Leaders have always wrestled with managing change. But in the 21st century, those changes tend to come a lot faster. Two of the primary reasons are innovative technology and changes in the workforce.
The leaders of tomorrow need skills to deal with both. Technology, in particular, can prove either positive or negative for a business, according to a report from consulting firm Deloitte.
Positives include better communication, higher productivity and a reduction in operating costs. Negatives can include a blurring between business and personal life – one of the issues that also factors into the expectations of young workers, who want that line more clearly drawn.
Learning the latest strategies for handling these challenges is part of what students learn in a master’s program in leadership. Graduates are prepared to handle the complications of leadership in the modern workplace, no matter what industry they enter.
Here’s a closer look at both technology and workforce issues.
How Technology Has Impacted Business
It seems more appropriate to ask, “What hasn’t technology impacted?” Healthcare operations now use electronic healthcare systems. Supply chains make use of the Internet of Things. Competitors in every industry attempt to use data to make better decisions. Even sports teams have gotten in on the data trend.
Technology and the data it can collect are present in just about every business. Going forward, it’s knowing how to use the enormous amounts of data available that will become a primary issue for business leaders. Many companies, for example, now have vast data lakes of unstructured data that they are unsure how to leverage for business success.
There are other areas where technology now plays a crucial role and will continue to do so in the future. They include the following.
Most companies have now put in place systems that support better communication between distinct departments of a business. But improvements are always possible.
Technology allows many businesses to outsource work to subject matter experts rather than build out a large staff of their own. That can reduce overall costs.
Technology, if properly used, can make employees far more productive by relegating repetitive tasks to automation. This is especially a benefit to small businesses, who can compete with bigger companies and have far less labor costs. Also, using technology for many tasks frees up employees to work on more creative, strategic projects.
All these areas can have an enormous impact in saving costs for businesses both big and small.
None of these areas are new. But each year, business leaders are finding new strategies for using technology in these areas to become more efficient and effective.
Leadership and the Changing Workforce
Much like technology, changes in the workforce have made a substantial impact on businesses. And, according to Forbes, they appear to be accelerating. That’s primarily because so many Millennials are now in the workforce, and they have different ideas than past generations on issues such as home/life balance. For example, about 43% of workers now spend at least part of each week working from home.
A “brain drain” is also an issue for companies as older workers retire. Workers from the second biggest generation in U.S. history, the Baby Boomers, are starting to leave the workforce. That’s left many companies scrambling to find quality, well-educated and trained replacements.
Further, the job market right now favors job applicants. With low unemployment rates, business leaders need to focus on creating effective strategies to attract and retain talented employees.
Many workers, especially younger ones, want a bigger say in strategy and want to feel a part of the overall team. The use of automation has freed up more employers to take on more strategic roles. They also want the ability to better separate work life from their personal life.
Learning how to address these complex issues is part of what students learn in a graduate leadership program. While the impacts from technology and changes in the workforce are substantial, graduates enter the business world with the skills to take them on.