Why Learn & Adapt are the highest valued soft skills you should teach your kids

Why Learn & Adapt are the highest valued soft skills you should teach your kids

Original publication on Medium.com on December 16th 2018

The jobs of the future don’t exist yet — but we know they’ll require some serious social skills

An education is supposed to prepare you for the future. Traditionally, that meant learning certain facts and skills, like when explorers arrived in America or how to calculate an answer using long division. Today, curricula have shifted to focus on a more global and digital world, engaging students in subjects like cultural history, basic computing skills, and writing code.

Yet, the challenges our kids will face will be much different than those of our generation. Most of what a typical student learns in school today will no longer be relevant by the time they graduate from college. A study at the University of Oxford found that 47 percent of today’s jobs will be eliminated over the next 20 years.

Over the next few decades, much of what we “know” about the world will no longer be true. The computers of the future will not be digital. Software code itself is disappearing, or at least becoming far less relevant. Many of what are considered good jobs today will be either automated or devalued. We need to rethink how we prepare our kids for the world to come.

Understanding Systems

The subjects we learned in school were mostly static. The answer to two plus two was always four. Interpretations of certain subjects may have differed from place to place and evolved over time, but we were taught that the world was based on certain facts. We were evaluated on the basis of knowing those facts.

Yet, as the complexity theorist Sam Arbesman has pointed out, facts have a half-life. As the accumulation of knowledge accelerates, those half-lives are shrinking. For example, when we learned computer programming in school, it was usually in BASIC, a now mostly defunct language. Today, Python is the most popular language, but will likely not be a decade from now.

The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

Computers themselves will be very different as well, based less on the digital code of ones and zeros and more on quantum laws and the human brain. We will likely store less information on silicon and more in DNA. There’s no way to teach kids how these things will work because nobody, not even experts, is quite sure of that yet.

Kids today need to learn less about the present and more about the systems future technologies will be based on, such as quantum mechanics, genetics, and the logic of code. Economists have consistently found that routine jobs are most likely to be automated. The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

Applying Empathy and Design Skills

While machines are taking over many high-level tasks, such as medical analysis and legal research, there are some things they will never do. A computer will never strike out in a Little League game, have its heart broken, or see its child born. So it is very unlikely, if not impossible, that a machine will be able to relate to a human like other humans can. That absence of empathy makes it hard for machines to design products and processes that will maximize enjoyment and utility for humans. So design skills are likely to be in high demand for decades to come as basic production and analytical processes are increasingly automated.

We’ve already seen this process take place with regard to the Internet. In the early days, it was a very technical field. You had to be a highly skilled engineer to make a website work. Today, however, building a website is something any fairly intelligent high schooler can do — and much of the value has shifted to front-end tasks, like designing the user experience.

With the rise of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, our experiences with technology will become far more immersive, and that will increase the need for good design. For example, conversational analysts (yes, that’s a real job) are working with designers to create conversational intelligence for voice interfaces. Furthermore, virtual reality will clearly be much more design intensive than video ever was.

The Ability to Communicate Complex Ideas

Much of the recent emphasis in education has been around STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and proficiency in those areas is certainly important for today’s students to understand the world around them. However, many STEM graduates are finding it difficult to find good jobs. On the other hand, the ability to communicate ideas effectively is becoming a highly-prized skill.

Consider Amazon, one of the most innovative and technically proficient organizations on the planet. However, a key factor to its success is its writing culture. The company is so fanatical about the ability to communicate that developing good writing skills is essential to building a successful career there.

Think about Amazon’s business and it becomes clear why this is the case. Sure, it employs highly adept engineers. But in order to create a truly superior product, those people need to collaborate closely with designers, marketers, business development executives, and others. To coordinate all of that activity and keep everybody focused on delivering a specific, high-quality experience, communication must be clear and coherent. So, while learning technical subjects like math and science is always a good idea, studying subjects that delve into the art of communication — like literature, history, and philosophy — is just as important.

Collaborating and Working in Teams

Traditionally, schoolwork has been based on individual accomplishment. Growing up, you were supposed to study at home, come in prepared, and take your test without help. If you looked at your friend’s paper, it was called “cheating” and you got in a lot of trouble for it. You were taught to be accountable for achievements on your own merits.

