Social and emotional intelligence is crucial for success at work: a learnable skill that enables us to work effectively in teams, remain calm amid conflict, establish healthy long-term relationships, and make sound decisions.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 lists emotional intelligence (EI) among the ten skills most frequently requested by organizations surveyed. And the need for social and emotional intelligence is among the 12 factors for success that Eric Shepherd and Joan Phaup highlight in their book, Talent Transformation: Develop Today’s Team for Tomorrow’s World of Work. They describe IE as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express emotions and to handle relationships effectively.”
Exponential changes in technology and business models, together with the additional stresses of living through a global pandemic, reinforce people’s tremendous need to value EI. They can use EI to help them adjust readily to changing work practices and work effectively in remote teams.
Powerful technologies enable us to communicate with each other, but people feel isolated – a combination that makes them more impatient and volatile. These impacts of stress are making it harder to solve our individual and collective problems, and they impact everyone around the world, at work, and home.
The distance we must maintain for safety can obscure the natural cues that tell us how other people feel. We may be less apt to empathize with someone and connect with them constructively when we are not in the same room. Long periods of social isolation are testing our limits, making it more critical than ever to understand our own and other peoples’ feelings.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 report, two out of every three adults in the United States have experienced increased stress since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the younger generation, nearly 8 out of every 10 Gen Z adults in the US consider concerns about the nation’s future as a significant source of stress.
Developing emotional intelligence will help all of us find constructive solutions to these problems. It doesn’t only help us get along better with coworkers. It makes us more agile and adaptable. As technology takes on more and more tasks, emotional intelligence will help us embrace change, reason clearly, and make smart decisions. By accepting the importance of EI, we move closer to achieving it.
So how do we improve our EI?
Emotions relate to our biology. Our neurotransmitters are designed to help us cope with various levels of stress. Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and other endorphins help regulate essential bodily functions: digestion, temperature, heart rate, and so on. They also play a role in how — and what — we feel.
It’s typical for people who ignore their emotions to experience a physical manifestation of how they feel: perhaps tightness in the jaw, sore muscles, or furrowed eyebrows. Taking hints from our bodies can help us tune in to our feelings. But how can we do that? Answering these questions is an excellent way to start:
How do I feel physically? (tight muscles, tight jaw, frown, etc.)
What emotions am I feeling? (happy, sad, anxious, calm, excited, bored, etc.)
How would I describe my mindset right now? (distracted, focused, observant, etc.)
We can also discern another person’s emotions by paying attention to their tone of voice, watching their facial expressions, and noting their body language.
Paying attention to our feelings helps us improve relationships, solve problems, and empathize with other people. But it’s essential to strike a balance. Being consumed by emotion can decrease productivity, but ignoring strong feelings, which some construe as strength and resilience, can make it hard to engage with family, friends, and colleagues. Ideally, we use our emotions constructively instead of letting them use us.
We can temper our tendency to ignore our feelings when we focus too much on facts. While it’s essential to concentrate on the data and facts we need to analyze for work or school, we also need to heed emotional data. Observing other people’s feelings and honoring the value of maintaining clear, compassionate connections with our coworkers and family members can help us curb our need to “be right” and win arguments.
With daily practice, we can better understand our own and others’ emotions, honor them and respond to them. We often hear that we must treat others with respect. This sounds easy, but sometimes it takes special effort. We can practice genuine respect by knowing that we have something to learn from everyone. This awareness makes us more willing to understand things from their perspective. When we do this, others can see and feel our respect, and we can then build empathetic relationships with them.
Even when we disagree with someone, we can respect them by recognizing their perspective. We can admit that the individual’s views are as important and worthy as ours. Whole-hearted respect for others helps us notice the subtle ways we may consider ourselves to be superior. We can then change course to see ourselves as equals. Then we are in a better position to learn from the other person. Sensing our respect, they will be more open with us. Our mutual empathy makes for a healthier, more productive relationship.
When someone is having a hard time, it can be tempting to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But putting ourselves into their shoes enables us to imagine how overwhelming the “small stuff” can get when dealing with toxic stress levels. At such times, it’s almost impossible to focus on the important stuff. Empathy instead of dismissiveness will help us offer a supportive, understanding response.
When feeling overwhelmed by our emotions, reflection can help us gain perspective and balance. For instance, we can take ourselves into the future and imagine what we will think of our current problems. This exercise can help us untangle our feelings and separate those that need our attention from those likely to settle naturally.
Developing social intelligence can help manage what seem to be innate aspects of our personality. For instance, people may have a predisposition for optimism or pessimism and might go through life on that basis. But studies now suggest that looking on the bright side – taking a thoughtful, optimistic approach that seeks solutions – can be a learned skill.
If we find ourselves in a pessimistic pit, we can feel so sad, scared, and desperate that it seems impossible to solve problems. But allowing ourselves to feel and identify our emotions can open the way to solutions. Adding context to a feeling can help, too. For instance, if we’re feeling demotivated, we can place that mood in a timeframe, such as “at the moment.” When someone thinks, “I don’t want to do this at the moment,” they are setting the stage for regaining their motivation. “At the moment” reassures the person that their pessimistic mood need not last long.
Emotional intelligence is not rocket science. Nor is it something that we either have or don’t have. Anyone can learn about it and practice it. Much of this learning occurs informally, through personal experience, but formal training can help, too. Either way, practicing emotional intelligence enables us to feel healthier, achieve more, make better decisions, form deeper relationships.
