What Brings a Paradigm Shift in Hiring and Training Your Employees?

Have you ever heard of “21st century skills?” The Glossary of Education Reform defines this as a set of knowledge, skills, work habits and character traits that are crucial both in academic programs and the workplace. More specifically, these are skills that should be taught to students so they will be in-demand employees in the competitive, information-age, technology-driven world.

The problem with 21st century skills is that nobody gives a definite list of what skills a person should have in order to stay a desirable employee. Getting into and graduating from top universities takes a lot of work and effort, but does it really mean that elite graduates will be the top performers in your company? How much value do you put on a university or college name on a diploma? Do your recruiting managers look for skills and experience or for school names and degrees?

According to Glassdoor’s research, 72% of employees say that training in a specific skill set is more valued by their employers than their college degree. Moreover, Rusty Rueff, career and workplace expert at Glassdoor, states that about half of respondents say their education has nothing to do with the work they actually do.

CBI’s research shows that 55% of employers believe that young employees usually lack skills that the companies are looking for to ensure business results.

Prioritize skills over schools

With business becoming more volatile and wars for talent getting tougher, companies should change the way they hire talent. The evaluation of candidates should be focused on what the candidate can do, how fast they can adapt to changes, and the candidate’s potential. In fact, their ability to handle and process a wealth of information will be critical in the future. Kevin Delaney, VP of Learning and Development at LinkedIn, says that recruiters will mainly look for learning agility, passion, and fit while considering potential candidates rather than a static set of previously acquired skills.

Tony Wagner, a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, in his interview with Clay Parker, President of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards, talks about the skills he is looking for when hiring young employees:

First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions. We can teach them [new employees] the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions–how to think. I want people who can engage in good discussion, who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers, to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know.

Parker’s approach suggests that academic qualifications are no longer a priority. Candidates with a perfect theoretical basis may show poor results in applying it to the real-world situations.

Research shows that only 35% of managers believe that top performers come from top schools. Skills that are valued and sought are the ability to work well with other people (72%), apply strategic thinking (71%), and to be self-motivated (66%).

Judging from the figures above, we can say that the 21st century skill set should include the following:

1. Ability to cooperate. Nowadays it’s very common for large companies to have a distributed workforce. Working in a distributed team may be challenging, especially for those who manage the teams. Success in finding common ground, working on team projects, and meeting the deadlines depends on effective communication.

2. Ability to think critically. In order to stay competitive, businesses can’t afford to be stagnant. Services, products, and all the processes that define what the company does should constantly be reassessed and further developed. If employees ask the right questions they will know what problems need to be solved. The main thing to keep in mind is that in today’s world, the answers we have now won’t help us to solve future challenges.

3. Ability to be flexible and self-driven. The ever-evolving digital world lays down the law. It’s time to admit that the majority of companies won’t do exactly the same things in the future that they do now. Changes are happening everywhere, and it’s crucial for employees to adapt to them quickly. Tom Brown, VP and HR for the Americas and APAC at eBay, believes that employees’ responsibilities will be more fluid, and that some job positions will no longer exist or be merged. An employee’s motivation to keep up with changes will be a must if they are to stay employed.

How to adapt training to develop talent effectively

The two main aspects of training that you should be focused on are:

  1. Teaching employees to handle, process, and apply information to their jobs, and
  2. Personalizing learning experience for all and each employee.

“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps,” says Mike Summers, VP of Global Talent Management at Dell. New chunks of information appear every second, and what is true and relevant now can be obsolete tomorrow. A human mind can’t devour and store an astronomical amount of information. Moreover, it would be useless anyway, since information keeps changing at lightning speed. This means that refining and refreshing knowledge is more important than ever before. Today’s employees need to know how to select, process and apply knowledge to deal with their day-to-day challenges.

Adaptive learning that takes into account an employee’s performance and learning style can become a solution to business challenges. Using technology and people analytics helps to personalize training, giving employees only the information they need when they need it. Based on your employees’ performance, this system collects the necessary data, processes it, and then detects the knowledge and skills gaps that get in the way of completing the task successfully. Once a blind spot is detected, the system sends the relevant content to an employee. This just-in-time training allows employees to apply the theory they just learned to practice right away when they encounter a challenge in their work. This improves the employees’ overall performance in the long run.

When hiring talent, don’t place the emphasis on educational credentials. Focus on what skills your candidates have, their potential and their learning agility. Help your employees to grow professionally by using personalized training that takes into account their individual learning styles and needs. This, in turn, will improve your employees’ performance and enhance your business results.

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