Yet, consider how the nature of work has changed, even in highly technical fields. In 1920, most scientific papers were written by sole authors; by 1950, that had changed and co-authorship became the norm. Today, the average paper has four times as many authors as it did then, the work being done is far more interdisciplinary, and it is done across greater physical distances than in the past.

Make no mistake: The high-value work today is being done in teams. This will only increase as more jobs become automated. The jobs of the future will not depend as much on knowing facts or crunching numbers as on humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. Collaboration will increasingly become a competitive advantage.

That’s why we need to pay attention not only to how our kids work and achieve academically, but also to how they play, resolve conflicts, and make others feel supported and empowered. Value has shifted from cognitive skills to social skills. As kids will increasingly be able to learn complex subjects through technology, the most important class may well be recess.

Perhaps most of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and make peace with the fact that our kids’ educational experience will not — and should not — mirror our own. The world they face will be far more complex than that. It will be much more difficult to navigate than anything we could imagine back in the days of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Written by Greg Satell

Consider these 4 points to inspire and retain your best millennials !

Consider these 4 points to inspire and retain your best millennials !

Original publication in Gallup.com on October 28th 2019

For years now, millennials have been criticized as job hoppers, easily bored and over-entitled.

The critique is so widespread and well-known that it hardly seems worth investigating. It should be — because it’s not true. Millennials are as likely as anyone else to be loyal to their workplace.

If they get what they need from it. But most, apparently, do not.

According to Gallup data, only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. The national engagement average is 34%, which means many more millennials than their elders feel uninspired, unmotivated and emotionally disconnected from their workplace.

Those are the millennials with the least reason to stay, so they leave. In droves. Millennials are three times more likely than their elders to say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, 10 percentage points less likely to expect to be with their current employer in a year, the most likely to be looking for a new job, and the most open to whatever opportunities might come along.

What Millennials Want

This may seem mystifying to business leaders — why would millennials be so disengaged? They’re treated the same as everyone else, so why would they leave?

The answer is in the question. Millennials don’t want to be treated like everyone else. Their elders may be satisfied (though satisfaction is a poor workplace metric) with a mediocre job, but millennials are not. They’ll keep looking until they get what they need, which includes:

A sense of purpose: More so than others, millennials are motivated by mission and purpose. Of those who say they don’t know what their organization stands for and what makes it different, only 30% say they plan on staying in their position for at least another year.

High-quality management: 58% of millennials say “quality of manager” and “quality of management” are extremely important to them when applying for a new job. For a millennial, their job is their life, so a bad manager will quickly drive them away.

Chances of advancement: Perhaps because they have lower net worth and higher student debt than other generations, millennials (50%, compared with 42% of Gen Xers and 40% of baby boomers) are most likely to say advancement is extremely important when looking for a new job.

Millennials are as likely as anyone else to be loyal to their workplace.

Not coincidentally, what millennials want is the same thing everybody wants in a job. Millennials just want it more and are less likely to wait around to get it. Their refusal to settle for less increases businesses’ turnover costs, which bleeds $30.5 billion from the U.S. economy every year, according to Gallup estimates.

However, leaders who focus on employees’ growth and advancement, who select managers for talent, and who know their company’s purpose can engage millennials.

Those who do will keep millennials.

Those who don’t will train another company’s employees — and wonder why millennials just won’t stay.

Written by Jennifer Robison

4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

Original publication in Forbes on October 31st 2019

As untamed capitalism and corporate greed come under increasingly fierce and widespread siege, the business world has begun to respond, loudly.

In August, the elite CEOs of the Business Roundtable lobbying group released a statement promising to move away from the decades-old corporate belief in “shareholder primacy” toward a more holistic, purpose-driven approach that “serves all Americans.”

Let’s be clear: this move is a huge milestone in the recent history of management. After all, the signers of this statement lead organizations that take in a combined $7 trillion in revenue and employ 15 million people. However, whether the group’s stated goal of shifting commitments actually transpires remains to be seen.

The advantage of purpose-driven companies

Still, the business roundtable’s announcement, while greeted excitedly, shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Over the 11 years since the start of the fiscal crisis, more and more attention has been paid to the ethical, social and environmental responsibilities of co~rporations.

Yet businesses that do operate with a sense of purpose and of bettering society reap economic benefits. Recent studies have shown that the performance of companies with a clear sense of purpose grew by 10 times the median rate of companies on the S&P 500. 