Do we trust robots and automation? In this article, Eric Shepherd discusses the studies that help us understand the changing relationship between employees, managers, AI, robots, and automation.
Employees, managers, and executives around the world now realize that automation, augmentation, robotics, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is real and here to stay. The pandemic has accelerated the use of these technologies and attitudes are changing. Despite skepticism people are starting to recognize the power of parting with technology.
Many studies have shown that the use of automation, augmentation, and robotics increases productivity. A recent survey by Gartner, the consulting, and advisory company, revealed that 69% of the tasks performed by managers will be delivered by artificial intelligence by 2024.
A study conducted by Future Workplace and Oracle found that the increasing use of AI at the workplace has a significant impact on the relationship of employees with the management. Their survey of 8,370 managers, employees, and HR representatives around ten countries discovered that 82% of participants said that robots or AI could do some tasks more effectively than their management. 64% said that they trust robots more than managers, and they have a positive relationship with AI; they are happy and thankful to have robot co-workers.AI is growing stronger, with 50 percent of workers today using some sort of artificial intelligence at work compared to 32 percent in 2019. In the study, they found that artificial intelligence has modified the relationship between humans and robotics at the workplace and reshapes the part that HR executives and teams have to perform in trying to attract, maintaining, and developing talent.
When participants were asked what made AI better than employees, they stated that the technology provides better impartial data, maintains working schedules, solves problems, and manages a budget. Survey participants said managers are better than robots in boosting their emotions as well as providing quality counseling and building a positive workplace culture.
Emily He, Senior Vice President, HCM Marketing, at Oracle, said: "I think one of the bigger themes from the study is that smart use of technology can actually bring humanity back to work." Emily continued, "The study found that workers perceive AI and bots to be better at certain things than humans, but that employees also would prefer their managers to apply technology where it makes sense so they can spend more time on things like showing empathy or providing personalized coaching."
Artificial intelligence is now more dominant in the workplace, indicating a willingness to accept technology and desire to see its possibilities.
Employees are welcoming the new technology with an optimistic attitude, and according to the report, 53 percent of participants are thrilled about getting robot co-workers.
The relationship between employees and managers is now changing. Employees are trusting robots more than the managers. The stats show that 64 percent of employees have more faith in robots than their managers.
AI now challenges the old concepts of what managers do effectively.
AI is changing the typical roles played by managers.
Thirty-five percent think robots have impartial data, while managers provide biased data.
AI should be safe and comfortable to use, but the complications of AI technology proved to be the main reason behind the organizations not adopting the technology. 61% state that privacy and security issues are the main factors that stop them from using AI in the workplace.
81% of HR leaders and 76% of employees find it hard to keep up with advances in technology at work, the report found.
This report represents a real shift by respondents. They’ve moved from voicing reservations about AI in the workplace to being far more interested in technological advancements.
The main two issues that discourage employees from using AI at work were security and confidentiality. But several respondents stated that they needed a more comfortable working experience with AI, with participants calling for improved user interfaces (34% demanded improvement), behavioral interactions (30%), and best practice learning (30%).
The long-term impact of AI at work is starting to become clear. Organizations can benefit by focusing on streamlining and securing AI in the workplace to take advantage of its benefits and new developments. By understanding what prevents people from using AI, organizations will then be able to build more effective and strategic approaches to address the challenges.
The history of humankind is one of continuous technological improvement. Ever since the first tool was crafted from stone and the first wheel was rolled, there have been innumerable technological breakthroughs to land us in this age of smartphones and the internet of things (IoT). However, real industrial and technological progress began in the mid-eighteenth century, and it is still in procession. Experts and historians divide this period of roughly 250 years into four industrial revolutions.
With the advent of each new industrial revolution, the anticipation of better lives and the fear of diminishing jobs ran parallel. History has shown us that the concerns were unfounded as the revolutions created numerous new jobs and changed every societal factor for the better. So what would the story of the current 4th industrial revolution, the age of automation, be? Will history repeat itself, or will our worst fears finally come true?
The predictors of doom often quote a McKinsey report that predicts a job loss for over 800 million people, roughly a third of the world’s workforce, across 42 countries. While the report may be another one of those fearful cries that followed the onset of each industrial revolution, it cannot be denied that the 4th industrial revolution is much different from its predecessors.
With technologies such as 3D printing, robotic process automation, blockchain, AI, robotics, and cloud-based computing, there are entire economic, political, and social systems being transformed, at some places, slowly and at other places at a rapid rate. The nature of this technology is unpredictable and challenging to measure in terms of growth and coverage. As more and more repetitive low-skill jobs get automated, there are job losses for sure. And the trend is significant in developed countries. However, even developing countries have begun to adapt to the new age of automation.
Depending on how sophisticated the technology becomes, even high-skill jobs are not safe from the grasp of automation. But there are, thankfully, limits. At the fundamental level, a job is nothing but a group of tasks to be performed based on many factors. As long it is technologically and economically nonviable to automate certain tasks, those jobs shall remain safe. And thankfully, a large number of such jobs exist even if the situation seems dire prima facie.
A salient example could be the job of a chef. Scientists might be able to feed a robot with recipes, but the correct movement of the skillet, skillful whisking, and an appetizing presentation is still beyond the grasp of machines and is likely to remain so for a long time to come. Hence, we can safely assert that the job of a cook or a chef remains safe.
