Technology is an ever-increasing part of people’s everyday lives. From mobile apps to virtual assistants, cutting-edge innovations have infiltrated the world at every level — including in business.
A Deloitte report on the future of tech confirms that the prevalence of such tools will only increase. For instance, artificial intelligence will become integral to business operations, cloud computing will result in businesses forgoing private servers, and cybersecurity will become a more pressing issue across all industries. Additionally, new marketing tools and techniques will be introduced to help with customers who demand more dynamic engagement, and data analytics capable of predicting users’ needs will boost opportunities for new revenue streams.
With this in mind, forward-looking CEOs of major corporations and small business owners alike value technologically adept business skills in their new hires. The future of business is now being shaped by what the World Economic Forum refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution ― state-of-the-art tools once relegated to the realm of science fiction, from drones to software bots, are fast becoming a tangible reality. Individuals with the knowledge and skills to excel in this fast-paced world are the ones who can advance in their business careers.
Business Skills for Individuals Looking to Advance Their Careers
From first-time job seekers fresh out of college to longstanding workers looking to stay abreast of industry development, every modern professional must work to keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s tech-driven world.
- Adaptability. One of the most desired soft business skills is the ability to adapt. Individuals who are able to outgrow old, problematic, or inefficient technology will rise to the top. Businesses that are expected to grow will perform best under the auspices of innovative leaders who change with the times. A business administration degree that introduces students to different business operation functions via an interdisciplinary approach can prove useful in this regard. Individuals who are able to apply knowledge across varied corporate departments can recognize how changes in business impact various parts of the organization.
- Technological literacy. According to Fast Company, by 2025 technology literacy will become one of the most in-demand hard business skills in the workplace. Managers need to continue to learn and understand how innovations will come into play in their organizations. Chatbots, for instance, can be harnessed to make operations like customer service easier, according to Entrepreneur. Business studies providing a foundation in modern digital tools will help managers see such possibilities. Coursework may include basic hardware and software concepts, as well as topics such as current operating system software packages and basic tools used for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentation graphics, and desktop publishing.
- People management. Workforces are becoming more globalized, as the Harvard Business Review explains, and therefore more diverse. With more professionals working remotely than ever before, people who hope to advance to leadership roles need the emotional intelligence and communication ability to manage such diverse groups. Additionally, modern leaders must be able to integrate human workers into the technical workplace. Individuals adept at managing both technology and people — and, most importantly, the relationship between the two — will find themselves in an advantageous position.
The aforementioned business skills serve as examples of broad categories that individuals looking to get ahead in the business world should master. There are also more specific core competencies, including business analytics, business acumen, business communication, business management, and business development. Each of these will be discussed in further detail below.
Business Analyst Skills
Business analytics refers to the practices and technology used to compile and analyze organizational data aimed at driving sound business decision-making. Data-driven decisions are measurable, allow for precise insights on what is and isn’t working in a business, and enable companies to adjust their operational plans.
The following business analyst skills will be useful in future workplaces:
- Statistics. Business data analysis relies largely on organizing large amounts of data, such as quarterly sales figures from different departments. Individuals need to be able to collect and safely store data, creating spreadsheets to make tables and charts that coherently display that data. Using statistics, they can run correlation tests — for instance, figuring out that a certain marketing plan correlated to higher sales in a certain district — and forecasting future business outcomes, such as district-specific sales projections. Statistics can also be used to run quality analysis checks and assess the efficacy of a given system or a business initiative.
- Economics. Technology will not only change individual businesses but also change the face of the American economy. Business analysts with a sound background in macroeconomics and microeconomics will know how to contextualize their organizations’ successes and failures in this constantly changing landscape. They must understand basic supply and demand models, the meaning and measurement of inflation and unemployment, and the impact of fiscal and monetary policies on economic activity. A knowledge of consumer and corporate behaviors, as well as government regulations, can also help inform a deeper understanding of market cycles.
- Problem-solving. The best business analysts develop solutions to problems they encounter while performing the work of identifying trends and patterns. If a business analyst notices that sales are lagging in one district while performing much better in another district, the analyst should be able to identify why. By doing so, the analyst enhances the organization’s overall profitability. Those who want an advantage over others in the competitive workforce can fine-tune skills learned in the classroom through studying topics like statistical analysis and economics to inform practical problem-solving.