What’s more, purposeful organizations appeal to younger people just entering the workforce. This generation has grown up connected in unprecedented ways by technology to a global community, alert to what threatens it and attuned to social justice. To reach these new or future workers of the Greta Thunberg generation, companies can’t ignore social ethics.

How to promote purpose throughout your business

Purpose is a word that packs a punch. It’s an idea whose meaning, while lofty, may be easily grasped. But attaining a sense of purpose can prove daunting, especially in the context of business and its more practical economic goals.

This can be seen in the gap between society’s expectations of businesses and its perception of results: just 39% of people think that organizations work with the goal in mind of improving the quality of life and well-being of their employees and surrounding communities.

It was with this challenge in mind that I, along with my colleagues A. Lleo-de-Nalda, C. Rey, A. Alloza and N. Pitta, set out to research the promotion of purpose in business. And to develop what we call the Purpose Strength Model compiling the successful techniques and strategies drawn from analyses of 25 purposeful businesses.

How can CEOs and managers promote purposeful business? It’s helpful to first recognize the three pillars of purpose: 

1) Coherence, or the alignment between what a company says and what it does.

2) Authenticity, or the true motivation and intention behind the things a company does. 

3) Integrity, or the naturally occurring behaviors that help maintain a purposeful drive. 

Then, it’s necessary to understand the first and most fundamental step toward building and sustaining purpose, which is constructing a shared purpose that enters the minds and hearts of all employees and inspires them to do their best, most purposeful, work.

How exactly can this communal purpose be achieved? Our model presents four factors, or levers, to attend to while sowing purpose in your organization: 

1. Strategy. The company should define a strategy for the development of a clearly defined purpose. This may sound simple, but it requires deep, prolonged reflection and understanding of corporate responsibility and ethical objectives. This strategy should include specific mile markers to be met along the road to purpose. 

2. Leadership. Company leaders must be depended upon to capably transmit the company’s purpose to employees so that it enters their minds and hearts. This leadership includes directors who promote purpose from the top of the organization and, so that purpose permeates each employee, leaders at all levels and divisions of the company.

3. Management. Systems of management and organizational procedures that guide day-to-day work and ensure that purpose is remembered each day. The organizations we studied saw fit to integrate the company’s purpose into all daily aspects of work including budget planning, talent recruitment and performance assessments. 

4. Clear communication is paramount to demonstrating that what the organization is, what the organization says it wants to be, and what it is perceived to be, all align. 

By following the model of companies who are ethically and financially successful, managers can help lead their companies into a thriving, purposeful future.

By Nuria Chinchilla

What HR needs to look for hiring new leaders ? Check what defines the “3C’s leaders”!

What HR needs to look for hiring new leaders ? Check what defines the “3C’s leaders”!

Original publication in InsideHR on October 18th 2019

The leader of the future is the antithesis of many current leaders who focus on their silos to achieve results, writes Jerome Parisse-Brassens, who explains that HR needs the appropriate tools to support the development of new culture leaders

There is a significant shift occurring in organisational cultures, in response to the VUCA world we live in and the coming-of-age of digital and artificial intelligence (AI). What I find interesting is that this is happening in every market, regardless of their levels of maturity. And this has big implications for leaders and HR professionals.

Over the past twenty years or so, businesses have increased their focus on results, achieving significant profit, establishing a strong reputation and setting fast track records in growth. Successful cultures were centred on achievement, with environments in which accountability is king, people keep their promises, KPIs are clearly established, and little room for error. Achievement cultures required leaders to take personal responsibility, drive accountability, and manage large teams of people who knew what they had to do.

Side-effects of achievement cultures
While this enabled growth, it also reinforced silos at all levels and limited cross-collaboration. For HR teams, this meant they had to recruit leaders who were experts, had delivered results before and could lead teams in fairly predictable environments.

An unexcepted consequence of the strong pressure on results has also been a sharp increase in burnout and staff disengagement, leading to increased absenteeism and sick leave and higher recruitment costs. In the race for results, people were often forgotten.

It’s recently become obvious that the siloed, results-focused model is not sufficient anymore, and the concept of agility made its appearance as a technology enabler, tool, and cultural attribute. True agility is a step change from the previous business model.

