The future of work is barreling toward us, and executives don’t know what to expect. Gartner’s CEO 2020 Pulse on the Future of Work found that 73% of execs believe that coming changes will provoke the need for restructuring, culture shifts and mergers or acquisitions. Other key worries include an increase in competition for critical skills and the widespread disruption wrought from changing customer expectations.
These worries reveal the need for a more resilient, agile and customer-focused workforce, but executives aren’t sure how to achieve this goal.
A new survey of executives from more than 300 organizations offers a few clues.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) topped the list of important capabilities in an increasingly digitized and automated world. What’s more surprising is that design thinking came in at number three.
In fact, design thinking ranked ahead of several common technical capabilities, including robotics, Internet of Things and natural language processing. Clearly, executives realize that tech skills aren’t of singular importance in tomorrow’s business landscape.
Many companies anticipate the need to retrain their existing workforce in order to remain competitive. "Skilled employees will continue to be the biggest asset for any organisations going ahead,” said Hari Krishnan Nair, co-founder of Great Learning, which ran the survey. “While options like lateral hiring and outsourcing may help in the short-term, from a cost and effectiveness point of view, upskilling is the best way to stay competitive in the long run.”
The most innovative companies are well on their way to providing current and future staff with design thinking skills. Mega brands like IBM, Apple and Herman Miller already actively tout their commitment to design thinking, citing it among the key reasons they continually outperform their peers on the S&P 500.
What is it about design thinking that keeps these companies at the top of their industries? It’s all about being customer-centric. By relying on human-centered strategies to engage customers and empathize with their needs, these brands reliably design products that customers actually want.
This kind of customer-centric innovation doesn’t happen organically. It requires training employees in the art of design thinking, which involves critical thinking, customer empathy and collaborative problem solving in order to drive more value for customers and the bottom line.
So, if you’re wondering how to get your workforce future-ready, don’t only focus on tech skills. No matter how talented your tech team may be, if they don’t know how to empathize with customers, their efforts won’t pay off.
Read more about the importance of human-centered thinking in 8 Stats that Prove Design Thinking Pays Off
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Design Thinking 101.