In today’s world, the onus is very much on businesses to have the latest and most current technology across their organisation to remain competitive. With these constant updates, the modernisation of leadership and management skills often get left on the back burner.
Research from Accenture highlights that 76% of companies are investing in emerging technology and further research reveals that 85% of enterprise decision-makers say they have a time frame of two years to make significant inroads into digital transformation or they will fall behind their competitors and suffer financially. The digital age is a game-changer for businesses, implementing entirely new business models and encouraging innovation and ideas – but this is only possible if an organisation has a strong leader at the wheel.
Below, Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group discusses how the adoption of digital transformation and empowering leadership should go hand in hand.
Upskilling your workforce
As the gap between humans and machines draws ever closer, young generations that are about to embark on the world of work, and those already established in their careers, have developed a cause for concern over the future of work. This is certainly the case within the supply chain and engineering industries as automation is becoming essential for more efficient ways to respond to consumer demands.
It is true that automation will have an impact on some roles as they become a mix of semi or fully automated processes. A recent McKinsey study showed that of the current demonstrated technologies, 45% of the activities people are paid to perform could become automated. Therefore, your workforce must be armed with the skills and adaptability to cope with these changes.
“It’s essential we’re upskilling existing employees; given the pace of technology and operation change, your corporate culture needs to enable employees to progress. Employees must be aware of the value of their skills as well as their abilities to develop and progress into new roles. This level of awareness should stem from management, who are empowered and able to acknowledge talent in individuals that can be developed.” Debbie said.
In 2019 the UK’s employment rate hit its lowest since 1974. With unemployment at a record low, technology-led changes are raising further concerns for businesses that are already struggling to hire appropriate skillsets. The challenge is for businesses to not only inspire the next generation but to share the message that the industry offers further career opportunities beyond roles that are likely to become automated, such as warehouse picking.
Debbie shares examples of how businesses can inspire the next generation:
“We aim to encourage more and more children, particularly girls, towards choosing STEM subjects and pursuing a career in engineering. For example, we have a proactive STEM programme.
In developing educational programmes that help the future generation we are fostering stronger relationships between schools and companies, resulting in courses that deliver the skills required by the industry.“
Merging technology and your team
Employees mustn’t fear the implementation of new technology into an organisation. Due to being brought up alongside the increasing introduction of new technology, Gen Z and Millennials embrace technology at face value, and you’ll find employees of these generations are often keen to get on board and master new technology as it comes in. However, it is important to appreciate that to older generations new technology can result in uncertainty and confusion.
Speaking on the subject Debbie adds: “To work in harmony with technology, you must analyse and regularly assess the ongoing management of technology within your workforce, so that your employees understand the importance their role has within these changes. Building trust in this way will drive a productive and engaged workforce.”
Communication and collaboration
A responsive leader is one that can adapt and reimagine how to handle digital change. Leaders need to maintain and build on individual relationships with employees so that customers are not affected because of digital disruption.
In today’s tech-savvy world, a business’ workforce ranges in skill sets, and with generations such as Millennials and Gen Z, who’ve grown up to be digital natives. The introduction of technology will be smoother as they are more technically competent. Therefore, extra support must be given to older generations within your team. Anyone can become digitally literate with appropriate training. Don’t let your team fall victim to digital change.
Debbie says: “Having a clear structure for your employees is crucial. Training on change should begin long before the technology is even introduced, that way you aren’t leaving your employees confused or unsure. Technology can be stressful and challenging, it is important that you encourage employee feedback and this is continually monitored to address and ongoing problems that could affect employee retention.”
Strong leaders in the digital age are those that commit to a philosophy of continued training, development, and adaptability. Whilst we don’t fully know what digital change will look like in the future, any kind of digital transformation has the ability to streamline processes but without strong leadership behind the technology, it can fail and become obsolete at a cost. Success is only possible if organisations take accountability for the development of the right skills. You must strive to remain current but not let your leadership and management skills grow old.