This is just one example amongst numerous. One caveat of these job predictors is focusing on the gross job number instead of the net number of jobs. The introduction of automation shall require a higher amount of supervision and quality control. These are tasks that require humans to be at the helm. If the employment of more supervisors does not exceed the savings made from automating part of the production, there will be a reduction in the price of the product due to a cost cut. A lower price may increase demand requiring more production, which in turn shall require more supervision. Hence even though there were some jobs lost when part of the production was automated, new jobs were created. Based on the demand for the product, the final job count may be higher than before.
There are other dimensions of job creation to be noted as well. With higher inter-industry collaboration today than ever, the adaptation of automation in one industry might lessen the cost of raw material in another. This, in turn, reduces the cost of production when it comes to an end product. Such input-output linkage can lower prices and increase demand resulting in the creation of more jobs.
One of the prime reasons behind the negative press the 4th industrial revolution is getting is the inability to see the bigger picture. We have already discussed the gross vs. net job scenario. It is easy to take stock of the events happening right now rather than which the current trend might lead to in the future. While some experts consider the jobs being lost right now, they are unable to identify the emerging job market as a direct result of this.
Another reason could be the media’s tendency to sensationalize negative information. That and the fact that most of the jobs being lost in the preliminary stages of the 4th industrial revolution will be at the lowest skilled levels. Most of the people losing jobs belong to the low-skilled spectrum of the population. This often creates a significant wave of protest towards the current trend.
Finally, while there are possibly more jobs to be had in the future, experts at times feel safer overstating a risk rather than understating. These factors combine to create a more pessimistic view of the situation. But the light shining through the crack is visible. The most significant change this industrial revolution might bring about is a paradigm shift in terms of the nature of the jobs and the skills required to perform them.
How we feel, think, and behave can vastly differ from others in society. We experience this every single day, even when we interact with people online. Being highly evolved mammals, we do share a set of personality traits, but other than that, one person is entirely different from the other. Understanding our personalities can be a great exercise towards bettering our lives, but understanding others' can be even more rewarding. Unlocking the psychological mysteries that shape our personalities is not only a fascinating endeavor but also helps us create an understanding and empathetic society. In this article, we attempt to lift the veil slightly and set you on a path of further studies and ponder. We will also focus here on intrinsic personality characteristics. Our behaviors are entwined with so many external factors and variables that it is often challenging to separate one factor from the other. Therefore the study of psychological characteristics can be challenging and rewarding at the same time.
According to psychologists, 'Personality' refers to a set of psychological characteristics or traits that defines how we interact with the world around us. All of us have a distinct yet effective and stable way of responding to external situations and stimuli. While none of us behave the same way all the time, if we observe our behaviors and responses over a long period, specific patterns seem to emerge.
Stable and socially well-adjusted people can change or model their personalities according to the demands of a situation. We exhibit different personas depending on the situation. For instance, our social persona might be different from our work personal. And we will probably exhibit different behaviors when we're stressed.
Despite differences in how we perceive and respond to things, we have certain tendencies in terms of how we view certain events or actions, what motivates us, how to handle different emotions, and how we behave under certain situations. Some of these tendencies are common and shared between virtually all human beings across the globe. But to get a complete picture of your personality, it is paramount to understand those that are part of basic human nature.
Apart from the common traits, many other characteristics differentiate us. Whether you are a morning or an evening person, your choice when it comes to attending a party or staying at home, and whether you are quiet or talkative all contribute to the kind of person you are and how you lead your life. Despite those differences seeming to be inconsequential, their influence creates many significant differences in the lives of individuals, which is why psychologists study the differences in peoples' thoughts, values, preferences, behaviors, actions, and emotions.
To understand someone's behavior, it is important to be aware of their psychological traits along with the demands of their situation. Regardless of the situation, our complex set of psychological characteristics always accompany us. These include our belief, traits, thoughts, preferences, values, emotions, and motivations, prime us to respond in specific ways.
Based on the situation, your psychological traits trigger responses; however, your actual behavior will depend upon your level of emotional intelligence. You will act based on the social situation, your role in that situation, other people present, their relationships with you and each other, whether your actions are appropriate or not in the context of the situation. All this information is factored in before ascertaining whether you will be welcomed or shunned.
Personality psychology focuses on the inner psychological characteristics and mechanisms. Social psychology focuses on the social context and demands behind a behavior. Our curiosity, values, and preferences often take us to new experiences where certain social stimuli prompt a response that we have never encountered before. Experiencing how we feel in new situations is the reason that we are ever-changing.
Psychology does not snugly fit the conventional notion of scientific disciplines such as chemistry, physics, and biology. One of the primary reasons behind this is the sheer volume of factors psychological researchers must deal with in each study. The science of psychology must deal with the ambiguity of several factors being in play at any given moment. And even when separated, many of them are difficult to measure accurately and study. Unlike chemical compounds that always have the same molecular structures or physical events where the same laws of physics work every time, when psychologists deal with a person, they are working with a complex set of personality traits modeled by years of internal and external influences that cannot be isolated, understood or measured fully.
But that does not immediately diminish psychology as a science. Psychological studies are based on scientific principles where subjects are carefully and systematically studied to arrive at science-based conclusions. Via these studies, we have understood a great deal about human personality mechanisms and the psychological processes that take place inside a human brain. It is now possible to predict how a person would behave under certain predesigned situations. But error rates are significantly higher than other disciplines due to people being vastly different from one another and their thought processes and personalities changing constantly.
