Labor Day 20/20

A three-day weekend and the mindset that Summer is now over. Bring on the Fall season of sweaters, football, and walking the dog in a dark neighborhood each evening after dinner.

Labor Day is anticipated as a day of transition and little else. As a holiday, we celebrate the American worker with a Monday off work for many, but not all. Unlike Memorial Day, that unofficial start of the Summer Season, few think deep about this holiday that marks the end of Summer. For most, Labor Day is nothing more than a bookend.

Yet here I sit on my day off thinking about work, the state of work today and how well we are preparing for the future. Technology and the level of full-time connectivity is changing the playing field. As such there are tech related hard skills each of us must learn to compete and thrive in the workplace of today and more so, of tomorrow.

Yet if you look up search terms such as “job skills of the future”, often the content does not list tech skills at all, but includes a number of so-called soft skills. One such article (link here) lists several job skills including:

  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • People Management
  • Coordinating with Others
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Service Orientation

I worry we focus too strongly on the technology and are not doing enough to select for and build skill for these soft-skills. Ugh, hate that term “soft-skills”.  Nothing soft here as these skills are hard to learn and are difference makers in any workplace. Give me a person with strong ability across these performance dimensions and I will teach the hard skills as needed.

Unfortunately interview and selection processes for hiring and promotions are not optimized for these dimensions. Too often someone gets the job due to their demonstrated hard skills with little weight to problem solving, creativity, mastery of emotional intelligence, and other “Soft Skills”. Ask any Human Resources Manager for the reason someone is removed (okay, fired) from a job … yes indeed, lacking in these soft-skills.

Worse for me is when we have folks already in our workplaces with great ability across these dimensions yet struggle to get promoted or win that transfer to another team to grow their career all because they have not yet mastered a specific hard skill.  Indeed short-term thinking still dominates many work cultures. We talk about visions for our business future, yet act constantly for the needs of yesterday and today at best.

So on this Labor Day I sharpen my focus, let’s call it 20/20 vision, both clarity of sight and a look forward to the not too distant future and yes, the year 2020 is 16 months away.  Think of what we can do in 16 months to build ability for our team members. We just need the tiniest bit of vision and the drive to make it happen.

“Look, all I’m asking, is for you to just have the tiniest bit of vision. You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture. To take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history… of history.” 

– Ellie Arroway, Movie, Contact


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