These business analyst skills can be gained from an appropriate degree program, such as a bachelor’s in business administration. In addition to teaching subjects like economics, these programs encourage students to practice their problem-solving skills by providing experiential examples and real-world simulations.
Business Acumen and Finance Skills
Business acumen is characterized by a quickness of understanding and an ability to tackle business-relevant situations that lead to good outcomes. Sound judgment, an ability to see the big picture, and fast decision-making are all integral to solid business skills. The fast pace that technology brings with it makes excellent business acumen all the more important.
When the time comes to make a choice, leaders must rely on business acumen to make strategic decisions quickly. Even under time pressure, their moves must be productive and ethical. Human resources (HR) professionals must make the right choice when hiring staff, for example, while marketing professionals must make the right choice when designing campaigns. In either case, the right or wrong decision can impact a company’s operations and profit in the big picture.
Given this fact, a solid grasp of business finance skills is also needed to ensure positive business outcomes. Individuals in senior roles should have at least a basic understanding of financial management, including procurement, allocation, and control of funds, as well as the analysis of investments and profits. An intimate knowledge of these profit-impacting factors will make it easier to see what outcomes different decisions may affect.
With knowledge of such profit-impacting factors, critical thinking can subsequently be used to determine the best path forward. The ability to examine a scenario and hypothetically determine possible outcomes helps when making organization-wide decisions. The best critical thinkers are able to put personal beliefs and preferences aside and look at problems and situations objectively.
A comprehensive degree program focused on business administration can provide the training needed to master these core competences. It typically offers hands-on learning experiences to give students the chance to put their business acumen skills to the test.
Business Communication Skills
Communication is one skill that’ll remain just as relevant to business leaders in the future as in the past. The way that people communicate and exchange information has changed immensely over the past decade, however, and will continue to do so. For instance, Business Insider reports that 50% of the U.S. workforce will already be remote by 2020. Finding ways to maintain coherence and connectivity when brick-and-mortar offices are becoming a thing of the past requires innovation and technology. Managers must harness online project management tools and chat systems to stay on top of workflow and brainstorm innovative ways to keep employees engaged. Future leaders in the workforce must also be sensitive to the increased diversity such a remote workforce brings with it; they may find themselves leading remote teams comprising individuals in different cities, regions, and countries. Communicating in a way that people from different backgrounds are all receptive to is sure to be an in-demand talent.
The following business communication skills will be useful across all industries:
- Written communication. Written communication can come in many forms and target either internal or external audiences. For example, internal communication includes emails and chat conversations, while external communication includes signing off on and even providing direct quotes for press releases and thought leadership articles. To cut through the enormous amount of content people are faced with everyday, clear, concise wording is all the more important.
- Verbal communication. Individuals who want to advance in their careers must be able to motivate others verbally — for instance, through speeches or simple one-on-one conversations. This means eliminating verbal tics like “um” and portraying a confident image through body language — for instance, with good posture and a lack of fidgeting.
- Negotiation ability. At some point, almost every person in business must negotiate for something. A marketing manager could negotiate with senior staff for a larger budget, for example, or a board member could negotiate with other board members concerning a merger. The art of persuasion requires finesse and emotional intelligence. Learning how to apply this skill across various channels — written and verbal — will mean greater success in business.
Business communication skills are part of a comprehensive business administration education. Students generally not only learn verbal and written skills but are also taught key presentation techniques, preparing them to stand before co-workers, bosses, and senior staff to make their voices heard.
Business Management Skills
An increase in technology in the workplace means that leaders must learn how to manage both people and tech, as well as the relationship between the two. Employees must be taught to use new technology and stay abreast of the latest developments. This means that managers must be able to provide the training and tools needed for the workplace to stay operational.
In addition to quick thinking and fast action, the following business management skills will be increasingly desirable:
- Transparency. The increasingly remote nature of workplaces will demand more transparency than in the past. Those who want to advance in business will be required to navigate a fine line of keeping employees informed and engaged without oversharing senior-level details. Trust becomes even more important when individuals can no longer work face to face but must communicate primarily through technology. This also extends to a company’s relationship with consumers: A study by Label Insight revealed that 94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to those brands that they feel offer them transparency. Across the board, the ability to be open and honest is in demand.
