In the age of the internet, we think we're pretty unique when it comes to dealing with big change. But did you know that the quote, 'The only thing that is constant is change,' was first said in about 500 BC by Heraclitus of Ephesus? The reality is that from fire to Facebook, "we the people" have been successfully driving progress and managing constant change. That's why I found one of the results from last year's Korn Ferry Institute report of CEOs both interesting and surprising.
Korn Ferry reported that about two-thirds of the world’s CEOs believe that technology will create more value than people over the next few years. But the financial truth they discovered is the opposite: humans represent more than two times the value of a company’s tangible assets. Why is it then that business leaders tend to undervalue the things that can’t be measured—like people?
Year to year, it’s tempting to count your progress in numbers. Numbers make things clear and easily understood: income or output; profit or loss. Looking at the numbers can be messy and uncomfortable, but that’s where you’ll find true value. You can’t count love, kindness, integrity, accountability or curiosity, but these are the qualities that move our hearts and our businesses. Looking to the colossal changes in our future, we need to understand that technology doesn’t create success. It’s people using technology that does. This year, resolve to focus more on your people who are appreciating in value every day, over technology, which begins to depreciate the minute you buy it.
An error in leadership thinking
Leaders who participated in the 2016 Korn Ferry studies say that technology now occupies 40 to 60 percent of their focus. In one study, sixty-three percent of them said they believe that within five years, technology will be their greatest source of competitive advantage. In a separate study, forty-four percent take it further and say that various technologies will make people “largely irrelevant” in the future of work. These leaders think that because they can’t measure the return on their people, the value must not be there. These studies prove them wrong.
Business leaders take a huge competitive risk when they buy into the idea that artificial intelligence (AI) can outperform emotional intelligence (EI). It’s people who solve our biggest problems--human creativity facilitated by technology in a productive and symbiotic relationship.
My hope is that business leaders won’t use robots and automation as an excuse not to invest in recruiting, developing and training talented people where the true value of business resides and certainly will long into the foreseeable future.
Essential New Year’s resolutions
Unlike technology whose purpose and output are limited, every individual has flexibility and unending potential. All it takes to unleash them is the opportunity to grow their knowledge and skills. These 2018 resolutions will help you attract and retain top talent and maximize their value to your company. Please say out loud and then post somewhere you’ll see it every day:
- I will focus on our culture and better understand what employees care about and provide all that I can of them. (Hint: younger generations are looking especially for purpose, flexibility, collaborative leadership, growth opportunities, frequent feedback, and work-life balance.)
- I will lead with a shared sense of purpose that all generations can find meaningful.
- I will ensure that we stay agile by hiring for adaptability and diversity and investing in new technologies that foster connection.
- I will get rid of old-fashioned hierarchical structures and act more as a facilitator than a manager.
- I will connect people through collaboration and teamwork in order to spark innovation and solve complex problems.
- I will communicate openly, listen more, and give and get feedback frequently.
- I will invest heavily in professional development and training for our people.
The value of robots is their ability to process data and identify trends faster and cheaper, but they can’t see farther than their algorithms. “Staffing up” with them is not a winning strategy. People, on the other hand, can solve problems and innovate (maybe better and faster with a robot alongside). Effective leaders see beyond monetary measures to find true value. You can’t count the heart of a great company, but you can definitely feel it. And isn’t that company the one you’d rather trust with your business?