The Fourth Industrial Revolution & the Employment Skills You Need to Survive It

An axiom reminds us that the lessons of yesterday do not always prepare us for the needs of tomorrow.

A recent post about developing future-ready work skills generated reader interest (Are You Second-Skilling?) and today’s post borrows this same theme. The infographic below provide insights about how to develop a skill-set that doesn’t become obsolete. For some readers, this information will help you focus on the education or training you need as you embark on your career. For others, this is a reminder of the skills you will need to upgrade or ‘second-skill’ in order to be competitive in the job market.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source – Guthrie Jenson

Are You Second-Skilling?

During a conversation with a colleague, she noted that she believes her job will be automated in the next five years. At a glance, her job of valuating the invisible worth of companies sounds like a complex task. However, she is close enough to technology to realize that these calculations are an algorithm that can be accomplished by a computer.

It’s a fact – the rapid pace of change is changing the way we do business. In turn, this is shifting what we need to do to stay employed. So how are you developing employable skills amidst this change?

A recent TED article highlighted a useful idea that is being utilized in a country with an unemployment rate of only 2%. Singapore had double-digit unemployment and low workforce literacy in the 1960’s. It has since vaulted to the status of a highly successful country which has a gross domestic product that is 300 percent higher than the global average (Oakley). So, what is their competitive advantage?

Barbara Oakley’s research reveals that Singapore has a national program which encourages education. And more recently, the focus has been on re-education. Called ‘second-skilling‘ or ‘upskilling‘, the premise is simple – facilitate ongoing training to help workers adapt to an adaptive workplace. Oakley compares this to metaphors of stepping stones and conveyor belts. In previous decades, each job was a stepping stone which led to the next one. This stepping stone model is logical and paced to the needs of the employee. In contrast, modern business is more of a conveyor belt, constantly moving and progressing. The choice of stepping where and when we wish is different as we shift from a stepping stone to a conveyor economy. Therefore, employability requires constant change to keep up (is anyone else picturing Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth at the end of the chocolate factory conveyor belt?). However, while our businesses move forward, it cannot be assumed that workers will also develop at the same pace. This requires intentional effort.

Developing second skills will require training which is outside of the scope of an employee’s current job or career. To facilitate this, Singapore’s government provides annual grants for citizens who want to upskill. This allows ongoing development of skills which can help expand knowledge, skills and employability.

The premise is simple – productive employees need to advance the pace of their personal conveyor belts. While some employers may facilitate this, many will be reluctant to invest in training which may not directly benefit themselves. Therefore, the force behind second-skilling will likely need to be self-motivated or incentivized by government agencies.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source: Barbara Oakley

Google’s Perfect Employee – Skills for Today’s Marketplace

A significant amount of my consulting work is spent improving organizational performance by developing people. Sometimes employee development is done proactively – like taking vitamins before you get sick. More frequently, employee development is a reactive approach to problematic performance. Like setting a broken leg or providing an antibiotic, this approach can still be successful. However, like a physical ailment, it typically involves some organizational headaches and pain.

Negative employee performance often leads to discussions about hiring practices. How can employers screen potential employees in ways which maximize organizational health and minimize organizational ailments?

Traditional hiring methods focus heavily on technical or hard skills. This approach believes that an educated and skilled workforce will bring beneficial competencies into our businesses. In other words, a bevy of technical skills will equip an individual to succeed. However, this model breaks down and we’ve all worked with gifted (aka – skilled) people that no one can work with. So how do we find the right employee?

Recent research from Google provides helpful insights into this important question. Their study about workplace success contradicts the conventional ‘hard skill’ approach. Google, a company founded by techies (and, one that has historically relied on hiring hard skills) analyzed their own data to find their success recipe. In short, they discovered that it takes more than a knowledge of technology to be a technology company. By crunching their own data, Google discovered the following skills were most important:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. Being a good critical thinker;
  6. Having effective problem-solving skills; and,
  7. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

The most fascinating insights is that, direct technical skills, sits at number 8 on this list! While technical skills are needed, they follow (not lead!) the list of high performing employee attributes.

“Google’s Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard” (Strauss).

These conclusions align with the triadic leadership model I use with clients. This diagram is a visual reminder that effective employees (and leaders) are a composite of three equally important ingredients:

  1. Skills – what a leader does.
  2. Self-awareness – who a leader is.
  3. Morals/values – why a leader leads.

Over-focusing on any single part of this model (e.g. – hard skills only focus on ‘what a leader does’) will lead to performance gaps.

