July 19, 2018

Target: digital future

A study by the University of St. Gallen showed that managers feel pressure to change. The aim is to prepare companies and employees for the digital change.

The digital future puts enormous pressure on managers to change. This was shown in a recent study by the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the University of St. Gallen. Researchers interviewed 44 top managers from twelve industries, half of whom managed corporations and the other half SMEs.

More willingness to take risks

In the interviews, among other things, the respondents were asked about the core competences of managers. The answers differed considerably from manager surveys in the 1990s and 2000s. The three top competences were a willingness to take risks and innovate, inspiring management, and social skills, things that were mentioned only in passing by top managers over the last decades. Background: The interviewees feel that professional, organizational, and communication skills are no longer enough to make their companies fit for the digital change.

In particular, managers in industry realize that they have to make more courageous decisions and explain to their employees that the change will bring more opportunities than risks. To take advantage of innovation potentials, it’s also important to give employees more personal responsibility. In the future, they will have to be more flexible and independent and, in some cases, contribute their skills outside the company in interdisciplinary teams.

A balancing act for those in charge of corporations

Even if automation, artificial intelligence, and efficient 4.0 processes create opportunities for the future, the managers ask themselves just how ready their companies are to handle the rate of innovation and if they will be able to find enough professionals with the necessary team skills who are also willing to accept more personal responsibility. Where a willingness to take risks and startup mindset are needed, the managers who were interviewed are grappling with controlling, compliance, and regulations. According to the survey, they will not be spared this balancing act in the working environment of the future: Managers will still have to fulfill the boring tasks—but also be courageous, inspiring role models.