It is a harsh judgment, but one that many employers are pondering due to the demand for digital skills.
It may also be reflected in the most recent employment trends. Since the vaccine, college graduates are being hired. Applicants with only a high school diploma, however, are being turned away. Also, greater acceptance of remote work will lead to your local talent being poached.
The vying for qualified workers is already cut-throat and is, likely, to become even more intense.
How to Fill Empty Positions
The companies that will thrive in the future are the ones that best manage the looming employment crisis. Call it a skills gap or a talent shortage, but jobs are going unfilled.
Beyond finding the best external applicants for your jobs, HR and recruitment should also be evaluating if internal candidates are possible. Where many companies have passive systems, such as posting jobs on office bulletin boards or an intranet, real success comes from being more proactive.
A fully functioning career ladder involves the early identification of employees with the greatest potential to make upward or lateral moves.
It Takes More than Just Digital Skills…
AI and machine learning are merely hi-tech tools for your top talent to be able to shift through data, find patterns, connect the dots, and discover solutions—literally, do their jobs better. Having the people who can harness digital technology, and make it perform, will be your greatest competitive advantage.
In a recent interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Amit Shah, President of 1-800-Flowers (a company renowned for its rapid growth), elaborates, “So if you think about what differentiates modern organizations, it is not just the ability to adopt technologies, which has become a table stake, but the ability to out-solve their competitors in facing deep problems. So, when I think about AI, I think about our competitiveness on that frontier. Are we better problem solvers?
“I’ll give you a terrific example of that. When I started my career 20 years ago as a young analyst at McKinsey, there was a clear differentiator between people who [were] masters of Excel and who [were] not. It was a tool that empowered decision-making at scale and communication of the decision-making. When I think about AI and its power five years down the road, I think every new employee that starts out will actually have an AI toolkit — like we used to get the Excel toolkit — to both solve problems better and communicate that better to clients, to colleagues, to any stakeholder. AI to me is not a skill-set issue; it is a mindset issue. And over the long term, companies that adopt and understand that this is a mindset and a skill-set game actually will be the ones that are more competitive than their peer reference group.”
AI is just the beginning. There are many other emerging technologies (5G, Internet of Things [IoT], augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, robotics, etc.), that will further empower employees who have the right skills and mindset.
Setting the Pace with Critical Thinking and Lifelong Learning
Critical thinking skills and a lifelong learning mindset are the two differentiators, separating your average employees from those capable of boosting your company’s productivity and growth. These workers are able to handle complex situations requiring strength in problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, as their positions evolve, necessitating new expertise and knowledge, they possess a mindset for continuous learning.
Critical thinking is a skillset that can be taught. It is not one item on “a top ten list” of soft skills, it encompasses much of the list. Critical thinking involves all forms of problem analytics. From being able to evaluate options and alternative solutions, to being numerically literate and apt at determining the impact and outcome of possible decisions. Lastly, these employees are the ultimate communicators, able to explain their reasoning and influence others to support proposed solutions.
A lifelong learning mindset is more innate. It is indicative of the ability and willingness to learn, but it also can be improved. Lifelong learning, like critical thinking, is not a single attribute, but multiple traits that actively support critical thinking. These include, among others, honesty and truth seeking; having focus and commitment; embracing innovation; being resourceful and receptive to different ideas, arguments, and information; displaying professionalism as well as taking a judicious approach to problems and decisions.
One Test Does Not Fit All
Beware of vendors that offer one test for all your employees.
Evaluating critical thinking and lifelong learning is not that simple. Assessment, instead, should be matched to the unique requirements of your specific industry and the levels of responsibility for your employees.
Measurement of a healthcare employee is vastly different than for someone in accounting or deployed in a foreign country as a military officer. A senior executive, middle-manager, or support staff member, again, is equally dissimilar in the scope of their duties and the stakes involved in their decisions. It is necessary to compare apples to apples to determine an individual’s proficiencies as well as areas for improvement. A high score is predictive of future achievement in the workplace.
An overall rating should also be obtained for general comparison of skills and mindset, throughout an organization. In this manner, skill and mindset proficiency, or lack thereof, can be determined for entire branches, divisions, and teams within your organization.
There are 3 Steps in Preparing for the Future of Work
Step one is assessing all the candidates that apply for your open positions to help determine those most likely to succeed. At Insight Assessment, we have found that screening candidates often acts as the proof of concept when it comes to our critical thinking and lifelong learning assessments. Management can see, first-hand, how candidates with high assessment scores turned out to be high performers.
The logical second step is to assess your current employees.
Qualified candidates may already be employed by you, but they have been overlooked. It is difficult to subjectively evaluate critical thinking skills and a lifelong learning mindset, except in hindsight. Any layman can cite Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other historical figures as possessing these skills and mindset, based on their past accomplishments. Trying to determine the same from a resume or interview, nearly impossible… Even job performance may be misleading, if an employee is not in a position where they can apply their skills and mindset.
It is not easy to measure untapped potential without validated instruments.
Insight Assessment, however, offers 30 years of experience in testing for the modern deployment of critical thinking skills and lifelong learning mindset (for today’s increasingly complicated workplaces). Our online assessments are customized to specific industries such as business, defense, education, engineering, first responders—fire, police and paramedics, healthcare, law, and science. They are further divided into executive, professional, and staff level, within these industry categories, as well as available in over 20 languages.
Reskilling, training or development for those employees who need to improve their skills and mindset would be the third, and final, step. The need to improve proficiency in critical thinking and lifelong learning is revealed, of course, through the process of current employee assessment. Similar to our assessments, we offer an online, turn-key, rapid-start training solutions that can be used for self-directed learning or integrated into existing quality improvement programs.
Contact us today to compile the assessment package that will start the process of preparing your employees to excel, now, and into the future of work.
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