Training for the Next Generation Workforce

Last post we looked at the skills projected to be paramount for success in the workplace moving into 2020.  These included social intelligence, adaptive thinking, media literacy, and being trans-disciplinary.  And the need for these skills is precipitated by the the changes we are seeing in the workforce; technology, global collaboration and the ‘flattening’ of organizations.  Couple these with the trend towards individuals having multiple careers with multiple organizations and what are you left with?  A corporate training model conundrum!

So, with each job requiring such diverse skill sets to be successful and the condensed time frame you are likely to have one individual hold any position……how do you responsibly invest your training dollars?  The answer is neither clear nor simple however, the Kingbridge Insight for this week is to offer something to think about.

What if the bulk of employee training was no longer group based or even standardized?  If these projections for the future are correct and individuals are going to need a multitude of trans-disciplinary skills to be successful in any position, perhaps the best use of organizational training efforts is not in large class based or standardized online (MOOC’s) training where any number of individuals attending may have greater needs in other areas. Training in the future is no longer going to be a one size fits all solution but rather will need to cater to immediate individual need.

Daunting thought, but one that needs to be addressed in order for your organization to evolve and remain competitive in the not so distant future.

If you have any thoughts about how to tackle the future of corporate training problem please share your insights with us!

The Near Future of Work

As the baby boomers retire and organizational leadership begins to make the shift into the next generation, a functional work environment will come with a significantly different set of required skills for success. Skills such as being trans-disciplinary rather than specialized and adaptive rather than rule driven will determine success. The workforce is already displaying the need for emphasis on such skill sets but finds itself in a state of limbo until the last vestiges of traditional leadership depart.

The infographic below distributed by outlines not only the skills that are projected to be the most important to possess to be successful in the near future (2020) but also identifies the drivers of change responsible for the shift in workforce need such as technology and shifts in organizational structure.

Important Work Skills for 2020

This week Kingbridge would like you to ask yourself: Am I ready for the near ‘future of work’?

Get off the Digital Soapbox

With the internet came the promise of global networks, information sharing and mass collaboration.  There has certainly been some of that but many have taken the reach the internet provides as an invitation to hop on their digital soapbox and bombard users with an excess of ‘push’ messaging.

Jeff Pundyk, vice president, content marketing and strategy, at The Economist Group recently wrote an impressively succinct post on this subject and since I couldn’t possibly say it any better than he I have re – posted below:

Source: Social Media Today

To Be Heard, Turn Down the Volume

What is it about the Internet that has made everybody so sure of themselves?

You’d think the level of disruption during the past 20 years would have had the opposite effect. Instead, the number of people stepping onto their virtual soapboxes and telling the rest of us what to do and think has exploded. They opine with such surety, such clarity, such force.

I love that everybody has access to the tools of publishing and can act like a media company. I’ve spent years encouraging it. But where does all of this certainty come from? How do all of these people have all the answers? Today I come in praise of a little less conviction and a little more listening. The promise of digital is not the soapbox–that’s the very reason old-school media has been so ripe for disruption. It’s the community. It’s the marketplace of ideas. Without more listening, there’s little learning; without meaningful participation, there’s little chance for engagement. Instead, we have self-proclaimed experts self-promoting. We have commenters turning up the volume.

We have noise.

At the risk of sounding somewhat sure of myself, let me softly suggest that for brands, there is a real opportunity to be heard despite the rising noise. Try thinking about digital as a niche medium. Try creating a specialized community where employees, experts, advocates, and those with a shared affinity can mix. Try seeding the community with content, both your own and content from outside sources, to help organize the community into even smaller groups. Try turning down the volume, saying less and listening more.

Ironically, as more so-called experts raise their voices, the value of sharing real expertise has only grown–but now the challenge becomes creating the right context for that sharing. To be a credible thought partner, brands need to know who their real tribes are and learn what they care about. Create a clean, well-lighted place–or, better yet, join one that already exists. Give up a little control. Worry a little less about yourself. Stop being so damn smart and start being a little more human. In an era when everybody seems to be yelling, a little quiet confidence can go a long way.

And with that, I’ll take my own advice and shut up.

On that note, the Kingbridge Insight for this week is to ask you to consider how you/your organization are engaging online.  Are you part of the conversation or part of the noise?

Big Data, Social Physics and the Value of Face to Face Interactions

What has always been the challenge of social scientists?  The limited, unreliable and more often than not subjective data with which the must work.

Well, according to Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and author of Social Physics, computer networks will remedy these shortcomings. Tapping into the data that flows through mobile devices, search engines, social media, and credit card payment systems, scientists will be able to collect precise, real-time and reliable information on the behavior of millions.

Once we have this data Pentland asserts that science will be able to accurately predict how people will behave in a given situation and accurately assess how information flows through a network of individuals.  And once we know how information flows it can be optimized.