Due to these factors, psychological science is fundamentally probabilistic, much like weather forecasting. Meteorologists try to understand a dynamic, ever-changing system that interacts with each other and try to come up with a model to predict near-future events. Via decades of studies and advances, it is more accurate than ever before but still with significant errors.
There is an ongoing debate as to the amount of influence each personality factor has on our behaviors. Some psychological researchers claim that the social context or pressure is the primary influence, and others suggest that individual personality traits are at the helm. But the current consensus is that it depends on the situation. For example, imagine a fine dining restaurant. There are social pressures of behaving in a certain way in a restaurant. Hence everyone behaves similarly. On the other hand, on a beach, you see all sorts of people doing different things and interacting differently because the social pressure is less.
How a person responds to a social demand is also a personality trait. Some people are more flexible in adhering to the current social context, while others mostly rely on their personality characteristics to behave in a specific situation.
To identify which factor is more critical in determining our responses, scientists use statistical analysis. In studies called the variability of proportions, scientists take emotion and calculate its variability to determine whether the personality traits or social demands were the causes of that emotion. When we take an emotion like anger, we see some people who seldom get angry and others get angry regularly. This gives us a variability that ranges, let's say, from 0 to 100%. Studies have observed that the proportion of variability for emotions such as anger is close to equal for internal and external influencers. This means our behaviors are equally influenced by external social situations and inner personality.
Situation and personality are more complex. In most cases, one factor can't exist without the other also influencing the outcome. Several studies have observed that people respond differently to the same situational factors eliciting completely different issues. This means that both situational and personality factors are at play at any given time.
A pertinent study was concerned with teenage delinquency. Two significant factors behind juvenile delinquency are assumed to be growing up in a poor crime-ridden social environment and adolescent impulsiveness. Impulsive teenagers are more prone to commit crimes, and kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods littered with criminals. But the study observed that impulsiveness did not factor much in delinquency when it came to more desirable neighborhoods. A more impoverished neighborhood contributed more to delinquency but only with impulsive kids. This is a classic example of personal and social factors working in conjunction because the social stimuli of living in a poor neighborhood affected only the kids with a particular personality trait. Non-impulsive kids did not respond similarly, even under similar social pressure. Given the difficulty of isolating one factor from the other, scientists must study and consider both influences to paint a clearer picture.
It's one thing for leaders to respond to an epidemic, a natural disaster, or any other catastrophe. It's another to manage the aftermath of such disruption.
Recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has subjected four out of five workers to quarantine or lockdowns, calls on leaders to develop talent strategies for short- and long-term success.
Resilient, agile leaders help their organizations, workforce and stakeholders address current needs and move forward by
They will navigate from this current crisis to a "new normal" in three steps:
Many organizations have adjusted to the pandemic by prioritizing health and safety, enabling employees to work from home, using new technologies. Other organizations are still struggling with the current crisis, surviving week by week and unable to plan for the future.
Regardless of their current circumstances, all organizations need to develop new strategies for success in the post-pandemic world. Organizations with outdated business models or fundamentally changed markets face the most significant challenges. Their leaders must consider alternative business models, products, and services to create sustainable, future-friendly strategies. Agile leaders will face these challenges head-on, regarding adaptation and recovery as essential parts of their journey. Then they will take decisive action that suits their location and industry.
Organizations that have adapted to the pandemic can now evaluate current practices and reposition themselves to address new realities. It is tempting to shrug off reflection and pretend that everything will return to normal. However, those who go back to their old ways might struggle to compete against organizations that reassess their business models and talent strategies.
As organizations recover, effective leaders will differentiate between essential and non-essential resources. They will collaborate with others to discover creative solutions.
The pandemic, along with dramatic changes in technologies and business models, presents an opportunity to reallocate tasks and reimagine the workplace. Of course, leaders cannot expect to have detailed timelines, but it is good to start envisioning the post-pandemic world and working toward it.
Leaders can work together to share insights about recovery strategies and define the organization's priorities and overall direction. Considering three key topics will help shape their thinking:
Each organization will have unique dilemmas to resolve – many of them focused on the workforce. Some organizations might rehire furloughed employees. And some might recruit more employees or bring on "gig" workers. Many are looking at AI and automation to perform routine or repetitive tasks and assign more intricate work to people.
Some leaders will debate how much to support working from home versus the office and whether to make work schedules more flexible. With staff having worked remotely for many months, leaders are reevaluating the need for office space. If they reopen their offices, they must how much workspace they will need. Man y leaders may plan to accommodate teams that work remotely for most of the time and meet only occasionally in person.
Stephen Hawking famously said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Skillful leaders will move quickly to implement the changes that will help their organizations succeed. But they anticipate the tensions that could arise as people adapt to a new reality and address these tensions with vision and empathy. They realize that transformative change can affect individuals, teams, and organizations differently. They understand that not every individual will cope in the same way – acknowledging that one person can be comfortable in the new normal while another isn't. They consider and balance these needs and preferences to retain and nourish trust.
There is still tremendous uncertainty in the global workforce, but one thing we know for sure: clients, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees are waiting and watching as organizations redefine their brands, reestablish their reputations, reposition themselves to compete, and achieve success in the post-COVID world. Organizations with resilient, agile leaders at the helm are the most likely to thrive.
The rise of new technologies was already bringing remarkable changes to the world of work when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our reliance on technology. Even without the pandemic, people's jobs were bound to change dramatically due to technological advances and changing business models.
Based on data from 15 industries and 26 countries, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that by 2025, a shift in the human/machine division of labor could mean the end of 85 million jobs. However, the report also notes that 97 million roles that fit in with a new human/machine/ algorithms division of labor could emerge in the same period.
The WEF's Future of Jobs Report 2020 notes: "Over the coming decade, a non-negligible share of newly created jobs will be in wholly new occupations, or existing occupations undergoing significant transformations in terms of their content and skills requirements."
The report, which reflects data the WEF gathered together with LinkedIn and Coursera, indicates that:
No doubt technical skills will be in high demand, but so will the personal attributes that make for effective collaboration and communication.
Eric Shepherd and Joan Phaup point out in Talent Transformation: Develop Today's Team for Tomorrow's World of Work that "working successfully in a complex environment involving complicated process and multiple technologies will require effective teamwork and collaboration. Employers will look for adaptability, creativity, and emotional intelligence: the ability to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions; empathize with other people; and sensitively handle interpersonal relationships."
The WEF lists of the top 10 skills of 2025 reflect the need for personal as well as technical skills:
The new world of work calls for adaptable learning systems that enable workers to keep pace with the changing demands of their current jobs or prepare for new opportunities.
As the half-life of skills reduces and individuals and teams take on more creative roles to achieve organizational goals, learning experiences should become more flexible and individualized. When linked to job roles and competency models, online learning systems can provide pathways that help individuals develop the competencies they need to qualify for new jobs. Documentation of customized learning experiences will follow this pattern, offering portable credentials that reflect each person's unique learning and achievement path.
Data analysis, machine learning, and AI will enable online learning system to provide meaningful and insightful recommendations to help someone manage their education and career.
Education providers are using new technology tools to monitor learning progress—rather than seat time—toward credentials. They are customizing learning experiences to place individuals in those environments where they learn best and can focus more easily on content. These adjustments include even the time of day when an individual best absorbs information. As educational institutions become more intricately connected with industry, they will increasingly alter their programming to serve industry's growing need for competencies and micro-credentials.
With technology accelerating at breakneck rates and technical skills becoming more specialized, some university coursework might be outdated before the student graduates. All job seekers, including graduates, will need to develop new skills and submit proof of their achievements. Micro-credentials, supported by blockchain technology and digital badging, register competencies acquired through formal or informal learning experiences in the workplace or academic institutions.
Digital badges for each credential offer a verifiable way to document an individual's competencies, making it easy for job seekers to prove that their learning is up to date. Blockchain has made it possible to create digital ledgers of learning and qualifications that generate trustworthy, transparent credentials as an alternative to traditional transcripts and certificates.
The loss of some jobs and the advent of new ones present daunting challenges to employers and workers alike. For individuals who want to move with the times, whether they are employed or out of work, ongoing education will be essential to their progress.
20th October is Talent Transformation Day. Officially recognized by the National Day Archives, this is a day to celebrate new opportunities for the talent of tomorrow and to encourage the change to make them happen.
We all know that 2020 has been a severely challenging year. But now we want to encourage our leaders, managers, coaches, consultants, and HR teams to think about how we can move forward. To start to imagine how we are going to build tomorrow’s organizations using new talent whilst also deploying existing talent into our changing workforces. Talent Transformation Day is all about encouraging change and adopting new ways of working so that we can improve tomorrow.
So here at the Talent Transformation Guild, we encourage you to think about the kind of new roles we’re going to need to fill and new tools we can use to overcome the challenges created in a world that has clearly been changed forever by Covid 19. That includes encouraging people to look at new ways of recruitment, supporting talent and building their organizations and understanding how we can use new technologies such as AI and automation.
Some of the ways that the day is being marked include:
Working from home has enabled thousands of people to keep doing their job well during the pandemic. But is this new world of work, tied to a single laptop, killing employee engagement, and creating ‘screen burn-out’? Martin Belton thinks so and gives you eight ideas to help keep employees healthy, happy and engaged.
According to the research organization Gallup, from mid-March to mid-May 2020, the number of U.S. employees working from home more than doubled, from 31% to 65%. That accounts for more than 100 million American workers. That is an amazing statistic, but it is compounded because we are working from home during a pandemic. Workers have made dramatic changes to their home lifestyle. Taking Zoom calls in the bedroom, dealing with serious health issues and changing their lifestyles. For the homeworker, home is not just where the heart is. It’s where the PC is – the day-care center and the restaurant. Challenges aside, our Gallup poll also revealed that more than half of at-home workers would prefer to continue working remotely when restrictions lift.
For this reason, organizations need a clear plan for transitioning from the early-crisis makeshift solutions, to a remote work strategy that makes sense for their own business circumstances. Crucially, it must also embrace employees’ on-going wellbeing.
It is up to organizations therefore to create environments where home workers can be both effective and properly supported in material and mental terms. Gallup offered a set of criteria to help us understand the challenges home workers face:
At Talent Transformation, we recently contacted our members, together with other business leaders and senior HR practitioners and asked them what their biggest challenge was during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly many suggested it was just keeping the business afloat and making sales in such a tough environment. HR personnel were primarily concerned with how they can get people back to work safely. The challenge of creating an environment where people felt comfortable and that worked as a socially distanced yet effective space.
But our question also revealed a few potentially private comments, even cries for help.
“It feels like I'm living Groundhog Day in a prison” was one reaction.
“I’ve got computer screen fatigue!”, cried someone else.
“I can't stare at the screen any longer, especially for Zoom and I’m sitting way too much!”, was another dismayed response.
“Please release me from this 16x9 tyrant!” one employee pleaded
For these and many others, if they are to continue to work from home effectively, merely checking on their ‘readiness and comfort’ and ‘life circumstances’ is nowhere near enough. Organizations must adapt new support strategies which will properly engage their key workers and provide broader rewards and lifestyle opportunities.
The challenge is how do we create an environment which engages and rewards our employees. Dedicated social media platforms such as ‘Slack’ help in a small way. Supporting and encouraging their use can certainly build better engagement. But they do not resolve perhaps the biggest underlying problem of all. That is work still depends almost exclusively on screen-time. It is this ‘nothing but screen’ that is the underlying problem. Annoying though a difficult commute is, it is still a change and probably exercise away from the rest of the day. Interacting with colleagues’ face to face, randomly is both social and supportive. Meeting by the water cooler gives opportunities for introductions which would otherwise be unlikely. These interactions create engagement with different employees and therefore greater organizational engagement. In short, they help to prevent ‘screen burn-out’. A syndrome where employees just want to escape from their work world, now confirmed to a 13-inch un-blinking, often unfriendly panel
To deal with screen burn-out and other work isolating issues, it’s clear that organizations need to look at new ‘corporate-wellness’ strategies. These kinds of strategies are kind of consistent with the corporate social responsibility strategies typically now used to demonstrate commitment to the community and customers. They show that the organization is reputable and upstanding and therefore worth trusting with your valuable time and business.
Instead, a new HR corporate-wellness strategy might include some or all of the following eight ideas:
5. Free subscriptions to Mindfulness apps: There are any number of these available on your cell (such as Calm, Headspace, Buddhify and others). They cost very little but can be surprisingly effective for many.
6. Start a Book club: Call them book clubs, reading clubs, reading discussion groups or whatever, the key aim is to build engagement between the company and employees. Larger companies may find a way of gaining discounts from suppliers or sponsoring the whole endeavor. As a side benefit, your employees will also become more literate!
7. Printed newsletters: not a retrograde step, unlikely though it may seem, the physically printed word still trumps screen time when it comes to real credence for many. An old-fashioned company newsletter about employees’ endeavors and company successes dropping through the letterbox each month will be a useful and welcome diversion from the screen.
8. Small caring presents: a large tech-solutions company recently sent its working-from-home employees a package which included a tea towel, a mug, a bag of popcorn and a puzzle. Its message was clear – take a break on us. A simple way to get a really important message over.
There are of course other implementable solutions and strategies. Like external corporate social responsibility policies, the benefits may not be at once obvious. But also like them, they may become essential as we venture further into this new world of work.
The current pandemic has dramatically exposed the vulnerabilities of some organizations. Others meanwhile have been catapulted to success. While some organizations were quick to adapt to the new normal, others struggled to contend with the crisis. To survive the next pandemic or any future disruption, organizations must take better steps to make themselves resilient, flexible, and agile. This starts with foresight or the ability to transform an organization for the future. But what will that future organization look like? Here we'll look at how organizations' structure, processes, leadership, and workforce may evolve.
It’s reasonable to assume that rapid technological changes and global health and economic challenges will continue to disrupt industries in the future. We can therefore reasonably assume that the trend will be towards building resilient, flexible, and agile organizations. Traditional structures, design, leadership styles, and employee management must evolve. Otherwise the whole organization's future will be more susceptible to collapse. It will therefore be important to put in the right tools and machinery to make yourself aware of these trends.
Traditionally, a key goal of any organization's structure and design is efficiency. The focus is to produce the highest amount of output with the least amount of input and to complete tasks within the shortest time possible. The future organization, however, must also embrace adaptability as a key goal. Adaptability is simply the capability to respond to changing circumstances or new environments.
Organizations are now investing to overhaul their old systems to enable them to embrace these more flexible designs. This is closely tied to efficiency; it's economical to invest time and resources to devise plans and restructure your organization to be adaptable, rather than conduct a complete overhaul every time a crisis strikes. Future organizations will not waste their time resisting the current of change; they'll build a stronger ship to overcome any wave.
Another continuing trend is the shift from hierarchies to flatter structures. For decades, the organizational structure has been characterized as horizontal, centralized, and departmentalized. A clear chain of command dictates who reports to whom, the concentration of decision-making to a few, and a rigid division of functions based on specialization. The movement is now towards delegation, decentralization, and cross-functional teams. Organizations are removing supervision levels, blurring lines of authority, assigning more responsibility to ordinary employees, and transforming departments into dynamic teams. According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, a flat organizational structure works best when situations change rapidly. Smaller and more autonomous teams are more agile than large hierarchies. And, since organizations will be undergoing rapid changes, we can expect the gradual collapse of hierarchies and continuous rise of flatter organizational structures. With this, employees can expect more opportunities to lead, but also greater responsibility and accountability. Likewise, cross-functional networks and teams can be easier to form, split, and combine to meet the organization's needs and respond to disruptions. This will allow a freer flow of information and feedback with fewer layers to navigate.
One effect of a flatter structure is the shift from command and control leadership to collaboration. Leaders will be more receptive to ideas regardless of the position of the employee. Instead of dictating the work, employers are encouraging workers to contribute towards the organization's strategy, looking at them as partners, not merely tools for production. With an employers' less imposing attitude, the workplace culture can become more informal as well. Uniforms and use of formal names and titles that were once imperative can soon become optional. Revered leaders who worked diligently to climb the corporate ladder may find this uncomfortable, but they must brace themselves for the inevitable.
