The human capabilities that unleash business performance  

Deloitte Center for the Edge

Enough fear, cynicism and apathy. To lead towards a new future of work, leaders must cultivate curiosity - a powerful antidote to fear. Creativity and imagination can beat cynicism, and empathy defeats apathy. Finally - we need courage to part from our old ways and venture into the unknown to create new value.

In the future of work, a paradox is becoming increasingly apparent and important: The more advanced and pervasive technology becomes, the more important humans are to the equation. Humans as customers, as buyers, as engines of growth and innovation, as users, collaborators, and stakeholders. And leaders are seeing fresh importance in the ways in which organizations deploy and develop their people to create new value and navigate increasing ambiguity.

As unexpected events proliferate and the pace of change quickens, companies are under more pressure than ever to perform.

  • Investors demand that the financial returns are not only consistent, but noteworthy and increasing.
  • Customers demand products and services that not only meet their needs, but deliver more and different value.
  • Talent demand not only material values, but well-being and aligned values, as well as support for opportunities and individual development.

In the short term, the immediacy of any one of these pressures can seem irreconcilable with the others.

And this only becomes more pronounced when large unexpected events further accelerate the pace of change. For a company looking to grow and thrive in a fast-paced and ambiguous future, meeting these needs for increasing returns and new types of value and meaning will require differentiation and deep relationships. Human capabilities—curiosity, imagination, creativity, empathy, and courage—applied by workers across all levels and departments will be key for the type of differentiation, relationships, and new value creation needed to navigate these pressures and sustain success.

Collectively, these enduring human capabilities are like superpowers. They course beneath the surface or lay dormant in every member of the workforce with the potential to deliver real benefits. They help navigate ambiguity and deliver greater impact. Organizations can draw on these powers to accomplish far more—to jump higher, run faster, see farther, maybe even challenge the laws of the universe.


Human inside: How capabilities can unleash business performance

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An untapped opportunity

But employees’ powers are largely dormant or undiscovered: In our research, we have found few companies focusing on developing capabilities across the organization. A few focus explicitly on a single capability; most often, companies target only leaders and high-potentials for development. Many workers don’t feel they have permission or opportunity to use their capabilities often in their daily work.

Why aren’t companies more focused on developing and making use of the human capabilities in their organizations? Why is this still an unrealized opportunity?

More than anything, based on our conversations with executives, the answer appears to revolve around two questions for leaders:

1) Can capabilities—curiosity, imagination, creativity, empathy, and courage—drive significant corporate performance?
2) Given that these capabilities seem nebulous, what can a leader do to build them within an organization?

The business benefits

What can organizations gain from cultivating these capabilities across the workforce? Tangible benefits:

  • In an environment where customers demand new and more targeted types of value, the ability to create more and more value. Capabilities can enable new value creation by helping workers identify unseen problems and opportunities and develop approaches to address problems and opportunities more effectively and with greater impact.
  • In an environment where specific skills become obsolete faster, a workforce able to continuously adapt and acquire needed skills.
  • In an environment where companies struggle to access the talent they need, the ability to better access talent and increase motivation by making the day-to-day work experience more satisfying and meaningful.

Cultivating capabilities is a win-win, delivering value for the company, the customer, and the workforce.

These capabilities are increasingly relevant in today’s business environment. Rapidly changing conditions, new and unforeseen needs, the breakdown of standardized processes and the status quo—none of it feels academic or futuristic. This is immediate, and the past several months have seen any number of examples of workers responding to and redefining around that immediacy.

Download the full report here to read more about how to cultivate these capabilities.

Deloitte Center for the Edge

Center for the Edge identifiserer og utforsker muligheter i randsonen av forretningsmodeller og teknologi. Vi er en sparringspartner for transformasjon og ny vekst. Vi engasjerer ledere, frigjør innovasjonspotensial og tilrettelegger for bærekraftig vekst for alle.


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