Into the future with human competencies

Tips for employees and bosses

“Employees 4.0” and “Managers 4.0” could be the requirements for the company of the future. This describes, for example: Flexibility to master the digital transformation; permanent readiness for further training and to see the profession as a vocation. This also means being able to cope with the blurring of boundaries between working hours and permanent availability, while still being able to demonstrate a permanent capacity for enthusiasm. Great demands that cause anxiety. How can these demands be translated into everyday language – where can we start to improve ourselves so that we do not experience ourselves as externally controlled and inferior? By working on our own human competencies.

Competencies are usually grouped into four categories: Professional and methodological skills, social and communicative skills, action competence as the culmination of these, and of course: the personal or personal, in this case: human competencies. If we grasp the human being by his or her own inner being, we are most quickly at the point where development is possible. This will be illustrated here on the basis of the requirements of digitization.

1. Competence requirements for digitization

For the future, it has already been extrapolated what are presumably the necessary competencies. One of them is a certain technical understanding and aptitude for non-routine analytical activities as well as non-routine interactive activities (SECO study Competence Requirements (Swiss))[1].

The requirements are therefore increasing: they are supplemented by interorganizational skills and communication skills. Critical thinking and the ability to be innovative should finally take precedence over specialist knowledge. In contrast to this rather dry arrangement, the following will show inductively on the basis of concrete situations how these general skills can be described in concrete terms.

The rapidly changing world of work must be responded to with radical openness and creativity, and this is based on VUCA requirements: The business world has become volatile, uncertain, complex and ambivalent. Nothing can be reliably planned, nothing is linear, and the pressure to act in a complex world nonetheless exists. This can be seen in the following factors:

  • Communication with colleagues is intensifying and changing because of digital tools.
  • The pressure to inspire others, to listen and to be productive with one another, even in virtual interaction, is increasing.
  • Interaction with customers, which is also increasingly characterized by digital tools, is increasing.
  • Algorithms influence the work process by giving instructions, “helping” and also increasing the complexity of information evaluation and processing.
  • Problems are analyzed digitally with programs. The analog disappears. (Example: Fixing a problem on a locomotive starts with a reboot).
  • One’s own work performance is digitally measured, controlled, but also guided in the sense of facilitation.
  • Data volumes challenge analysis and evaluation by means of special skills or applications.

This shows that digitization does not occur in isolation as a trigger for new competence requirements, but that there is a complex interaction with other drivers, such as rising customer demands, and that increasing controlling can be observed. This affects almost all professional activities.

The following parameters are predominant:

  • The documentation and administration of processes is often done with digital tools.
  • Digital technologies are also used in production processes, so that the use of the technologies must be mastered safely.
  • Communication with customers and colleagues is sometimes more direct and/or more demanding thanks to digital means of communication.
  • The competence to critically scrutinize the results in work steps using digital technologies is also always required in order to avoid errors and ensure quality.
  • Among other things, interdisciplinary cooperation between different professions appears to be important.
  • Dealing with ever-increasing amounts of data is demanding, both analytically and in terms of legal aspects – data protection comes to mind.

2. Human parameters as characteristics of the competencies of the future

In contrast, I would like to cite – empirically supported – human characteristics. These are the actual core message for the competence requirement of tomorrow and it reassures. We can and should all orient ourselves to our own inner being and to human values. We arrive at a comprehensible everyday language to capture the competence requirement if we also express it along human values. This makes the implementation easier, because we decide, we “are” the competences. Accordingly, it is necessary to orient ourselves along the following key values, which are genuinely human values:

  • Showing empathy for co-workers/others;
  • Asking clarifying questions to highlight something that is implicitly there;
  • Practicing radical honesty: to oneself and respectfully in interactions;
  • Working together to create and maintain a climate of togetherness;
  • Practicing transparency & willingness to share knowledge and about feelings;
  • To dare creativity and tolerate mistakes.

These requirements are intuitively understandable because they affect everyone personally. And they are demanding, because in essence they also mean enduring what challenges you and bridging contradictions. But this is how inner growth comes about. And the constant exchange strengthens and motivates on an ongoing basis. In this way, you can create a community for exchange.

3. The boss is challenged

These dimensions can be extended to requirements for bosses. Creative knowledge workers – and not only them – are no longer interested in “old-school leadership. Freedom and opportunities for development are important to them.  For those in leadership positions, this means focusing more on background work, namely working on the culture and promoting a sense of community. Identification should be in the foreground. Flat hierarchies, a lot of freedom and independent work without presence controls are on the agenda. The usual career paths are also no longer necessary. Incentives here also tend to be human interaction and sincere authenticity.

And: Humanity pays off. This is also the title of a book by: Stephan Brockhoff, Klaus Panreck (2016).


[1] Die Entwicklung der Kompetenzanforderungen auf dem Arbeitsmarkt im Zuge der Digitalisierung OBS EHB / INFRAS, SECO Publikation, Arbeitsmarktpolitik No 47 (11. 2017)

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