The workplace is one of the areas in our lifes that has been transformed the most in the past two decades. Technology and social media have revolutionised the way we communicate, interact and work together. With the world surrounding us developing more and more quickly, there is an urgent need for companies to get the business and workforce ready for a future that might be here sooner than expected. The responsibility is not only with the company to provide its employees with an innovative, cutting-edge work environment to help them deal with changes. It also lies with each employee to be prepared and equipped with a skill-set fit for future challenges.
People and businesses that will succeed are not the ones that are hesitant to accept and embrace change but those who are proactive and reassess their strategies. This starts with changing the dialogue on how students need to be better prepared for the working life when they take up their first jobs. Skills in team work, cross cultural communication, creativity and accountability are now prerequisites to enter the workplace while the need for strong and distinctive technical and domain skills continues to become even more critical.
The responsibility for this does not lie with academia alone as only an interdependent collaboration between the government, industry and academia will ensure that our economy continues to build the talent needed. Progressive companies need to shape their people strategy towards creating an ecosystem that helps identify available talent, access tertiary education and advanced expertise relevant to industry and ensure there are attractive opportunities for employment of these individuals. More important is the need for young professionals to understand that the ultimate responsibility for preparing themselves lies in taking ownership of their personal development.
Here are a few strategies that have helped my colleagues to develop a broad and comprehensive skill-set and become part of a future-ready workforce:
1. Recognise the value of multi-disciplinary skills
One of the best ways to build multi-disciplinary skills is to proactively approach companies that are working on cutting-edge projects in white-spaces, who rotate roles within their projects or teams. This helps to gain a holistic view of the solution or service lifecycle, understand emerging technologies and how they apply to the industry they work in.
2. Grow professional networks
Professional associations give young professionals an opportunity to expand their network beyond the leaders and peer group they work with to a wider industry level. Having a meal or a coffee with a new person each week and talk about their work, their career and what they see the future to be. There will always be something to share and something to learn from each of these interactions. Volunteering to be part of projects and programs is another great way to build distinctive skills and grow the ability to predict the direction of change in the future.
3. Have a presence and share views on social media
Even though the Millennial Generation (people aged between 18 and 33) grew up with social media, they still need to ensure that beyond being active users of such platforms, they understand how these can be leveraged in their industry. Sharing an insightful point of view helps position them distinctively within their own and extended networks and can make the difference between a strong performer and a top performer.
Working together with others plays an important role in workplace learning. Employees may learn new skills while working in a team and at the same time, they are confronted with new perspectives. This encourages employees to challenge and reflect on their own routines and practices.
5. Say what will be done and do what you say!
The ability to teamwork is directly impacted by the authenticity demonstrated in communicating with our colleagues. Authenticity is a result of the alignment of one's beliefs, intentions, promises and actions. Employees need to embrace corporate beliefs and translate them into individual intentions. These intentions need to be communicated to the people we work with. The importance of clarity and consistency in such communication is imperative as they are heard as promises which we need to follow through on with actions.
Future ready organisations will grow if they find people who have the distinctive ability to drive change and innovation. Organisations need to create a culture architecture that enables, engages and empowers individuals to seed, nurture and harvest ideas.