Preparing for Industry 4.0: Four Steps to Improve Your Soft Skills
Bots. Artificial Intelligence. Machine Learning.
Whether you like it or not, Industry 4.0 is driving change in every aspect of our lives, including the workplace. Advanced automation has the potential to perform repetitive tasks faster, more accurately, and at a much lower cost than humans—and it will impact jobs at every level and in every industry.
Automation will also change the role of the manager—yet he or she will remain an important part of the organization. In his article titled “What is a manager’s role in a human-robot world?” for the Financial Times, Andrew Hill explains how historical evidence points to managers taking on more responsible, sophisticated roles.
So what does this mean for managers—especially those in middle-management? Well, now’s the time to start preparing. You’ll need to oversee more diverse and dispersed teams, manage the human-machine interface, and maintain the agility needed to thrive in a fast-changing environment. This will require outstanding soft skills—including some that you might not have had the chance to develop yet. That’s why it’s critical to start working on them now. Follow these four steps:
1. Make an inventory of the soft skills that are currently important in your job, as well as those that will be essential in the future. Some of the most important include emotional intelligence, communication skills, creative thinking, leadership, critical thinking, adaptability, conflict resolution, collaboration skills, and the ability to quickly assimilate new information.
2. For each skill, rate your proficiency level as good, average, or poor. This assessment will provide the road map for you to practice and improve. Make a short list of the soft skills you need to work on most.
3. Identify opportunities to improve your skills. Note that these opportunities can be in educational, professional, and social settings. For example, you can take an online course to improve your critical thinking skills, or you can request more responsibilities at work to strengthen your leadership muscles. At the same time, if you’re great at leading a team but you rarely collaborate with others on a peer-to-peer basis at work, you could volunteer for the events committee at your local neighborhood organization.
4. Work with a mentor or coach. Depending on how automation affects your company and your job, improving your soft skills could be critical to your career. Working with a mentor or even a coach could provide you with the guidance, support, and feedback you need to bring your skills to the expert level.
While improving your soft skills might sound challenging, it’s likely to be one of the best investments of your time and energy you’ll ever make. Because by doing so, you’ll not only become a better manager; you’ll also be a more valuable asset to any company for years to come.