The movement towards automation is crucial for the resiliency of many organizations. The corona virus pandemic really impacted enterprises dependent on physical labor and on-site production. This crisis will act as a major prompt for organizations to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and the automation of routine jobs. That will also mean more flexible processes and mobile workers. Cloud storage services, engagement systems, and platforms for digital collaboration are just some of the advancements that future organizations may embrace. An article featured in the World Economic Forum literature stressed the importance of the adoption of these technologies. It stated that the winners in a post-pandemic economy would be businesses that use cloud computing and those that utilize robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) within their supply chains.
COVID-19 prompted many organizations to shift to remote work for the health and safety of their employees. But many people are expecting off-site work to continue even after the restrictions are lifted. Tech-giant Google already announced the extension of their work from home option until June 2021. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter also made similar pronouncements. The move of these giant companies can inspire others to do the same.
Organizations, however, must be wary of jumping into the remote-working trend. Assess your organization's culture and identify your priorities before choosing a set-up that can work for you. Do you want an on-site, remote, or hybrid arrangement? Why? Is co-location essential for your firm's productivity? Is in-person interaction necessary for effective collaboration among your employees? Can you trust your workers to perform optimally despite the physical absence of their supervisors? Is security of data and other operations really properly dealt with when working remotely? Consider these factors before moving to a new arrangement.
There is an increasing number of independent contracting workers. In 2019, a study commissioned by Upwork, a global freelancing website, estimated that about 57 million Americans freelanced that year alone, and their collective income is nearly $1 trillion or equivalent to about 5% of the US GDP.
This is not surprising that companies are starting to hire freelancers or on-demand workers over full-time employees. But what drives these companies to adopt this solution? A case study by the Oxford Internet Institute titled "Platform Sourcing: How Fortune 500 Firms are Adopting Online Freelancing Platforms" found three distinct motivations among these organizations. These are: "(1) Providing easy access to a scalable source of manpower, skills, and expertise, (2) Reducing start-up and transaction costs, and (3) Eliminating conventional hiring barriers". As companies look for ways to become more responsive to disruptions, we can expect more firms to choose dynamic on-demand workers over full-time employees
In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) "Long-term Labor Force Projections to 2060" stated that racial and ethnic minorities had increased their presence in the population and the labor force. This led to a growing diversity of the workforce. Future organizations will respond to these changes by embracing strategies that promote diversity and inclusion. We can also expect more women in leadership positions. Forward-thinking organizations learn early that such a diverse workforce will introduce them to a talent pool with different perspectives and approaches and use it for breathing life to their companies.
Future Organizations will gauge their success based on prosperity or overall economic well-being and not just profitability. They will look beyond the numbers and consider their employees' empowerment and their communities' betterment. Organizations of the future must offer purposeful and meaningful employment. Workers will not be treated as mere tools of production but as partners and collaborators. Future organizations must also take their social responsibilities seriously. It must be conscious of how its operations impact society and what efforts they can contribute positively. Marketing will suffer if they don’t as customers search for new ways to validate their purchases in an online environment. These can be in the form of a donation to social causes, reduction of carbon footprint, and improvement of labor policies, among others.
While some countries are actively kicking against the concept of ‘globalization’, for the world at large, it is still an ongoing trend. Globalization has increased interaction among people and the exchange of ideas and cultures. Cross-border distribution and sale of goods and services is made easier. With this, more and more organizations are shifting from a localized to a globalized mindset. Catering to a defined consumer market with predictable tastes and demands is no longer practicable. Future organizations think about introducing their products to the global community, meeting the fluid and changing needs of customers from various cultures, and how to stand out amidst the growing competition. Old strategies that attracted local customers may not work for global consumers with vastly different tastes and spending habits. Thus, future organizations must be attuned to emerging needs and amenable to change their existing products to meet consumer demands.
Virtual offices, augmented reality, artificial intelligence- these are only some of the revolutionary technological advances which have so far characterized the 21st-century. These innovations continuously transform the labor market and the modern workplace. For 2018-2022, the World Economic Forum estimates that such labor transformation may lead to 133 million new jobs and a simultaneous displacement of 75 million others. To survive and thrive in this new employment landscape, one must be equipped with the most in-demand 21st-century skills.
There is no universal definition of 21st-century skills. That is hardly surprising given the range of agendas being progressed by employers, policymakers, and others. But the adopted descriptions within the Global Partnership for Education's Report can give help us describe and categorize these new skills. They adapted the definition of Binkley et al. (2012), which states that "Twenty-first-century skills are abilities and attributes that can be taught or learned to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working and living in the world. We can look at these skills as tools to help individuals to cope with the modern world, allow people to unlock all the benefits of digitalization, keep up with the demands of everyday life, and participate in the innovation process.
21st-century skills fall into three major categories. Let's dive into each:
Learning refers to the understanding gained with experience, education, and practice. Learning skills teach individuals about the mental processes needed to adjust to the modern work environment.
Literacy skills help individuals consume and create knowledge through traditional and digital platforms. They focus on how individuals can access and analyze information, discern fact from fiction, and grasp the influences that affect public information. It protects the individual from false information that floods the internet and helps them guard their security and privacy online.
Life skills focus on the "invisible" elements of an individual's everyday life. These emphasize both personal and professional qualities needed to fully and effectively participate in modern life.