“It’s recently become obvious that the siloed, results-focused model is not sufficient anymore”

Beyond customer-centricity as the anchor, agile cultures are requiring leaders to be open, lose the fear of mistakes and not knowing, adopt a learning mindset and the ability to establish collaborative networks across the business. The silos still exist, but new bridges are being built.

What HR needs to look for in leaders
What this change means for HR is the need to recruit and develop leaders who are curious, have courage, and display a collaborative mindset. The significant shift in culture today is not a shift away from a focus on achievement and results (this has to remain strong in the current competitive environment) but the dialing up of the people lever.

Organisations have realised that the next step-change cannot come solely from more pressure, but from utilising the strengths, the skills and the capabilities of their people. This translates into increased empowerment, enhanced work/life balance and wellbeing, more trust and caring, and loosening the top-down approach. Many of my clients are working on just that – but this is easier said than done.

Putting people at the centre of AI and digital transformation
Unfortunately, this is not enough. With the coming-of-age of digital and AI, organisations have to reinvent themselves. AI’s power comes from the amount of data at our disposal and the speed at which machines can analyse it to make faster decisions than us humans could ever do.

The big difference between today and tomorrow is the sheer amount of data available and its connectedness. Silos do not exist with data and this is where the true power of AI lies. It is breaking down barriers. The good news, which the most fearful of us have not yet understood, is that digital transformation and AI are putting the human at the centre. It is the human who will teach machines how to make decisions based on the data they receive, it is the human who will clarify ethics and arbitrate between values, it is the human who will feed the machine data and rules and tell it what to do, how to learn, and how to surpass us in many of the tasks we care currently performing.

So, how does translate for tomorrow’s culture leaders?

“The next step-change cannot come solely from more pressure, but from utilising the strengths, the skills and the capabilities of their people”

What the culture leader of tomorrow looks like
The culture leader of tomorrow is a connected leader. They have to let go of their need to control and their fears of not knowing. They have transitioned from a “command-and-control” mindset to one of trusting and serving people to help them be their best. They have a whole-of-organisation approach to thinking, which allows them to connect data, processes, customer, people and results beyond traditional boundaries.

They are curious, responsible, and learn from their mistakes. They are not experts, but they can find the expertise where it resides, from customers through to employees and machines.  Their vision is clear, and they can flex the roadmap along the way. To be effective as a networked leader, they have developed openness, caring and listening skills. And everything they do adds value to the customer. I call them “3C leaders”: customer-centric, connected and caring.

What this means for HR
Understanding this shift is critical for HR teams. This new kind of leader is the antithesis of many current leaders who focus on their silos to achieve results. The keys to tomorrow’s success are not the keys employed today. This has strong implications for recruitment, learning and development, performance management and communications. Each of those systems needs a complete overhaul, a new perspective, and the appropriate tools to support the development of the new culture leader.

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4 tips to leverage EQ as a leader

4 tips to leverage EQ as a leader

Original publication in Forbes, October 17th, 2019

The Western world has largely been shaped by an admiration of logic versus emotion. Yet as humans, it’s impossible to operate with just one or the other. In today’s world, where artificial intelligence and digitization rule, many leaders and organizations are expected to adhere to a new social and environmental way of thinking, a more human way of thinking. Qualities like empathy and sensitivity, which used to be viewed by many as weaknesses, are now often seen as strengths. Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become more than a buzz phrase — it’s now a widely practiced tool embraced by progressive executives to increase their companies’ bottom lines and improve corporate culture.

I see the benefits of EQ every day in my work with executives and teams. Over the course of my career as a therapist, I’ve learned that many of the interpersonal skills we use to strengthen our personal relationships are the same skills needed to fuel success in the workplace.

However, the questions remain: How did we get here, and are we prepared for what’s to come?

The Origins Of EQ

Great philosophers like Aristotle studied the effects of emotions, what triggers them and how to deal with them. Aristotle is believed to have once said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” This statement demonstrates an early understanding of EQ, yet this way of thinking didn’t take off until much later. In fact, it wasn’t until around the 1980s that companies started to take notice of the effects of a positive work culture on employees. During this time, Reuven Bar-On, a clinical psychologist whose assessment tool I’m certified to use, began studying the answers to two questions: What makes people successful, and what makes people happy? The results of those studies started a journey of conceptualizing, researching and applying EQ.

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990, defining it as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” Salovey and Mayer worked together to clearly define and measure the effects of EQ, which piqued the interest of larger corporations concerned with hiring and retaining top talent.