There is no perfect system to hire or develop an ideal employee. But research is revealing that hard skills are not enough. Soft skills will play an important role in our modern workforce (and increasingly so as automation and robots are equipped to undertake traditional hard-skill tasks).

So, what does this practically mean for you and your organization? Here are a few concluding ideas for business leaders to consider as they seek to implement Google’s conclusions. Please add your own insights to this list!

  • Does your resume review focus on hard skills or soft skills?
  • How do your interview questions assess soft skills?
  • Many of the skills in Google’s list require strong moral development (e.g. – listening skills. empathy or generosity). How do you develop ethical behavior in employees? How do your interview questions reveal a candidate’s moral norms?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

InfoGraphic: Two Skills Which Increase Your Employability

Advances in technology and automation are making many jobs obsolete. Driverless taxis are now operating in Singapore, algorithms determine which web ads we see and our cars are built by robots. In fact, as I watched some US Open tennis matches, I regularly saw human line judges overruled by an electronic line judging system when players appealed a call. So should you and I be worried or is it just hype?

Research by the World Economic Forum informs us that this change is real: “The Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.” However, this study also teaches us that, while some skills are becoming obsolete, others are in even higher demand. Therefore, staying relevant is a must for the 21st century employee.

The chart below provides more details about what is changing. By assessing job growth and decline over the past 30 years, we are offered a glimpse into the future. In short, employees who have strong social skills and math skills possess the attributes needed in growth occupations. The graphic below shows that the highest job growth occupations (the green dots) occurred when both social and math skills were present. Furthermore, all occupation growth required strong social skills and all job loss occurred in areas with lower social skill areas (pink dots). The largest job losses occurred in areas with low math and social skills.math-and-interpersonal-skills

The report reveals that many jobs which rely solely on math skills have been automated. Furthermore, jobs which rely solely on social skills are typically lower paying positions. This is a result of a surplus of the workforce who are able to fulfill these increasingly competitive roles.

To be competitive in the future workforce we need to develop strong social skills and strong math skills. For some of us, that will mean updating our skills or pursuing further education. For our children, it means they need to be immersed in curriculum which does this from a very early age.


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: World Economic Forum

Why Complicated Work is Becoming a Commodity

Last month a momentous technological feat quietly occurred. A computer beat the world’s best Go player in a best-of-five match. In fact, the Google developed computer program called AlphaGo won three straight games before the human opponent achieved a win. The computer then won the final game of the match to earn a decisive 4-1 victory.

At its core, Go is a game of complex mathematical choices. Some consider it Chess on steroids. The opportunities on a simple 19 X 19 board boggle the average mind. However, much like a computer beating the world-best Garry Kasparaov at chess in 1996, the AlphaGo victory indicates that we have arrived at a new point in history!

I cannot help but apply this historical moment to the future of our employability. As the title suggests, much of our work is becoming something that can be done by machines. Computers now weld our cars (as robots), vacuum our homes (thank you Roomba) and autopilot our planes as we sip champagne. As more and more of our work becomes automated, some are raising concerns about the future security of our jobs! So should you be worried that computers or robots will take your job? Maybe! After all, history teaches us that they already have. Therefore, the secret is to determine which jobs computers can’t do – and I think I know which ones!

Last summer I wrote a short blog about the difference between complicated and complex. Although these two words may appear to be synonyms at first glance, they are unique as we consider the future or work. Here are the differences between these two terms:

Complicated – Something with many interconnecting parts. Intricate. Examples: Imagine a rigorous math problem on a white board. The ability of Big Data to assess your on-line browsing habits in order to predict which products to advertise on your web browser also fits into this category. These things are complicated.

Complex – A system of interconnected parts that constantly change. Fluid. Examples – If an ocean beach lifeguard leaves their tower for 30 minutes, they may come back to a very different scenario. The ability to understand the needs of a crying baby is also a complex matter.

Last week I posted a list of skills that experts believe the workforce will need by 2020. It includes things like creativity, negotiation and emotional intelligence (see Improving Your Work Relationship With Your Robot Assistant). In short, this list was full of complex skills. Technology has demonstrated an increasing ability to deal with complicated – like the game of Go. However, technology has not mastered the complex! Therefore, wise employees will equip themselves with skills that allow them to deliver complex solutions. Things like interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and mega-management are complex abilities that will equip employees with the skills they need to succeed.

You will be employable in the future. This is because you are a human and you were designed to do complex things. However, to ensure your future success, you must equip yourself with complex skills. Those who only focus on complicated will at some point, find themselves beaten by the latest version of AlphaGo!


 

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Photo Credit: Wired Magazine