In a recent TedX Talk Pentland gives us the mathematical run down on whether social networks and their ability to spread awareness really contribute as much as they say to improving peoples knowledge and decision making.  The assessment is perhaps predictably both yes and no.

There is no doubt that social networks have contributed greatly to global awareness of a great many issues.  However, as Pentland explains his talk social networks tend to create what are referred to as “echos” where the same information is presented over and over again leading to narrowly informed opinions and ultimately decisions.

In addition, a study performed by Pentland and his team within a local organization uncovered that ultimately virtual interactions contributed very little to the ideas generated and used during group decision making and problem solving when compared to the face to face networking within the organization.

The take home message and Kingbridge insight this week; until social scientists can tap that well of raw data waiting for us in server farms around the world, the most effective and productive interactions- particularly within organizations- still occur face to face.  When we are face to face we can read reactions, question and challenge far more effectively than via social platforms.  In person interactions still come out on top when looking for quality group decisions.

Measuring Collaboration ROI

In most cases an overall objection to collaboration within organizations is not an issue, however, the where, when and how of implementing collaborative systems is.

Collaboration is an increasingly vital capability for organizations. But when companies just promote collaboration indiscriminately, without the proper culture and resources to support it they create information bottlenecks and actually diminish their organizational effectiveness.

In a 2006 edition of McKinsey Quarterly the article “Mapping the Value of Employee Collaboration” presented an in depth network analysis approach to determining where and how to introduce collaboration initiatives within an organization in a way that is not only effective but measurable against the bottom line.  Despite the article being nearly 8 years old, the issue of how to appropriately leverage collaboration mechanisms is as much a problem today – if not more.

The network approach presented in the article gives executives the information they need to foster collaboration at the points where it delivers an economic return – a key indicator required to allocate resources to collaborative efforts.

It would not do this article justice to attempt to summarize nor would it help you apply any of the methods within (for which you may want to hire a professional!). However, if as a leader you have been searching for a way to both justify and accurately allocate resources to collaboration systems in your organization it is highly recommended to read this article.

The Dominance Problem

Another classic problem of most meetings is the dominance problem.  A few people intimidate others.  As a meeting organizer or leader how can you mitigate the negative effects these people can have on potential collaborations?

Sometimes a few loud individuals can dominate your meetings.  And that can lead to quiet people (e.g. introverts) not sharing their best ideas.  There are lots of ways to manage this psychological dynamic between the louder and quieter people in your meetings.  But one such technique is called the Nominal Group Technique (NGT), an alternative to traditional brainstorming.  NGT prevents the domination of discussion by a single person, encourages the more passive group members to participate, and results in a set of prioritized solutions or recommendations.

Let’s say your team is trying to make a decision, for example; imagine you’re trying to decide whether to bring your proposal to the CEO now or wait until after the Board meeting.  Now, this is a classic situation where a few louder voices could steamroll the rest of the group.

So, as the team leader, what you do is ask everyone to write down their opinion on a sheet of paper. Then you collect those papers and record the opinions on a white board or flip chart and vote. This forces team members who wouldn’t have otherwise spoken up to voice their opinions.  It also minimizes the effect of group members who would otherwise dominate the conversation.  And yet, everyone still has input, and you get all of the best possible ideas.

You, as team leader, can control each of the member’s voices.  You can control their input, the flow, and the tone of it.
Another benefit of the nominal group technique is that it reduces Groupthink because it encourages independent thinking – people don’t get swayed by listening to everyone else’s arguments.

An alternative to the manual recording method for Nominal Group Technique is to utilize a collaborative technology tool such as an audience response application like Turning Point or one of the many smartphone applications or a decision support application like Think Tank.

The Kingbridge Insight this week is to encourage you as a leader, whether of a group or an entire organization to continuously try new techniques for group engagement  – the results will speak for themselves.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, ask for help if you need it! Consult a professional management consultant or if you are in the Greater Toronto Area give us a call and we can connect you with one of our trusted advisers.  There are resources out there to help you reach your goals – tap into them!

TED@Your Company

Imagine giving your own TED talk – what ‘’idea worth spreading’’ would you share in 18 minutes or less?

Recently, this question has been promoted from day dream to reality for some with the advent of TED’s professional development arm, the TED Institute which recently launched a corporate events program.  In this program companies can work with TED experts to put on their own authentic TED talk!


One of the first to engage in this program was the financial services company State Street.  The organization put out an open call to all employees for TED talk proposals, from which TED experts worked with company organizers to select those chosen to participate.  Those selected were then paired with TED coaches and led through an intense 6 week training program culminating in the creation of a presentation quality TED talk.

Aside from the obvious ‘cool’ factor of presenting your own TED talk for your colleagues, the real impact from these events comes from the creation of a ‘level’ playing field where position is secondary to content – a front line staff member’s talk on professional development may be followed by a personal experience talk by the CEO (if he made the cut!) and be equally as brilliant.

