The so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is increasingly becoming a performance differentiator for forward-thinking businesses. Indeed many organisations already gain competitive advantage from advances in AI, increases in big data, strides in advanced processing or deeper understanding of consumer expectations. This revolution should reaffirm the need for every business leader to ask themselves:

How do we best equip our business to thrive in an ever-evolving and more digitally enabled environment?

Whilst part of the answer is clearly ensuring that businesses catch up, or keep up, with evolving technologies, the solution undoubtedly also lies in how leaders invest in developing and supporting their people. As the CIPD has noted: 

Closing the gap is about helping employees adapt to rapid changes caused by digital transformation and shaping a new culture, which includes addressing any anxieties they might have or resistance to change.”

Without investment in developing people, they don’t learn and quickly start to become less effective. Without effective people, businesses can’t grow. Consider how this revolution has already impacted the way we work and then add the impact of Covid in accelerating the digitisation in businesses – how we engage with each other and clients, how we lead and make decisions, how we meet client needs – and it is easy to see why the ability to learn, and do so quicker than competitors, will become an even more critical differentiator to business success moving forward.

Of course, any investment in people development needs to deliver the best outcomes. And…

“Leaders will see the biggest impact on their business by investing in the capabilities of their people managers.”

Why? Put simply, because, people managers or line managers have the biggest impact in Organisations – they are “multipliers”. A quick look at the key Macro Trends in today’s working environment and the pivotal role of the manager in relation to these underlines this point:

  • Businesses that focus on developing high trust environments and the well-being of their staff are consistently outperforming those that don’t
  • Businesses that find flexible ways to work most effectively in a new hybrid environment will continue to get the best out of their employees
  • Employees expect more – they want Purpose – understanding how their role aligns to their own purpose as well as to the team’s and the company as a whole – and they want an employee experience that is “consumer-like” in how it feels
  • Businesses that are adaptable and agile in approach and operation are more successful – bringing together groups of people to solve specific organisational challenges and then disbanding them again on completion
  • Research indicates that the majority of the workforce need to be reskilled or upskilled to close the ever-widening digital skills gap and businesses that proactively focus on doing so by supporting employees to learn, and then apply that learning, are most successful  According to PwCs 24th Annual CEO Survey

“62% of UK CEOs believe helping to deliver a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce for the UK should be a business priority. And concerns about the availability of key skills remain high among UK CEOs (73%).”

It is People Managers who are perfectly positioned to foster a positive, trusting culture that promotes well-being, drives employee purpose and engagement, and optimises performance. It is people managers who are best placed to make quick, agile decisions based on relevant data and insight to utilise people (and other) resources most effectively. It is People Managers who are most able to support existing and new employees to learn and apply the digital skills required to drive future success.    

“We talk of making better data-driven decisions – When people are your highest asset cost and line managers account for at least 70% of the factors that affect the engagement of those people it is easy to see why investing in this group will deliver the best return.”