In addition to hard science skills, leaders need to place a new emphasis on emotional intelligence, intellectual curiosity and learning agility.
In a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 53 percent of CEOs said they see a lack of skills as a major challenge facing their organization. So, what’s being done about this? Has your organization made any significant changes to help up-skill your employees? Are you investing dollars in the learning and development functions? Or are you hoping that benign neglect will eventually work for you and that the university system will start pumping out more highly qualified employees than ever?
It’s not just CEOs who are worried about the skills shortages. Employees themselves feel the pressure to upgrade their own skill set. According to an Accenture report, The Learning Enterprise, nearly 55 percent of workers feel pressure to acquire new skills. But here’s the catch: only 25 percent of them actually feel like they are getting the support that they need.
It’s simply not working. We’re not preparing for the future if we don’t invest in the present. I recognize that this is a shared responsibility that needs to be tackled from the earliest levels of education all the way through corporate learning initiatives. The fact is we need to start acting differently if we’re serious about taking on this challenge. Doing what we’ve always done, isn’t working. It’s time for a new approach; One that balances public and private partnerships to help develop a flexible and agile workforce. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If we’re serious about changing the way we operate, we need to value and reward the right skills and behaviors.
We know for certain that behaviors are what drive results. We also know that behaviors are driven by emotions. Emotions are contagious. We have an open loop system. Emotions spread quickly. Keep this in the mind the next time you see a group of kids giggling in a park; watch how quickly the laughter spreads. Or conversely, watch how quickly kids gang up on one another. When groups of people are working together, they create a micro climate. This climate is impacted greatly by the emotions and behaviors of the “leader.” Leaders have significant influence on our ability to perform and our capacity to adapt to new challenges and new stressors. The point is, IQ isn’t enough anymore. We need to start embracing emotional intelligence. And we need our leaders to do it now.
We also need to embrace learning agility. We need to start teaching our kids and our employees how to become intellectually curious. We need to adopt a new standard for how we view intelligence. And we need to reward individuals who are curious about not only the “what,” but the “how” and the “why.”
From a skill perspective, we need engineers, scientists and mathematicians. This is nothing new; not earth-shattering news. We need human resource professionals that can develop talent and create cultures that support, recognize and reward the right behaviors. We need right brain thinkers and we need left brain thinkers. We need teachers who can instill the right behaviors early on and who open people up to learning and development. We need people that are highly detailed, but we need people that are highly creative.
In a world where talent is growing scarcer by the day, we need everyone on board. We can’t keep focusing on one skill set. We’re selling ourselves short if all we keep focusing on is math and science. Yes, there’s a skill gap there, but we’re about to come into an age where there are skill gaps everywhere. The boomers are leaving. We can’t afford as a society or as organizations to solely focus on one area. We need to focus across the board. We need engineers who are politically adept. We need human resource professionals that are financially savvy. We need people to be agile. We can’t afford to grow people in silos anymore.
A high IQ isn’t enough anymore. It’s table stakes; get smart or get out. We want people that can lead. People that have the emotional intelligence to flex when needed. People who understand how to forge forward in the face of uncertainty while continuing to motivate their people to follow. We need leaders who care and employees who are willing to try new things.
We can do this. A public and private partnership can help make this happen. We need to get into the schools early and work closely with the teachers, administrators and curriculum planners. We should be building curriculum that not only focuses on the hard sciences, but one that also focuses on the behavioral science. We should be teaching our people and our kids how to develop a curious mindset. One that questions and pursues knowledge. A mindset that isn’t scared of uncertainty, but can embrace it. One that sees the possibilities of the future. One that knows if we put our minds together, we can achieve great things. A mindset that values intellect, sees potential in the face of failure and one that embraces empathy as a key leadership trait.
Our CEOs have a right to be worried, but in that concern should be an endless optimism that we can conquer this challenge, and that we can rise together and embrace a new future and a new paradigm. iBi
Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D. is an author, speaker and principal and managing partner of Prescient Training Strategists LLC, a consulting firm focusing on integrated talent management. Learn more at stuckinthemiddle.me.