The four C's under the Learning Skills category are the best known 21st Century skills. They are:
Critical Thinking refers to an individual's ability to analyze, question, and relate one set of information to another to solve complex problems. Critical thinking is a mechanism that weeds out issues in business settings and replaces them with productive endeavors. It's what helps individuals figure stuff out for themselves when they don't have a teacher at their disposal.
Creativity is an equally important means of adaptation. It refers to a new way of seeing or doing things, or one's ability to deviate from the norm and see concepts in a different light. Learning creativity forces someone to shift their perspective and create novel solutions for both longstanding and emerging problems. This ultimately leads to innovation, which is key to a company's adaptability and overall success in any field.
Collaboration, once it's mastered, can breathe new life into dying companies. This skill means getting individuals to work effectively together, achieve compromises, and get them to contribute to finding the best possible solution to any problem. Willingness is a crucial element of collaboration. All participants must be ready to sacrifice parts of their ideas and adopt others for the "greater good", which in this case tends to be the company's success.
Finally, communication is what ties these qualities together. Some companies may take it for granted, but effective communication is a requirement for any company to maintain profitability. Poor communication can make well-thought-out plans and projects fall apart. It may even lead to confusion and tension in the workplace. Thus, individuals must learn how to express their sentiments and convey their ideas across different personalities.
The four C's are only the beginning. 21st Century skills also demand that individuals understand the information that surrounds them. Literacy skills are concerned with the different facets of digital comprehension. These are:
Information literacy is foundational of all the other literacy skills. It helps individuals understand data that they'll encounter online and critically evaluate content to separate fact from fiction. In this age of chronic misinformation, finding the truth online has become a job on its own. It's crucial that individuals can identify truth on their own. Otherwise, they can become victims of myths and misconceptions.
Media literacy helps individuals identify source and publishing methods and outlets while determining the ones that are credible and the ones that are inaccurate and unreliable. Media literacy is how individuals find trustworthy sources in a world that's saturated with misinformation. Without media literacy, anything that looks credible might be considered credible. With it, individuals can understand which media outlets to embrace and which ones to ignore. Both of which are equally important skills.
Technology literacy gives individuals the information needed to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why. As robots, smart devices, and automation become more rampant, more people need to understand these inventions' concepts. According to the OECD Skills Outlook 2019 report, the adoption of new technologies can either enable workers to perform their tasks more efficiently (complementary effect) or replace workers with computers and robots that can perform routine tasks that can be entirely automated (substitution effect). Technology literacy can spell the difference between career advancement and unemployment. It unveils the intricacies of tools that run today's world. This leads to a deeper understanding that removes the intimidating feeling that humans tend toward new technology. As a result, individuals can adapt and play an active role in the technological evolution.
Workers need more than learning and literacy skills to navigate the 21st century. Life skills are also crucial. Life skills are as follows:
Flexibility refers to a person's ability to change his actions and take steps to adapt to changing circumstances. It is an expression of an individual's dynamism in the face of new situations and environments. Being flexible can be a challenge to learn. It requires one to pierce their ego and abandon their preconceived notions when necessary.
It's a struggle for many individuals to learn, especially in an age when the accessibility and abundance of information often lead to a false sense of judgment and confidence. Flexibility requires humility and acceptance that they will always have a lot to learn despite their years of experience. This is crucial to an individual's long-term career success.
Leadership pertains to one's propensity to set goals and guide a team to work collaboratively to reach said targets. The ability to lead is crucial at any stage of one's career- whether someone is an experienced entrepreneur or a fresh hire entering the workforce.
Entry-level workers need leadership skills to help them comprehend the decisions that business leaders make. They can then apply their leadership skills when they're promoted or need to lead entire companies in the future. Workers must be allowed to hold leadership roles in their respective divisions at least once. This will help them learn the work process's ins and outs and enable them to demonstrate their collaboration and critical-thinking skills while directing a team.
Real success also requires initiative. Initiative often means beginning a task independently, working on projects outside of regular working hours, or spending an extra 30 minutes polishing something up before the weekend. It's mostly indicative of someone's work ethic and professional progress. The rewards for individuals with extreme initiative vary from person to person, but being a self-starter is an attribute that consistently earns rewards.
21st Century skills also require individuals to learn about productivity. An individual can complete work in a given amount of time. This is also known as efficiency and effectiveness. The common goal of any professional is to get more done in less time. By understanding productivity strategies at every level, individuals discover the best practices for their work and others' work.
Social skills or an individual's ability to approach and persuade people, respect boundaries and differences, and empathize with people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds is crucial to professional success. Business is often made through networking and forging personal and professional relationships. With the rise of social media allowing instant communication and virtual contact, the nature of human interaction has transformed. Individuals now need a wide range of social skills in response to these developments. But beware; while virtual communication and instant messaging are the new norms, etiquette and manners can still differ in the modern world.
The 21st Century demands a wide base of skills from the individual. Whether physical or cognitive, repetitive tasks are being automated. This means that the remaining tasks require flexibility and willingness to change. These skills boil down to adaptability.
New ideas and methodologies can disrupt industries without warning. In an era of continuous change, no industry is immune. Their time just has not come yet. Every day, new tools, products, and ways of working and living are discovered. Nothing is guaranteed.
With that in mind, individuals and businesses must be committed to developing the skills that will help them harness the powerful changes that are consuming their lives. They can either adapt to these changes or take the helms of innovation. Otherwise, they are on their way to obsolescence. With 21st Century skills, your individuals will have the qualities they need to survive and thrive in workplaces amid constant evolution.
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