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In researching and analyzing our data and in preparation for the upcoming Upskilling 2023 Report (releasing April 2023), I am finding that behavioral scientists and human skills experts agree that developing skills and changing behaviors and habits are the same thing. Additionally, to improve skills, behaviors, and habits, one must have the motivation, ability, or capability to improve skills or change habits. Habits are often largely unconscious, characterized, or automatic behaviors. In effect, they are ingrained skills.
The Elephant in the Room: Automation Yes, but Not Automating Human Skills
While technology, automation, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are essential and innovation will continue, the advances in AI are not a threat to humans but rather augmentation that improves outcomes and revenue. In a recent study conducted by Citrix, 96% of professionals believe that by 2028 technology and AI will begin to generate more revenue for their organizations than humans. However, we must consider which skills humans have and will continue to have within our industry of IT and DevOps. While AI and robots are excellent at specific use cases, there are many things only humans can do within teams for patients, clients, customers, partners, and their community. Here are some examples of human skills which cannot be automated:
- Developing strategy or critical thinking
- Conflict resolution with a team or customer
- Developing trusted relationships
- Fostering a positive culture
- Leading and building teams
The time to hone your human skills is now
Employers worldwide are being faced with quiet quitting and the great resignation. Indeed has great suggestions on what employers need to know for 2023. But that is just one side of the equation. The other side is employees and their happiness, wellness and experience. I recently interviewed Gallup CEO Jon Clifton on Gallup’s employee engagement research. Gallups recent findings tell us that ‘global engagement has remained stable but low since the pandemic’. In 2022, 21% of employees were engaged at work – stated positively. But that means that 79% of global employees were not engaged.
The Top 3 Skills to Improve Now
As the past years have accelerated digital transformations across all industries, there are tremendous demands for high-performance teams within organizations spanning IT and business functions. DevSecOps, Agile, and other modern operating models are helping to improve velocity, quality, security, and more, and there are key skill domains that we will explore in our upcoming 2023 Upskilling IT report. Over the past five years of our research around skill gaps across IT enterprise organizations, human skills have been listed as the 4th most important skill domain. Breaking the human skill domain down further, here are the top three human skills to include in your upskilling plan:
- Collaboration and Cooperation
Breaking the human skill domain down further across five years of our research, collaboration, and cooperation has been the number one must-have skill within the human skill domain, but it has also been the biggest skill gap for the past five years. But collaboration and cooperation can become more difficult as increasing numbers work remotely. But there are some great success stories of how large organizations have fostered collaboration and cooperation. I remember well from my time at Hewlett-Packard (HP), where we had coffee talks across entire sites where over five thousand people would gather and listen to updates and were part of discussions with the leadership team. This was a signature ‘practice’ across all HP sites worldwide and greatly impacted how we all learned and practiced collaboration and coordination.
The bottom line for now: Creating signature ‘practices’ as HP did is a great way to bring people together. Additionally, as Standard Chartered Bank does, having the senior team act as role models for collaboration as they fill in for each other and spend a lot of time meeting and traveling across their sites makes collaboration visible. And Nokia practices daily mentoring where employees from day one get a list of people they can reach out to for tips and support.
- Creativity and Entrepreneurship to Innovate and Challenge Status Quo
We defined creativity and entrepreneurship within our research as the ability to take responsibility for new ideas and solutions to solve problems with energy and passion. This year, 41% of our survey respondents voted for this human skill as a top must-have skill. We all know of successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Most entrepreneurs (including those two) are creative thinkers. Unfortunately, many of us have jobs where much of our time involves logical decision-making. Logical thinking requires convergent thinking. Convergent thinking means that we are looking for a solution to a problem. The opposite of convergent thinking is that of divergent thinking. The difference between the two is that convergent thinking finds concrete and familiar solutions to existing problems. In contrast, divergent thinking searches for other possibilities.
The bottom line for now: Allow ways to create and exchange ideas. We all need to practice and encourage this within our teams and organizations. Remember, if your idea is being brushed off quickly, it might not be your idea but rather that those to who you are proposing the idea might have been in a convergent mindset, and therefore your idea does not stick.
- Diversity and Inclusion to Adapt to Change on Every Front
For the first time in our five years of research, diversity, and inclusion have made it into the top three must-have human skill domains. As an expert in diversity and inclusion, Bianca Miller-Cole lists the reasons why diversity and inclusion are essential for business success:
- Greater innovation and creativity
- A broader range of skills
- Business boost
- Happier employees
- Increased productivity
- Understanding of customers
- More talent to choose from
- Higher revenues
The good news: the previously mentioned Citrix study indicated that 86% of employees and 66% of HR directors assert that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time. The ever-changing and complex business environment requires that organizations and professionals adapt to change on every front. Bringing in new team members or bringing in other skills requires demographic shifts. This also means diverse, multigenerational workforces make up teams and share a space. Digitization has transformed the way we work, with more professionals adopting flexible hours and operating remotely from multiple locations, and technological innovation resulting in the creation of new job roles, the reshaping of old jobs, and the complete replacement of others.
The bottom line for now: Employees and leaders who want to stay relevant must develop their diversity and inclusion skill set. Leaders must empower their employees to practice, learn and develop diversity and inclusion but they also should develop a diversity and inclusion strategy.
In conclusion, no matter what, ensure that you get feedback on your skill development.
No matter which one of the above human skills (or any other skill domain) you are honing in on, the thing is that it requires feedback to understand if you are developing the skill. And that is the hard part. Getting feedback, you must consider the following:
- Practice an open mindset
- Give constructive feedback
- Be aware of the reactions of others, and to others
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