When we talk to people about the challenges they’re experiencing at work, there’s usually some kind of bottom line involved. Some organizations are going through a change; maybe a merger, a restructure, or a new set of strategic goals to work towards.
Sometimes it’s a question of leadership – are the company leaders getting the most they can from their people, or ensuring that they’ve got everyone heading in the right direction at the right time? Or it’s about teams: intra-team issues impacting productivity, or inter-team issues causing projects to be held up. It can also be that the salesforce isn’t performing as well as they’re expected to, so there’s less money coming in.
These challenges typically fall into one of four categories – structure, process, leadership, or revenue - and they are all readily visible in reporting on the company financials or scorecard. When we respond, as we so often do, by telling customers that improving their business performance starts with increasing self-awareness in their people, they don’t always or immediately see the connection. After all, the phrase self-awareness … to some people it can sound quite a distance away from seeing better figures on the balance sheet.
But the truth is; business problems can be answered by a solution that involves highly self-aware people. To paraphrase what a business partner of mine used to say, “Most business problems are people problems”. If your organization is crammed full of wholly-realised employees, who know their strengths, work on mitigating their weaknesses, are able to make the very best of every relationship around them, speak truth to power, can push projects through to fruition, transition through change without skipping a beat … those people will transform your business more than anything else, and for a long time to come.
A self-aware workforce is a game-changer: more than a new software system, a different strategy or a clever sales pitch, it’s the community who goes to bat for you every day that will ensure your long-term success.
This is especially true when we put people development in the context of the tech revolution that is changing our workplaces at a pace we never imagined. We’re looking at a near-future of remote workforces, robots that can each do the work of a dozen production workers, and a logistics industry which invests in delivery drones and driverless cars instead of people.
There is definitely a sense that most people think the tech revolution is coming for other jobs and other industries, but not theirs – a denial about exactly how pervasive and invasive new technologies will become in almost every single industry. But, perhaps counterintuitively, that’s exactly why it’s the most self-aware people who are going to carry organizations through these seismic changes, and on out the other side to even more success.
(Organizations) cannot walk into a more technologically complex and digitally demanding future … unless they … understand that investments in human capital are just as critical as investments in “hard infrastructure” if they actually want to spur economic growth and compete effectively in the short, medium and long term.
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President
We each have a certain personality and set of preferences that inform how we like to work, and in the face of a tech revolution, it’s our self-awareness that will help us know how we’ll adjust. Will you be happy to work alongside robots instead of people? Will you be inspired by teaching to a room full of robot avatars beaming your lessons to remote students? Those are the kinds of things that only self-aware people, who do the work of self-awareness in advance of change, will be able to answer.
Organizations will always need people who are excellent at the stuff that only humans can do; empathize, ideate, be creative, imagine the most out-there solutions to old problems, listen with empathy, motivate and inspire others, be adaptable to change, build strong relationships with colleagues and customers – to name just some.
That’s why investing in your people should be a constant and unquestioned priority when it comes to budget-setting. As the years march on software will need replaced, offices will require maintenance, strategies will lead to expensive restructures, but investing in people will never time out.
We can’t yet know exactly how roles will change, which jobs will be wiped out, or if in ten years’ time we’ll be recruiting for roles that don’t yet exist. But what we do know is this: people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and spend time learning more about who they are, what they’re here to do, and where their preferences can take them during the tech revolution, will carry organizations on through to a bright future. The work of self-awareness should start today, in order to protect the bottom line of the future.