Clinical psychologist and author Steven Stein, who co-founded a business that publishes computerized psychological assessments, also contributed to the study and spread of EQ. In 1994, he met Bar-On, who asked him to publish his EQ assessment tool. Today, many coaches (myself included) use this tool in their work with clients.

Later, Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of EQ and helped spread the idea throughout mainstream culture.

The Modern And Future Leader

Today, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a leading company that doesn’t have a focus on EQ. Organizations all over the world have turned to EQ to help them hire, promote and develop their employees. They recognize that a positive work environment can help attract top talent, drive employee engagement and affect profitability and performance — and the right leaders understand this too.

Leveraging EQ

The modern and future leader integrates the realms of both logic and emotion. They leverage EQ in a way that goes beyond gauging how employees are feeling and toward successfully navigating complex business situations. They can nurture our strengths rather than pick apart our weaknesses. They create and foster meaningful relationships with a multigenerational and diverse workforce. And while they’re no less focused on strategy and competition, the modern leader operates with adaptiveness, compassion and mindfulness.

Here are some tips for how to leverage EQ as a leader.

• Practice self-awareness. Take stock of how you feel and react to certain stressors throughout the day. Notice how your emotions contribute to your actions. In order to understand the emotions of others, you first have to be in tune with yourself.

• Listen carefully. This is surprisingly difficult for some leaders. It can be tempting to think that listening is merely following rather than leading. However, in order to make and sustain more meaningful connections and tailor communication styles to the right people, learn to become a better listener.

• Be open and embrace conflict. A good leader is willing to problem-solve and dive into disagreements rather than run away from conflict. A leader with a high EQ level is much more likely to problem-solve effectively, rationally and with a certain level of poise and composure.

• Make culture a priority. Purpose-driven leaders understand what engages and excites employees and work to cultivate an environment that fosters their creativity and engagement.

Living In The Present And Learning From The Past

Today, smart leaders are driven by opportunities and the future rather than by the past or their egos. They might learn valuable lessons from past triumphs, but they don’t attempt to preserve the status quo. Instead of worrying about looking good or staying consistent, stay vigilant and on top of future trends, and don’t be afraid to embrace the flow of new ideas.

Written by Roberta Moore

Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Originally publicated in Benefits Pro on October 2nd 2019

Nearly all CEOs in a recent survey say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

CEOs are getting it: employee well-being matters.

So say 25 top executives, who responded to a qualitative survey by LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.

“Employee well-being ranks number one, because your organization is only as good as the people that you have working for you, and their well-being determines how successful or unsuccessful you’re going to be,” says one respondent, Michael Colucci, CEO of Idilus LLC, a professional employer organization.

A CEO from an engineering firm responds: “I don’t believe that customers should come first, I believe that employees should come first. It’s a tenant at my company. It is a cornerstone of my company to have happy well-adjusted employees.”

Well-being programs are also becoming table stakes to attract and retain talent, especially younger generations. One CEO says that “employee well-being programs are becoming more of an expectation rather than a perk.”

The importance of employee well-being also impacts the bottom line, the respondents add.

“If my employees are unhappy or they’re going through whatever stresses that they are encountering at home in their personal life, they bring that in,” another CEO says. “If you have a big team environment that we work in…it can cause absenteeism. People who aren’t focused at work, it creates delays with projects so things get backed up at work.”

The respondents are also candid about their own struggles with significant work stress, though many say they are successful in “compartmentalizing that anxiety” – and hiding any signs of it from employees because of the “contagious nature” of workplace stress. As a result, nearly all of the CEOs say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

But that masking may not really be working after all, some concede.

“I’m sure they feel it when I have stressful situations because I put that back on them,” one CEO says. “They can tell by your disposition, you create a level of anxiety within the team concept that we have at our place and that affects them adversely because it makes them feel anxious or unsure about what’s going on maybe, within the corporate structure.”

While a majority of the respondents measure the success of their well-being programs using metrics such as retention of employees, satisfaction in their role and employee engagement, most of the CEOs agree that a comprehensive employee well-being index would be helpful to measure the level of employee engagement within the programs.

“Employee wellness is increasingly critical to business success and at the top of the agenda for many CEOs and even board members,” says Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “But executives still struggle with methods to properly execute and evaluate that support. LifeWorks is positioned to address these concerns.”

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert