Human Focus in a Tech World

“As the world becomes more connected, more transparent, and more diverse, businesses need a new type of leadership.”

That was the lead sentence in a Forbes article by Bonnie Marcus entitled “What Are the Most Important Leadership Skills for the Future?“.

Marcus was citing the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report by Deloitte.  Deloitte researchers polled nearly 10,000 respondents in 119 countries for a global view of what CEO’s view as their most important measure of success, and interestingly, profit came in fourth.  Number one was societal impact, followed by customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.

The researchers suggest that businesses need to reinvent themselves for this connected, transparent and diverse world.

“…The magnitude of the disruptions to work, workers, and the workforce – and their consequent impact on employers – are why we have deliberately chose the word “reinvent.” Reinvention goes back to the core – the foundation of an organization. This is not about tinkering at the edges…”

The report noted that “…the paradox of today is that while we live in a world of amazing technology, it is – and always will be – human potential that moves us forward.”

That resonates with me.  Whether teaching in the Creighton University Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership or in Merrimack College’s Certificate in Catholic School Leadership, the focus in my tech courses is always on the human dimension.  Harold Jarche in a recent post on innovation stated:

“…Innovation is like democracy, it needs people to be free within the system in order to work. Empowering knowledge artisans to use their own cognitive tools creates an environment of experimentation, instead of adherence to established processes. Look at a start-up company and you will see it is filled with knowledge artisans, using their own tools and connecting to outside social networks to get work done. They can be programmers, marketers, salespeople. Their distinguishing characteristic is seeking and sharing information to complete tasks. Knowledge artisans not only design the work, but they can also do the work. There is no innovation assembly line.”

Jarche does not really mention technology…he is focused on the human capital.

The Deloitte report breaks down ten human capital trends in three categories:

(1) The Future of the Workforce

  • The Alternative Workforce: It’s now mainstream
  • From Jobs to Superjobs: More digital, more multidisciplinary, and more data-driven
  • 21st Century Leadership: Intersection of traditional with new context (like AI)

(2) The Future of the Organization

  • The Human Experience: Putting Meaning back into Work
  • Organizational Performance: It’s a team sport
  • Rewards: Closing the gap

(3) The Future of HR

  • Accessing Talent: It’s more than acquisition
  • Learning in the flow of life: More integrated with work, more personal, and increasingly lifelong
  • Talent mobility: Winning the war on the home front
  • HR Cloud: A launch pad, not a destination

Those surveyed in this report note that importance outstrips readiness across all ten of these trends.  The researchers suggest that reinvention can happen in one of three ways – Refresh, Rewire, or Recode.  Refreshing involves updating and improving existing practices.  Rewiring involves creating new connections that change the strategic direction.  And recoding suggests starting over and designing from scratch.  The researchers note that whether one refreshes, rewires, or recodes, it must involve technology…and it must be bold – again, no tinkering at the edges.

For my leadership students in business disciplines, I do not think this will strike them as too unusual.  But I wonder about my leadership students in education?  First, are we preparing our students for this future?  And do schools and universities need to refresh, rewire, or recode in order to help students prepare?

The bulk of the report dives in to detailed suggestions for each of these ten human capital trends.  The top three trends noted by those polled as being most urgent were Learning, Leadership, and the Human Experience.  As Northeastern’s Academic Plan 2025 noted, higher education needs to move to a more agile and lifelong impact model.  This recent Deloitte Report suggests they are on the right path.

For those taking my leadership courses (as well as any others), I would be interested in your thoughts.  Do these trends align with the direction you see your organization headed?

{Graphics: Deloitte}

One thought on “Human Focus in a Tech World

  1. Hi Dr. Watwood: thank you for sharing this blog post and the human capital trends from the Deloitte report. It is refreshing to see “societal impact” as the top factor used to measure success. I hope that this trend continues. Life is about people; people drive innovation and change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *