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Because ALL Dogs NEED to learn new tricks

Welcome to Changing Times

One of our core values at The Wunderlin Company is continued learning; and over the past year, we have taken some time for focused study. For us, that means reading, conferences, travel, and research with other experts in relevant fields.

We now understand that lifelong learning is a contact sport--we must be intentionally and actively engaged in the learning arena, every day and every year

We have noticed successful clients are increasingly focused on extending and sharpening their leadership and technical skills.  And we see more and more meeting participants getting deeper learning from facilitated sessions. They walk away not only with a strategy - but also a feeling that “I have learned something about change leadership/working in teams,” which they can continue to explore when the session is over.  

This issue of Changing Times is dedicated to lifelong learning and includes some of our key takeaways from the recent Economist Special Report: Learning and earning issue.

1.Fluid intelligence vs. Crystallized intelligence - Psychologists define “fluid” intelligence as the ability to solve new problems and “crystallized” intelligence as the stock of knowledge gathered over time. It’s no surprise that we slow down as we age - but how do we use that to our advantage? How do you apply what you know in new ways? Some combine accumulated wisdom with new skills and capitalize on the “hybrid job” trend.: ...it has become essential to acquire new skills as established ones become obsolete...the biggest demand is for new…’hybrid jobs.’. In America, 49% of postings in the quartile of occupations with the highest pay are for jobs that frequently ask for coding skills.” Employees cannot rely on their crystallized intelligence alone. Smart employees add new skills to their resume throughout their career and find ways to exploit what they know in new fields.

If we have a learning mindset, opportunities abound.  Without a learning mindset, we all run the risk of obsolescence.    Learning is a muscle that can be cultivated over time. “Learning as a process” is a theory espoused by psychologist Carol Dweck, who has worked for more than 40 years in social science. In this TED talk, she explores the power of saying “not yet” when learning beyond one’s comfort zone. When faced with this challenge, we often become victims of a “tyranny of now” mindset (i.e. I don’t have the ability), rather than “luxuriate in the power of not yet” - (i.e. supporting the learning process to enable steady growth). She demonstrates that a positive attitude and practice of growth learning yields powerful results.

2. Technology and the pace of change -  Technology disrupts - it moves forward in unpredictable ways and can progress exponentially/ nonlinearly.  Success requires employees, employers, and educators to operate nimbly to continue in work they love: “Those with a better education are still more likely to find work, but there is now a fair chance that it will be unenjoyable. Those who never made it to college face being squeezed out of the workforce altogether.”  Studying isn’t just for nerds, it’s a necessary part of change. It’s no longer possible to go to college and make a linear climb up the corporate ladder. If half of the highest paying jobs in the top quartile of occupations require coding - look at your field. Are you looking into cutting edge technology... or walking away from it?  How are you utilizing technology to keep up - or better yet to get ahead?

3. What Can’t This Machine Do?  While Merrell and I were at a CoachSource conference last year, we heard from Dave Peterson, Google’s Director of Leadership and Coaching. He advocated that leaders leverage what is “uniquely human” in order to grow. Technology is extending in all directions, making more jobs obsolete. Social skills, which bots can not replicate,  are quickly rising as a key to hiring and earning potential. At AT&T, working with a learning mindset or willingness to “reskill” increases promotability.  Microsoft employs a similar approach - employee evaluations measure knowledge gained from others and its application in the overall workforce.

Additionally, as the momentum toward a gig economy grows, leaders must facilitate a productive course of action with multiple players in and out of the office - HR may be down the hall, but the graphic designer may be in another city. There is incredible value in “people who can divide up tasks quickly and effectively between them to form more productive teams.” Management takes on new meaning as the scope of “team” broadens to include freelancers and contractors.

4. MOOCs raise from the ashes - Employment and learning have benefited from technology, too. In our post 10 Ways to Stay on Top in 2013, we noted MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) as a promising idea for the new year.  Some predicted MOOCs would render centuries-old brick and mortar universities obsolete in a matter of decades. The buzz fizzled out over the years, especially when dropout rates in MOOCs remained high. But today, MOOCs offer an intriguing value proposition: employment centered education.

From partnering with employers who develop custom content to offering digestible short lessons for working students, online courses are getting mid-career learning right. Successful MOOCs have positioned themselves as pathways to higher paid position employability. They especially shine when it comes to meeting the need for hard skills, such as math or languages. The question remains whether they can address the need for soft skills like creativity and critical thinking. Online course providers haven’t found an answer yet, but they’re working on it. The problem and answer lie in credentialing and certifying these soft skills. Part of the solution may be in developing courses with brands like Google, who lend compelling credibility to certifications. Either way, if you’re thinking of adding skills to your resume, you may consider a MOOC like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Coursera. HR managers - look to MOOCs to develop or track training and custom courses for your employees/recruits.

5.Reskilling and Microcredentialling -Are your static skills deskilling you, and if so, what will you do about it? In a knowledge economy, relying on a college degree or vocational training isn’t enough in a decades-long career. A recent PBS Newshour report highlighted a pilot program at  Georgetown University that offers digital badges for soft skills. Erika Cohen-Derr, who co-developed the program, decide to try the experiment because employers want a litmus test for skills a resume can’t show: like empathy, communication, ethical leadership...the dispositions”. Her team hopes that a digital badge will demonstrate competencies to recruiters and employers. Others programs offer micro studies that employees can “fit together like bits of Lego,” or apply toward traditional degrees. These badges and credentials are important in an era where responsibility for continued skill development increasingly falls on employees - one article aptly noted that as funding for on-the-job training declines, ‘Organizations have moved from creating talent to consuming work.’.  While 54 % of adults feel it’s important to develop new skills; attitudes among employees divide along generational lines. In the under 30 set - that number rises to 61 percent. And perhaps more compelling is that 93% of Millennials are willing to spend their own money on training. Young employees are incredibly motivated to learn, and managers would do well to nurture that enthusiasm. Older employees must keep pace, or risk becoming obsolete sooner rather than later.  All employees will see a greater benefit when practicing new skills on the job.

Let us know your experiences with lifelong learning. Have you tried an online course? Has your company considered partnering with one? Were you evaluated on soft skills like collaboration and ability to apply cross-functional learning?

We always love to hear your ideas and experiences with “reskilling” and hope to hear your reactions!

Articles cited:

(2017, Jan 12) The Economist Special Report: Learning and earning: Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative

Also from this Special Report:

-Cognition switch: What employers can do to encourage their workers to retrain

-Old dogs, new tricks: How older employees perform in the workplace

-The return of the MOOC: Established education providers vs new contenders

-Pathway dependency: Turning qualifications into new jobs

-The elephant in the truck: Retraining low skilled workers

Want to Learn More? Try our recommended reading:

By today’s fast-paced publishing standards, it’s an ancient tome, but this foundational text kicked off the conversation about the connectedness of growth and learning in organizations - and it is still very relevant today.

The Fifth Discipline.  (2006 Revised and updated edition) By Peter Senge: Doubleday Press

College athletes have long been valued on the trading floor for skills they honed in sports - like quick thinking and discipline - but will computer algorithms take their place?

Wall Street’s Endangered Species: The College Jock. by Justin Baer, The Wall Street Journal.

The Economist mentioned coding as an important skill for high earners. It’s a big buzz- these publications  are talking about it too:

Why Coding is Still the Most Important Job Skill of the Future. By Lydia Dishman, Fast Company

The Rise of the Coding Bootcamp. By Robert Duffner, Wired Magazine

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