Over the course of my career, I’ve spent countless hours talking to and hearing from leaders around the world. I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates for managerial roles and tracked the performance of those I successfully hired. I led the global management appraisal practice of our own executive search firm, Egon Zehnder. And I’ve spent years with colleagues at Harvard Business School and other academic institutions researching what makes people effective in their jobs.One key lesson I’ve drawn from all this experience? The most successful leaders are the ones who continue to learn and grow, and the best way to help yourself – or your team — do that is through assignments that involve increasing complexity.Several years ago, I worked with Ken Aramaki in Egon Zehnder’s Tokyo office to compare the potential of senior Japanese executives (that is, objective assessments from our consultants about their ability to take on bigger roles and responsibilities) and their competence (that is, objective assessments of their strategic orientation, market insight, customer impact, results orientation, leadership, ability to collaborate and influence, etc.) against the average scores for those metrics from all the executives in our worldwide database. What we found was an incredible paradox. Japanese professionals had higher potential than the global average but lower competence.
When Frederick Taylor published his pioneering principles of scientific management in 1912, the repetitive and mundane nature of most jobs required employees to think as little as possible. Breaking down each task into basic components and standardizing workers’ behaviors to eliminate choice and flexibility could help managers turn employees into productive machines, albeit with alienated spirits.Fast forward to the present and we see that most jobs today demand the exact opposite from employees: the capacity to keep learning and developing new skills and expertise, even if they are not obviously linked to one’s current job. As academic reviews have pointed out, people’s employability – their ability to gain and maintain a desired job – no longer depends on what they already know, but on what they are likely to learn.In other words, higher career security is a function of employability, and that in turn depends on learnability. Thus Eric Schmidt notes that a major pillar in Google’s recruitment strategy is to hire “learning animals,” while EY recruiters observe that “to be a standout, candidates need to demonstrate technical knowledge in their discipline, but also a passion for asking the kind of insightful questions that have the power to unlock deeper insights and innovation for our clients.”Sadly, most organizations have yet to wake up to this reality, so they continue to pay too much attention to academic qualifications and hard skills, as if what entry-level employees had learned during university actually equipped them for today’s job market. Although learnability does boost academic performance, just because someone is job-ready when they obtain their educational credentials does not mean that they are also learning-ready.
Tech breakthroughs are making our lives easier — both in and out of the office.Ever-improving Apple continues to launch new versions of the iPhone. Wearable tech now employs apps to tell us what stresses us out and what makes us happy. And thanks to technology, more companies are offering telecommuting options to employees, according to a recent
SHRM study.Yet, amid all these improvements, only a meager 27% of American employees have access to the latest technology in the workplace, according to Oxford Economics’ Workforce 2020 report. Now that millennials, who grew up using new technology, are becoming decision-makers and stepping into middle management, it seems more of the workforce should have already adopted new technology.The problem might be due to difficulties convincing seasoned executives to rethink their current tools. “Our company has been doing things this way for 50 years,” millennials may hear from higher-ups.The challenge is to convince executives from different walks of life to see the value in these newfangled technologies. Ultimately, the next generation of leaders taking over the world’s top organizations need to lead the charge in adopting new technology so the workforce can benefit from innovation to the fullest extent.Here are a few approaches employees can take to lead a team of early tech adopters.
Mashable’s latest #BizChats Twitter chat, sponsored by Staples, discussed how small businesses can be more productive during the busiest time of the year.SEE ALSO: Learn how small businesses can ‘sleigh’ the holiday season in our next #BizChatsOver the course of an hour, @MashBusiness covered an array of topics, ranging from the major holiday marketing trends every small business should pay attention to, to unique ways businesses can show customer appreciation to drive loyalty during the holiday season.Several small business experts joined the conversation including: Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of Digital Royalty; Doug and Polly White, writers for Entrepreneur Magazine, small business experts and serial entrepreneurs; Mari Smith, Facebook marketing expert, social media influencer and speaker; Marley Majcher, CEO of The Party Goddess and small business expert; Martin Jones, sr. social media and content marketing manager; and Matthew Toren, owner of iSmallBusiness.com, Kidpreneurs.org, writer at Entrepreneur and serial entrepreneur.