Human value in the digital age

As digitalisation and smart automation progress, many will see their jobs altered. Advances in automation technologies will mean that people will increasingly work side by side with robots, smart automation and artificial intelligence. Businesses will look for employees who are good at the tasks that smart automation struggles to do and that add value to the use of smart automation.

In the past, technological progress has had a positive impact on our society, increasing labour productivity, wages and prosperity. Right now, a new technological wave of digitalisation and smart automation - combinations of artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies - is fundamentally transforming the way we work, at an unprecedented pace. For example, data analytics, the Internet of Things and drones are already used in many industries to make production processes better, faster, and cheaper. We already see shifts in the structure of employment: in industries, tasks, educational levels and skills.

Competencies and character qualities will become much more important

In the digital age, competencies and character qualities will become much more important. This is different from what we’ve asked before ― and are asking even now ― from our employees. In the digital age, we will need qualities such as curiosity, empathy, adaptability and emotional agility. With these qualities, workers can add value to the use of smart automation.

Shifting from cognitive skills to character qualities means restyling the way we organize. To unleash the full potential of character qualities, businesses should shift their focus from norms towards purpose and values, from rules and procedures towards providing meaning behind the rules, and from hierarchy towards more autonomy. In recent years, some organisations have made this transformation, and have significantly outperformed their peers. Focussing on true human values will help reaching the highest potential of both businesses and their employees in the digital age.

Changing leadership

For leaders, retaining the human element in an increasingly digital world will be vital for future success. It becomes clear that the digital age requires different qualities from business leaders as well. We will need tech-savvy and mindful leaders who understand technology well enough to see how technology and people support each other and create added value. And above all, leaders should be able to connect with a higher purpose, inspire their employees according to this purpose and give their employees the freedom to create value. When employees feel supported in satisfying their needs, they respond with high levels of engagement and willingly bring not only their intelligence, but also their commitment, intuition and creativity to work, creating the conditions for themselves and their company to flourish in a digital age.

Contact us

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Chief Economist, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 75 58

Wendy van Tol

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 76 06

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