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To address today's opportunities and unconventional challenges, railroads need to focus on creating high-performing teams that draw on a wealth of institutional knowledge, while adding new leaders who can embrace innovation and new technology. By combining the two, they can improve their agility, react more quickly to new opportunities, and drive continuous success.
Historically, technology and innovation for railroads have been predominately aimed at increases in efficiency and safety, not to alter the business model, customer experience or ways of moving freight. However, digitization can unlock capacity, boost performance and enhance the end-user experience. Today, nearly every industry faces the prospect of digitization, which can be viewed as either a threat or opportunity.
Railroads are investing heavily in new technologies to enable growth, efficiency and creativity. As a result, rail executives are increasingly being asked to innovate, improve capacity and add freight to their tracks. They’re expected to be strategic and creative while embracing their historical legacy as the country's transportation backbone.
How do railroaders begin to tell if a railway is ready for innovation and digitization?
As companies’ priorities change, the skills they need often change, too. According to Korn Ferry’s research, the most admired companies value expertise 14% more than the rest. In addition, when looking at the drivers and competencies of more than 500 successful digital leaders, the profile that emerged was consistent and intuitive. It boiled down to four traits:
For railroads, the key to unlocking proficiency is embracing talent that can manage assets while also looking beyond asset-based innovations and pursuing a new vision. Technology fluency and logistics acumen are vital to the strategic leadership team. To drive sustainable growth, railroads must be adept at deploying technology to drive business transformation. At the same time, they have to tap into dynamic talent with a true transformation heritage.
Meredith Moot is Senior Client Partner with Korn Ferry.
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