Business Management
3 min read

Industry 4.0: Why human-centric management is key

Dr Achim Schmitt
Written by

By putting the interpersonal and human component at the center of our activities, we will be equipped to transition into the digital age across multiple industries, including education. For a long time, the keyword 'customer-centricity' has been a focal point across industries. However, the new digital environment positions 'human-centricity' as a key component in the workplace of the future. Read on to discover why human-centered leadership skills are the new must-haves for managers.

What is the 4th industrial revolution?

Blockchain, Big Data, AI, VR and digital transformation are the latest buzzwords in the global education and training industry. For a few years now, the term "Industry 4.0" has featured in numerous discussion and work groups that have been continuously pointing out opportunities and risks in our future social and work environment. However, how exactly these developments will change future skills and competences is like looking into a crystal ball. Combined with our experiences of the Covid pandemic, the only certainty we have is that everything will somehow be different in the future.

There is no question that the professional environment and the demands towards companies and employees will change in the coming years. Therefore, many educational institutions are trying to offer flexible training programs to their learners in order to create a good basis for future growth. This principle of "life-long learning" is thus not only a means to an end to fill missing competence gaps, but also to promote agility and future adaptability in the dynamic business environment. Soft skills, together with developing purpose-driven organizations and training leaders in human-centric management techniques are all tipped to be at the forefront of the 4th industrial revolution.

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The interpersonal can only be digitized to a certain degree

At EHL Hospitality Business School, we have been tackling these challenges for a few years now and have formulated a clear goal based on our unique service heritage: people, not digital competences, are the focus of our efforts and actions. A small but very important difference, as it positions human value creation in the “Industry 4.0” as a central element and task. Where digital transformation will enable performance gains via artificial intelligence and speed, humans can hold their ground with empathy, social exchange, interpersonal proximity and affection.

Owing to the pandemic, we have all become aware that instead of technology, interpersonal contacts are prerequisites for creativity, loyalty and flexibility in an uncertain environment. In short, we know more than ever that the interpersonal can only be digitized to a limited extent. Such philosophy is one of our key pillars when transforming many traditional industrial sectors into a more human-centric mindset. It is a fundamental element which we have firmly anchored in EHL's Graduate School program portfolio

Instead of a sole focus on customer-centricity, we concentrate our educational efforts to develop skills for human-centricity. But what does it really mean to be human-centric? Human-centricity involves not just the customers, but all stakeholders including your employees, business owners and suppliers. Our curricula reflect a commitment both to digital innovation as well as preservation and expansion of human-centric themes: the creation of a community, social accountability, a sense of purpose and belonging.  

 

Balancing people and technology: Why human-centric leaders are in high demand

In the future, the global education industry will be about maintaining the right balance between people and technology. If the existing number of interpersonal contacts is partially substituted by technology, then it is up to us to (a) know how to generate added value for customers and employees for the remaining touchpoints, and/or (b) to create and identify new human interactions.

True to the principle "humans are our most important asset in service", it is therefore a matter of giving the future management team and workforce not only technological competences and skills to find their way in a digital world, but also how they will manage close connections with customers and employees. This focus on employee and customer satisfaction creates the conditions to ensure sustainable success in an increasingly digitalized world. It is about developing leadership skills and human-centric sensitivity beyond a pure focus on business knowledge. Having gained these skills will help individuals to drive change, continuously adapt, build teams, be agile and navigate an uncertain future.

This article was first published in NZZ in June 2021.

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Full Professor and Associate Dean of EHL Graduate School

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