- Teamwork. Solid business management skills enable bosses to make their teams feel connected. Even among on-site workers who may share an office, face-to-face interactions are becoming less standard. Workers communicate via chat apps or email although they’re in the same building. Great managers will find ways to encourage familiarity and connection between teammates despite these hurdles.
- Results-oriented mindset. More and more companies are projected to focus their strategies solely around concrete, measurable deliverables. The so-called results-only work environment will come to dominate the business world. Managers must thus learn to measure employee success based on output and other tangible results. This may mean developing quantifiable key performance indicators, such as measuring the number of clicks on an article or the number of units of a product sold.
Forward-thinking business administration programs seek to instill these values in their graduates. In keeping with the demands of modern CEOs and small business owners, discussions focused on topics like diversity and transparency are now an integral part of reputable business programs.
Business Development Skills
Every leader in business must serve as a driving force capable of establishing a vision for progress. Business development focuses on bringing long-term value to an organization by tapping into its customers, markets, and relationships in a forward-looking, profit-minded manner. Individuals adept at this look beyond the organization and take into account larger contexts, from impending political movements to technology trends.
- International outlook. Learning how to navigate the delicacy of national and cultural differences, understanding international trade policies and institutions, and having a solid grasp of global investment and competition are all essential to business. Major corporations have locations worldwide, and even smaller companies, such as online retailers, now operate internationally.
- Mastery of business policy. Solid business development starts with a thorough comprehension of business policy, including policies regarding HR, marketing, production, and research and development. A basic understanding of business law, such as ethics regulations, is also helpful in sharpening the business development skills that will allow for rational and legally appropriate policy changes and implementation.
- Research skills. Business professionals must know what trade journals and media are relevant to their industries and consult these regularly to stay abreast of the latest developments. They must also understand how broader political and economic changes may impact their organizations and be prepared to inform senior officials in their organizations of such impending changes to make a case for key business development decisions.
Choosing a business administration education that provides an international focus in addition to covering basic business skills like policy and law will open up additional doors. Companies with global reach will be interested in hiring candidates who can demonstrate a thorough knowledge of international economics and foreign business policies.
Job Outlook for Graduates with Business Skills
Individuals who master the above skills and acquire the relevant credentials, such as through a bachelor’s in business administration, will more likely find lucrative career prospects awaiting them. These business skills are needed by diverse industries, from nonprofits to governmental agencies to healthcare organizations. Added to that, many diverse career possibilities are available in the business field.
- Management analyst. Management and business analysts make proposals to help organizations run more efficiently. Their duties may include reviewing departmental processes and troubleshooting hurdles that slow down daily operations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that growth in this occupation will be much faster than the average for all other occupations, with an increase of 14% from 2018 to 2028. The median annual pay for management analysts was $83,610 in 2018.
- Financial manager. Financial managers help to oversee and develop strategies for businesses to enable them to achieve long-term financial goals. Their duties may include drafting financial reports and advising on investment activities. Financial manager positions are expected to increase by 16% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS. The median annual pay for financial managers was $127,990 in 2018.
- HR manager. HR managers plan and direct an organization’s workforce. Their responsibilities include coordinating hiring and dismissing, as well as supervising employee training. The BLS projects faster-than-average growth for HR managers, with an anticipated increase of 7% from 2018 to 2028. The median annual pay for HR managers was $113,330 in 2018.
The Advantages of a Bachelor’s in Business Administration
Individuals who want to stay on top of the rapidly changing business world in the face of new technologies can benefit from an online bachelor’s in business administration such as one from Maryville University. The core curriculum includes foundations in digital technologies, business statistics, economics, marketing, finance, and communication. Students are also required to complete valuable coursework in business policy and law. There’s also an international business curriculum covering such topics as regional economic integration and foreign trade policies. This prepares graduates to look beyond U.S. borders and expand their horizons with an eye toward global business development.
Students are further provided with an interdisciplinary overview of the many different facets that make up an organization’s operations. Hands-on learning and review of real-world scenarios are used in practical critical thinking and decision-making exercises. This means students can leave the program not only having the knowledge and business skills they need to lead but also understanding how to use it. Graduates who wish to continue their education can pursue the Maryville University online Master of Business Administration. This advanced program enables graduates to further delve into a specialization, such as cybersecurity, business data analytics, or emerging digital media. With this added depth, graduates can pursue additional opportunities.