26 May 2020

#socialskills, #softskills, #interpersonalskills

Majority of the articles nowadays on LinkedIn or other forums inadvertently pop up on medical science and the changes we have to bring about in our lives – professional or personal, owing to Covid.

While few of the medical articles revolve around how life expectancy has increased over the last few decades attributing it to medical advancement, what does it mean for you and me as a working professional? The average lifespan of our generation is projected to be ~80-90 years, and majority will have to work past the retirement age to have enough savings. Gone are the days where one would start a career with any firm/government establishment and retire at the same place – this is unheard of now! While changing organizations is almost a norm, so has experimenting with different careers no longer raising eyebrows in an interview. For some this might be out of compulsion, and others – well, when there is such a wide variety of offerings, why stick to one career!

This is what brought me to read up on the 60-Year Curriculum – an initiative by Harvard University, whose key person in the project is Chris Dede, who talks about a new way of thinking about higher education that accounts for the roughly six decades that today’s students will be expected to work during their lifetimes. The research mainly delves around the education system and how educators have to revamp their strategies to adopt to the new generation.

If we were to draw a parallel to our professional and organizational context, it translates to lifelong learning and how do we keep reinventing ourselves. Be it towards the new job we might take up or a new role within the same organization. How do we even prepare ourselves for a career or role that does not even exist? Did a Data Science or Computer Vision Engineer exist say~15 years back? Probably not; and yet these are the roles that are in high demand now. And as an HR Professional, I have interviewed candidates who have consciously taken a de tour in their career to stay relevant and up dated in this technological space – they are the ones who have really stood the test of time, career wise.

Putting things into perspective, the National Research Council’s Education for Life and Work in the 21st century report highlights the importance of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal skills, along with Cognitive skills.

Interpersonal and Intrapersonal is more important than Cognitive skills, it has more to do with one’s success. What we know matters, but how well we can act on that both individually and with other people defines our success. Instead of preparing ourselves for careers, we should focus on inculcating skills that are transferable across many roles.

 “The Cognitive Domain includes three clusters of competencies: cognitive processes and strategies, knowledge, and creativity. These clusters include competencies, such as critical thinking, information literacy, reasoning and argumentation, and innovation. 

The Intrapersonal Domain includes three clusters of competencies: intellectual openness, work ethic and conscientiousness, and positive core self-evaluation. These clusters include competencies, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciation for diversity, and metacognition (the ability to reflect on one’s own learning and make adjustments accordingly). 

The Interpersonal Domain includes two clusters of competencies: teamwork and collaboration and leadership. These clusters include competencies, such as communication, collaboration, responsibility, and conflict resolution.”

Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century

Courses and webinars majorly focus on Cognitive skills; one needs to meander around Mentoring, Entrepreneurship and professional relations that pique the brain and keep it going.

Let’s go back to the 60-Year Curriculum; a fallacy in the education system has been the over emphasis of students’ Cognitive skills and probably undermining the importance of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal skills. Is it not so in our corporate environment too? While there is definitely an understanding of the importance of Intra and Interpersonal skills, do we give it the same weightage as Cognitive skills, if not more? Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the likes of it have started to take center stage in employee development of late and the prominence of EI is almost palpable now.

Research has also predicted that with the advent of digitization and automation, it is all the more imperative that the focus will shift towards ‘Human Skills’. Another view is that the phrase ‘Soft Skills’ is misleading, given that there is nothing ‘soft’ about ‘Soft Skills’, it is as important and relevant as technical competencies and cognitive skills. While there are varied findings on the top 3 ‘Soft Skills’ for the Future of Work, here are some of them – Creativity, Persuasion, Adaptability and Communication.

How can the article end without a correlation to the new times we are in now! There has never been a better time to embrace uncertainty, yet look at it positively through a panorama of opportunities. Pick up a new skill, develop a new habit and stop making excuses! Being flexible, motivated and tenacious is the need of the hour.

As Bob Dylan’s song goes…

  The times they are a changin’ –

‘The line it is drawn

     The curse it is cast

          The slow one now will later be fast

                As the present now will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

References:

  1. Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century.
  2. 60 Year Curriculum – Dr. Chris Dede, Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

 

-By Sushree Patnaik [Human Resources, Bosch]

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