In the current fast paced environment it is increasingly important to inspire passion in employees (those who view new challenges as opportunities to learn additional skills) in order to maintain a competitive edge and foster innovation in a marketplace where many skill sets become obsolete within a few years.  These TED inspired events take great strides towards empowering such a culture.

This weeks Kingbridge Insight is a challenge: How can you as a leader in your organization empower a culture of continuous learning and professional development to inspire passion in your workforce?

Go Green and Beat Brain Fatigue

Every Friday night in summer the mass exodus from the city begins as urbanites head north for some time in nature to relax and ‘recharge’.  It seems instinctual that rejuvenation both physical and mental is best achieved surrounded by green space and now thanks to researchers at Heriot-Watt University and The University of Edinburgh our instincts have been confirmed.

Our “Kingbridge Knowledge Gift” for this week comes from owner, John Abele.

Scientists have known for some time that the brains ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed when inundated with the noise and chaos of city living.  This inability to focus and forgetfulness that comes from the brain being overwhelmed is known as brain fatigue.  Although the cause of brain fatigue has become common knowledge there hasn’t, until recently, been any credible method to confirm the theory that time spent in green space not only does not induce brain fatigue but can in fact relieve it.

In The New York Times article “Easing Brain Fatigue with a Walk in the Woods” author Gretchen Reynolds summarizes the study originally published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine where researchers attached cutting edge portable Electroencephalograms to 12 healthy adults in order to measure brain wave activity in different environments.

Once outfitted with their portable equipment each subject was sent out for a short walk that would take them through 3 different sections of Edinburgh.  The first half mile took the walkers through a historic shopping district with attractive old buildings and minimal traffic.  The next half mile led through a park like setting with plenty of green space.  Finally, the last leg of the walk took them through a busy industrial area with concrete buildings and heavy vehicle traffic.

The researchers compared the EEG readings for wave patterns related to frustration, mental alertness and calm or meditative.  The results finally confirmed the long standing theory that time spent in green space relieves brain fatigue.

The results consistently demonstrated that when the walkers were in the urbanized areas, particularly the industrial area at the end of the walk, that their brain showed frustration and distraction.  However, while in the park setting brain waves were more meditative and mentally quieter.

Now, mentally quiet does not mean the brain is not engaged, it simply means that the engagement is effortless.  Thus, the brain is not taxed and is able to contemplate and reflect clearly at the same time as opposed to urban environments that consume our brain function preventing us from focusing our attentions effectively elsewhere.

This study suggests that taking a break from work for a walk in the park or even pausing to spend some time looking out the office window at green space is not at all unproductive, in fact quite the opposite.  Taking some time during the day to quiet our brain can serve to prevent brain fatigue and therefore increase our ability to focus and work productively.

Experiential Learning – Simulated!

We all know that the best way to learn something is to do it.  That’s why doctors have 5 year residencies and mechanics and plumbers have appreticeships – you need practical experience to recognize symptoms, identify the problem and act accordingly.  The same is true for learning to manage group dynamics, promote innovation and practice culturally preffered leadership skills.  You need to experience the situations and practice your response to get it right.

Simulated experiential learning has long been in practice for medical, military and business training but is a relatively new initiative in organizational development training.  However, group simulation activities can lead to efficiency, effectiveness, and risk reduction in the workplace let alone the potential to garner new skill sets.

We have all sat through the endless slide shows and overly simplified dramatizations commonly used in ‘culture change’, ‘leadership’ and ‘how to be innovative’ workshops – none of which allow learners the opportunity to practice the principles and skills in real life situations. Simulations use real life parameters but often with an element of competition to keep groups engaged and ensure optimal performance.  Rather than heading back to the office with a set of principles, the participants leave having experienced implementation of the principles with opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a risk-free virtual environment.

If you want to check out one of the leading organizations in the production of workplace simulations ExperiencePoint covers topics ranging from practicing social resposibility, customer service practices to leading innovation.

simulation pic (2)

Are you using QR Codes?

If you’re not familiar with QR (Quick Response) codes, they’re similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference between the two is the amount of data they can hold or share. QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information.

qr code iphone googleWhen you scan or read a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile device to a web browser.

There’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes.  While a video or landing page is easily shared, you could go further and share an entire eBook and even multiple pieces of content that share a common link.  QR codes enhance both your search engine and social media optimization so you can increase traffic to those searchable objects to further optimize them by encouraging more sharing.

QR Codes can be placed almost anywhere including business cards, brochures, packaging menus etc. and can link to:RebuildCentralPark_QRCode_ad3Love

  • Installation instructions
  • Sources for replacement parts and service
  • Directions to your business
  • The process for hiring your professional services
  • Valuable coupons and special offers
  • Recommendations for complementary products and services
  • Free mp3 downloads
  • Customer feedback forms

Example United Airlines – Many of the major airlines are now using 2D codes as digital boarding passes.  I recently learned that by the end of 2011 all carriers will be required to provide this service for international flights.