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The Human Factor:
Re-defining Value in the Digital Future

with McKinsey & Company, Ashoka, Life Based Value, The Five Chairs, CNN Money Switzerland

The idea of gathering you all here is simple - you all make an incredible impact in the work you do. And by bringing you here together we know our conversations will inspire creativity, innovation and change.
— Hannah Wise, Anchor, CNN Money Switzerland

Left to right: Riccarda Zezza, Stefania Avanzini, Louise Evans, Angelika Reich, Hannah Wise, Manuela Andaloro

The disruptions of digitization will not make all jobs “digital“. On the contrary, those activities that are inherently human and therefore not automatable will gain importance
— The Skilling Challenge, McKinsey & Company and Ashoka



The digitalization of business has fundamentally changed the nature of how we work – and, accordingly, what skills we need to succeed. But while many focus on the technology shifts of the future and the corresponding technological skills deemed necessary, there is one overlooked element that is critical to business success in the future: the human element.

Machines, technology, and big data may all be replacing the routine jobs that humans once did. What technology can’t replace is the skills that are distinctly human in nature, such as creativity, problem- solving, critical thinking, communication, emotional intelligence, adaptability and the ability to  successfully work together as part of a team. For businesses and individuals to thrive in the future, re-skilling and up-skilling will be key to be prepared to take on these cognitive, social, and emotional challenges, re-defining their value in the process.

On Thursday, November 22nd, the first SmartPlan event of the #FutureWork series took place in the heart of Zurich, at the Spaces business club.

Here a few highlights of the engaging evening.

Our expert speakers Angelika Reich, Partner at McKinsey, Louise Evans, CEO at The Five Chairs, Stefania Avanzini, Director at Ashoka, Riccarda Zezza, CEO at Life Based Value, and our hosts Hannah Wise, Anchor at CNN Money Switzerland and Manuela Andaloro, Founder of SmartPlan and CEO at SmartBizHub, discussed the one overlooked element critical to business success now: the human element.

We enjoyed hearing from the speakers some best practices and research on the digitalization of businesses, how the nature of our work has fundamentally changed, and the natural shifts towards technological skills.

The audience had great questions like:

Q. What soft skills do top executives most struggle with?
"Most definitely empathy! It’s not fixing other people or giving advice or solving problems. Pure empathy is about listening hard and empowering people to find their own solutions. Leaders feel there isn’t enough time to do that."

Q. 87% of execs say not ready to address the skills gap. How would executives pick the right employees to re-skill or up-skill, and in what direction?
"By three principles. One is self-selection. People need intrinsic motivation to undergo such a shift. Second is for line manager to have genuine conversations about what is possible or what is unrealistic. The third principle is about having a filter to draw a line between how much is enough and how much is too much."

Q. Are top execs being incentivized to take the step? How do stakeholders, share prices, quarterly results play in? And social entrepreneurship is not tied to those numbers? Is it about having the right incentives to take the risks?
"Incentives matter. Re-skilling must be treated with the same importance as the financials. Quantify the value of the re-skilling and show the risk of not taking action. Some business leaders are held accountable for their re-skilling initiatives and that helps change happen." 

The best leaders invest their time and energy in understanding the people they lead and those they want to engage with. They look for formative experiences and motivations, and try to see the world through the lenses of others. It’s called EQ, emotional intelligence quotient. Experts now believe EQ is more important than IQ and a better predictor of success for individuals and businesses alike.
— Manuela Andaloro, CEO, SmartBizHub

For businesses and individuals to thrive in the future, re-skilling and up-skilling will be key to be prepared to take on the new cognitive, social, and emotional challenges, re-defining their value in the process.

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