Salesforce Area Vice President and GM Singapore Cecily Ng argues that in the digital economy, leaders need to go beyond maintaining morale, and cultivate a shared sense of purpose wherever we may be.
By Cecily Ng
Traditionally, when we considered the future of work much of our attention focused on equipping the workforce with hard skills, such as data analysis, coding and software development. In academic institutions, programs aimed at closing widening skills and opportunity gaps have encouraged building careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). This urgency to future-proof and transition careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution has required nothing short of a skills revolution.
Over recent months, public health and economic crises have intensified this urgency and challenged business leaders to redefine the world of work entirely. Widespread lockdowns and remote working arrangements have highlighted other, softer skills that in an increasingly digital world employees – tech minded or not – are going to increasingly rely on.
Just as the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands that we close existing hard skills gaps, the work-from-anywhere world we now live in requires us to further invest in soft skills. In the digital economy, every company is going to need teams which can leverage new technologies fast. Increasingly, too, they will rely on individuals who can solve complex problems, challenge the status quo, and engender a shared sense of purpose among distributed teams.
To overcome the challenges we face, and approach the future of work with confidence, here are three reasons why businesses need to invest in soft skills.
This Won’t be the Last Crisis
Given the scale and speed at which organisations have had to digitally transform over recent months, companies need a workforce that can adapt and grow without a significant impact on their productivity. Increasingly, technical teams will be tasked with adapting new tools and delivering training, often virtually. Others will be responsible for implementing project plans and policies for appropriate use.
In an all-digital workplace, this requires readiness to grasp new concepts, think creatively, as well as to learn multiple hard skills. It means teams have to be resilient; confident to adjust to unfavorable circumstances. When it comes to making business-critical decisions, for instance, around whether to close or reopen physical workspaces, managing processes and teams remotely will be crucial to helping keep people safe.
Distributed Teams Will Rely on Communication
While digital transformation will help companies to better connect with customers, deliver projects at scale, and save costs, collaboration between teams will be essential for success. This is especially true when teams may be working across locations and time zones. Where, for example, engineering teams previously met in one room to identify and solve problems, whole project management, decision-making and documentation processes are changing – and being streamlined online.
From agreeing which set of collaborative tools to use and when, to setting best practices, productivity will increasingly depend upon teams’ ability to work together. The more information shared between teams the better prepared they will be to do their jobs. The ability to build relationships with internal and external stakeholders, to negotiate and persuade will only rise across throughout companies and industries.
Every Company Needs a Common Purpose
A key reason why people choose to work at a company and stay is its culture. However, in cases where employees have been asked to work remotely culture can seem more of an abstract concept. The task of every manager, team, and company, then, is cultivating a shared sense of community and purpose. Developing inclusive leadership skills will be needed at every level of every business.
Getting the best out of teams goes beyond communicating corporate goals. It requires buy-in. The capability to bring teams along – listening, encouraging, and empowering others. Leading with emotional intelligence, showing empathy and curiosity to learn, will be essential to forging a culture of trust and innovation.
As the world of work continues to change, the need for leadership and collaboration will remain constant. While technology can help us to retool and re-skill, ultimately we will rely on soft skills to thrive both in the physical and digital workplace. In the digital economy, the products we sell, the expectations of customers, and the nature of work will transform. Similarly, our journey to building soft skills is never-ending.
Working from anywhere, the challenge ought not to be just how we manage teams but how to empower them. Beyond seeking to maintain levels of morale we must cultivate a shared sense of purpose wherever we are. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, investing in hard skills will help us do our jobs better and keep companies competitive. It’s our commitment to building interpersonal connections, willingness to trust one another, to work and lead with empathy which will make our workplaces great.
(Ed. Featured image by Photographer fauxels.)