so to speak – and you’ve got to make a point to prepare both your organization, and your people, to start taking more risks (and finding ways to quickly learn from the results) going forward.
That means having to put a greater emphasis on human capital in coming years – and empowering your people to speak up and take action when they spot rising challenges and opportunities, so that you can more swiftly and strategically adapt.