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It's time increase focus on those durable skills that create & support an agile business.






Are we on the brink of a skills crisis?



A recent article from the team at Randstad has tackled this perennial question, asking: are young people developing the right skills they need for employment?


In the piece, written to mark the United Nations’ World Youth Skills Day, they note that as many as 48% of young people believe that they haven’t been taught the skills that will be needed in the workplace. Meanwhile, on the other side of the hiring line, employers are often struggling to find the right people, particularly in STEM areas, where as many as 46% are struggling to fill such roles. Skills such as problem solving, creativity, communicating effectively and making the most out of the work environment have been identified by businesses as the key entry-level skills that applicants will need in ten years’ time, and...


“...it’s crucial that we teach the younger generation what they need to know.”

These are, of course, age-old questions, but they are ones that have been given a fresh urgency and importance by recent technological changes.



The changing concept of what work is


Automation and artificial intelligence are transforming the workplace, with some jobs disappearing, whilst other, wholly new roles emerge. In particular, the types of skills that employers need is also changing. At Deloitte’s ‘Center for the Edge’, some recent discussions have been focusing on these shifts, and arguing that we need to rethink our very concept of what work is in order to adapt. Rather than thinking about a skill as being the ability to accomplish a particular task, or to operate a particular system or piece of machinery, we need to think more broadly.


“What increasingly matters…are things like curiosity, imagination, creativity, emotional intelligence, social intelligence. Those are things that are essential to addressing unseen problems and opportunities in any environment. ”

Others agree. According to Jeremy Auger – co-founder of D2L – the average lifespan of a tech skill is now just 18 months. Things like creativity and adaptability on the other hand, are ‘durable’, and can be taken anywhere. But how do we equip young people with the creativity, curiosity and adaptability they will need in the future workplace?



Is AI automation the answer?


The good news, perhaps, is that there may be far more of these ‘skills’ out there than we might think. According to the ‘Center for the Edge’, we need to stop thinking about things like imagination and creativity as abilities that only some people possess:

We all have it as humans. The issue is that for many of us, if not most of us, it got crushed, first in schools and then the work environment…but they're still there…if given the right environment and the right encouragement.

Perhaps the bigger question, then, is not a shortage of such abilities, but how do employers find and nurture them? For some, it is the technology that is driving these changes – artificial intelligence – which also has the answers. According to one report, 38 percent of companies already use AI in hiring and recruiting, whilst 62 percent expect to do so by the end of this year. But skills like creativity and imagination have become so important precisely because they cannot be automated, or replicated easily by machines. If AI doesn’t have these capabilities, how effective will it be at recognising them in people?



Creativity, imagination and adaptability


Whilst it may provide part of the answer, AI is unlikely to be the solution on its own. We, ourselves, as humans, need to get better at recognising these ‘durable’ skills, and nurturing them in our workforces. One solution might be to try to think more broadly about what skills young people might have – realising that these might be demonstrated in unusual ways that we’re not used to. Another might be to look within the company, and try to nurture and encourage these capabilities in workers who are already with us. Ultimately, the strategies that employers and recruiters will need will depend on humans and our ability to think in depth about people. If we want skills like creativity, imagination and adaptability in our workforces, we need to start showing them in our hiring practices.





Author -David Selway


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Is fun relevant for the modern workforce? We further the discussion on a Deloitte insights article on making work fun for "competitive advantage."





This post is a response to the article here



How important is it to have fun at work?



According to a new article from Deloitte Insights, we’re in the midst of another ‘seismic shift’ in the way work is perceived, with a younger generation of talent increasingly choosing work that they find fun and engaging, rather than opting for the financial stability offered by more traditional, longstanding and reputable organisations. Increasingly, the rigid separation of ‘work’ and ‘play’, which has historically underpinned our working lives, is being eroded, and employers that can merge the two are said to be gaining a competitive advantage. Yet despite this dramatic societal shift, too many organisations are sticking stubbornly to the old ways, and risk being left behind.



How can employers react in order to retain, attract and develop talent?


So how can employers react in order to retain, attract and develop talent? Some have sought to rise to this challenge by creating fun and engaging work spaces –replete with themed rooms, ‘nap-pods’ and table tennis – where their employees can mix work with leisure or relaxation.


“The new San Francisco offices of Technology start-up Lyft, for example, has indoor parks and a ‘Willy Wonka’ room to help foster fun and collaboration amongst the workforce.”

Meanwhile, here at Humdex, our Bristol based members work out of a freelance space called Desklodge – which offers tents for group meetings, disco themed phone booths for private calls (complete with flashing disco lights), and its very own Hobbit Hole. So what are the benefits to working in such a space?


Getting creative


From first-hand experience, these environments are not just more enjoyable places to work, but also seem to help stimulate creativity and innovation. Many of us are probably familiar with the idea that ‘we often get our best thoughts in the shower’, but there may actually be some factual basis to this popular aphorism. Scientific research has suggested that we are at our most creative when we’re relaxed (making us more likely to turn our attention inwards), we’re distracted (which gives our brains a break and allows our subconscious can work on the issue more creatively), and when dopamine levels are high. Creating a space and environment that affords your workers plenty of opportunities for constructive distraction and relaxation can thus have real benefits – whether that’s by gathering your thoughts in a hammock, taking a break to play some table tennis, or curling up in a corner of Bag-End (though we’re still unconvinced about the benefits of the disco lights).



So such environments can be more fun to work in, whilst also boosting creativity and innovation, but why is creating one at your organisation so important? And when it comes to recruitment, can it really compete with traditional drivers – like salary, financial stability and benefits? The key thing to bear in mind here, is that for younger generations, the view of what the future holds has shifted dramatically. As the article notes:


“For the first time in many years, young people believe that they will be financially worse off than their parents. This has led to many actively questioning the core premises of corporate behaviour and the economic and social principles that guide it.”

Given such expectations, it is perhaps no surprise that many of this generation are choosing work that is engaging, enjoyable, allows them to use or develop creativity and new skills, and is thus rewarding right now, rather than prioritising a higher salary or financial stability in the long-run. As the promised rewards of a more traditional career path – such as increased wealth or home ownership – appear increasingly unachievable or out of reach, then the other aspects of that economic bargain will inevitably come under strain, and start to change accordingly.


Perhaps the key thing to bear in mind though, when confronting such changes, is that our relationship with work has always been highly contingent.


The ‘historical’ separation of ‘work’ and ‘play’ that the article mentions, is not really historical at all – if you go back far enough.


Before the industrial revolution, there was no rigid separation of work and leisure, and the very concept of a ‘working-day’ or ‘working hours’ would have seemed strange to most people. Rather than clinging to the models of work that we are used to, it might be better to recognise them for what they are – specific models that were designed and suited for a particular time and age – and as those times change, so must we keep changing with them.



Author -David Selway


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E: info@humdex.com

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