Leadership and the challenges of the 4IR.


Building teams and keeping them together could play a more important role in businesses quests to survive and thrive.

“We cannot wait until there are massive dislocations in our society to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Robert J. Shiller, 2013 Nobel laureate in economics, Professor of Economics, Yale University

A summary of some of the challenges that the 4IR may create for business leaders:

This section is on leadership and will focus on the investment in people and areas you will need to consider to ensure you get a return on the investment made. The others as you can see by the links have been covered else where.

In situations where investment in training, re-training and people is being made and you are being pro-active and leading the way, you are also potentially creating your “tomorrow’s” competition and making your labour force highly desirable. Disruptive employment is likely to have a massive impact on the employment market and how it has traditionally operated, the challenge for business leaders will be:

“How do you ensure that you get a return on the investment made in training, re-training and your people?”

This is an area where advice may not always be available or the right approach as we will often be moving in to uncharted territory and It will probably vary:

  • From sector to sector
  • Skill set to skill set
  • Young to old
  • Business to business

One thing that has already changed is the concept that a “job is for life”. The key will be to work out a strategy that works for your business and it keep it under constant review. The answers will often lie in the leadership of the business and the culture it develops. Remember the statistics:

  • Highly engaged employees were 87% less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts.
  • 3 out of 4 people who leave their jobs of their own will, aren’t quitting their jobs but their bosses.
  • Only 40% of workforces are aware of their company’s goals, tactics and strategies.
  • Organisations with greatly engaged employees accomplish double the annual net returns of those where the employees are not so well engaged (as per analysis of 64 organisations).

Perhaps we will see the development of different business structures and different business cultures. The old hierarchical system may need to be amended, a culture where people are valued and rewarded appropriately may well evolve.  A deeper understanding of what drives your key employees and working with them to ensure that they feel full filled, rewarded but more importantly part of the journey could become the norm as opposed to the exception. Primary focus may well switch from efficiency and maximising profit to inspiring and motivating on the bases that the latter two will be the most effective way of achieving the former. The “John Lewis Partnership” model may well become less unique.

To attract and keep the best, businesses are going to need to consider the next generations goals and aspirations which are becoming increasingly different from what the older generations were. The older generations aspirations were often a stable job (probably for life) and owning a nice home, these are now not always immediately available to the next generation and for some are becoming just a pipe dream. Business leaders will need to be:

  • Adaptable
  • Open minded
  • Creative
  • Understanding
  • Non-judgemental
  • Flexible

Whilst at the same time making sure it works for the overall good of the business,  taking care of the majority whilst at the same time keeping and rewarding the key players; recognising that what was right, acceptable and effective yesterday may not be tomorrow. The style of leadership that adopts the principles of “these are our rules and how we do it and how it has always been done, if you don’t like it then I will find someone else who will,” may well in many cases become a thing of the past as ready and willing replacements will not be available.

Home working in some situations may become much more common, as the ability to work from home becomes ever easier and travelling becomes ever more time consuming and expensive. Where margins will be tighter and profits harder to earn home working could become an easier and more cost effective way of rewarding staff, not only increasing the disposable income of the employee by reducing travelling costs but also improving life style, whilst at the same time being able to make savings on office costs.

The challenge will be to maintain some form of human inter action and team culture. How many people go to work to get themselves out of the house? Isolation can be counter productive in maintaining a healthy mind. May be offices will become more like a clubs, people will use them as meeting places, book the meeting room for a mutually convenient time,  set an agenda and order the refreshments they want. Or may be some disruptive technology used in a disruptive innovative way will help solve the problem!

Having made the investment in training and developing staff larger businesses are going to need to be more aware of the difference between job proficiency and loyalty and the skills required to lead teams. Too often in the past those employees who have demonstrated good skill sets, reliability and good work attitudes have been promoted into leadership roles without having leadership skills, remember the statistic 3 out of 4 people who leave their jobs of their own will, aren’t quitting their jobs but their bosses.Having made the investment in training or re-training this is something that businesses will not be able to afford to let happen. May be businesses will and should take more notice of the simple key performance indicator of staff turnover, and where appropriate drill down to departments. The reality is work is likely to become more specialised as niche markets become more prevalent, the consequences of which could be:

  • Those delivering with in the niche market will develop a personal brand with in the overall corporate brand.
  • Replacing staff will become more difficult and more expensive as the above takes effect.
  • Businesses will have to invest more in training whilst at the same time ensure that they have a pathway to keep the people they want.
  • Key staff will become more valuable which in turn will give them more options.

Which brings us back to the disruptive employment market which is evolving.

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