Keeping your balance in disruption is a far bigger challenge than any technology.
Beyond learning tech skills, how do we need to adapt to be competitive in a rapidly changing future?
This was the question I challenged a team of industry experts, a futurist, and a university student to consider at a national conference.
Although diverse in industry - Artificial Intelligence, Educational Reform, Biotechnology, Social Change, Blockchain and Bitcoin, and Tech Talent Development - and in racial background, it is interesting to note only one man participated in the conversation.
Here is what we collaboratively noted:
1. A new set of skills are needed in the future.
Globalization and digitization of work is changing the skill sets we need to develop to be valuable to employers.
Because many of them are skills that computers struggle with, but humans are uniquely capable of doing.
It's our human skills that will be
most valuable in the future.
2. We aren’t teaching these skills.
Although you could argue that our schools teach some, our culture and educational system fails to develop the others.
Instead, our educational system reinforces a belief that our time for learning, growing and producing is finite, that it is bad to fail, and you should do only as you are told.
It’s difficult to keep pace with change with these attitudes.
If hiring managers continue to look for the traditional candidates, university's hands are tied. They have to continue delivering candidates with traditional college experiences and competencies. Consequently, the entrance requirements at these schools don’t change, which forces K-12 schools to stick to their old standards for performance.
The demand for change has to come from the top as well as the bottom, and all have to work together.
3. We aren’t hiring for these skills.
We are still blinded by old ideas of what a successful employee looks like. Most of us look for someone who looks like us, has been to the best schools, received the best grades and has all of the technical skill knowledge needed for a particular job.
Some more progressive companies are beginning to understand the disconnect. Much of Amazon’s and Google’s hiring processes, culture and internal structures are designed to cultivate the new skills listed below and weed out old attitudes.
However, I can testify even progressive Amazon and Google recruiters are susceptible to age old biases and beliefs we have about who is a “great hire.”
4. Younger generations get it and seek different.
Younger generations tend to look for fit and an attitude towards self-directed learning and a growth mindset, believing that if they have a candidate with the right attitude, they can learn whatever they need to learn. Since the world comes to them on their screens more today than it ever has, it’s believed that millennials and younger were more welcoming of diversity and wanted to see the values they held reflected both in the companies and individuals with whom they worked. It was also noted that this group, having grown up in a world where technology was always a part of their world, they believe that tech skills can easily be learned on the job.
In comparison, it was noted that GenXrs and Traditionalists place much more emphasis on the skills, school and education a candidate comes in with, believing more in the idea of educational expertise rather than figuring it out as you go.
5. Humans Do Not Handle Change Well, But We Must Learn To
Being forced to start as a beginner after reaching an age where all norms claim you are “done learning” and “should be THE expert”, attacks our sense of self-worth and our belief in the meaningfulness of our lives, igniting fear and resistance in even the most open-minded. People don’t want to change, so they eventually just leave a company when there is too much change, or they are let go.
Where do they go is the question. Perhaps they can find another company before it has transitioned to a new way of working, but eventually the call to change will ring again.
What does this mean? It means that GenXrs and Traditionalists that won’t embrace change will struggle to find a job soon…many already are.
We are on the cusp of a very big problem — a large portion of the workforce won’t have the skills employers need very soon. At the crux of this problem is this idea — humans fight change and we don't teach people to embrace it.
I don’t care how intelligent you are, how accomplished you are or what your title is. The chances that you are good at big change - the kind that upends your identity and sense of self, are not in your favor. It’s in our biological make-up to not want to disrupt everything in our lives. We like our rhythms, our patterns and our beliefs — they help us stay safe and function more efficiently in a confusing and seemingly threatening world.
However, to be valuable in the future, we need to get over our resistance to change.
We need to stop preaching and change management and resilience and start teaching people how to engage in change - not just in technology.
Questions To Consider...
- What competencies should we be measuring?
- How can we get business leaders, universities and K-12 school districts all aligned on the types of skills and mindsets we should be developing in preparation for employment?
- What kind of experiences develop the growth mindset that is so critical to future success?
- What can be done to help people thrive in change? Can we prepare them? (The answer is YES — reach out if you want to know more.)
I encourage you to start asking these questions with your teams and connections. Reach beyond your industry and collaborate.
This problem is so big, we will need each other to solve it.