The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

19 10 2006

Will our future entry level workforce be competitive and competent?

Are we ready to build a nation full of entrepreneurs and world class workers?

I highly recommend you read the study published by the The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, entitled:

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce”

According to this study of 431 companies in the US, representing over 2 million employees in a variety of industries and geographic areas, the future is bleak.

“The future U.S. workforce is here—and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.”

The basic skills and knowledge identified and considered to be very important elements for future employees include:

  • English Language (spoken)
  • Government/Economics
  • Reading Comprehension (in English)
  • Humanities/Arts
  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics History/Geography
  • Science

The applied skills, which are increasing in importance as criteria for success in the future:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
  • Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
  • Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
  • Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  • Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
  • Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
  • Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
  • Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

Excepts from the study:”Business leaders must take an active role in outlining the kinds of skills we need from our employees for our companies and economy to thrive.”

“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people.
Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify
new and creative solutions.”

We assume that our schools are producing graduates with fundamental business abilities, why isn’t it happening?

Are we going to accept that the training of the future workforce is in the hands of private business, and not the educational system?

What is the cost to business when new employees must be given remedial training, just to get them up to entry level?

What is your organization doing right now to ensure, or create talent for the future?

Read the study, pass it around the office and makes sure the boss and human resource people get copies.

This is no longer someone elses’s problem.

“ The numbers don’t bode well for the future—the future of our workforce. It is in our interest to help solve the problem. And business has the capacity to help solve the problem by partnering with education and community leaders to create opportunities for young people to practice the skills they need to be successful.” – Bill Shore, Director, U.S. Community Partners, GlaxoSmithKline

Related Links

The Conference Board: Are they really ready for work?

Are they really ready to work (PDF)

Most young people entering the US workforce lack critical skills essential for success

Young Workforce is “Ill-Prepared”

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Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits?

2 10 2006

Everyone wants to be in charge. Being the leader seems to be a universal goal of most people working today.

Do you really want the job, or just the title and benefits?

A leadership position requires the use of many abilities and skills which most of us do not have, or do not have fully developed. It requires sacrifice and discipline. A leaders life is filled with decisions that are not black and white.

It’s all about people, motivating, directing, and evaluating, listening and learning with them.

A leader is often lonely, but never alone. Highly criticized and analyzed by their own team and by outsiders. Must be flexible and adaptable, and at the same time firm and unwilling to compromise.

Are you ready for the job?

Guide vs. Signpost. Do you enjoying pointing people in the right direction, telling them where to go? This is not leadership. A signpost points the way, offers no resources or plan and no strategies on how to get there.

Leading others is far different from pointing the way. Leaders take responsibility for everything that happens during the journey, they prepare strategic and contingency plans, provide resources, and keep their people motivated and on the right road.

Teaching vs. Criticism. Able to see the flaws in others, their work and their results? The ability to find flaws is important only if you use these opportunities to teach others how to prevent or improve their performance or results. Pointing out flaws and errors for any other reason is not part of the leadership function.

Coaching vs. supervision. Telling others exactly what to do, and how to do it, is part of a supervisory role, not a leadership position. Leaders are coaches, they convince others to create and embrace goals and objectives, and to use approved systems and methods in order to achieve them.

Fair compensation vs. jackpot rewards. Do you think leaders and managers make a lot of money for doing nothing? Leadership demands personal responsibility and acceptance of risk. No one gets into a leadership position without sacrifice of some sort. These qualities are paid for and compensated with higher salaries and often perks and privileges different from the other members of the organization. It is compensation well earned, and the entire organization should understand this. It should never be looked upon as a jackpot, or undeserved compensation. If the organization does not view it this way, it’s time to modify the compensation packages or get a leader in place that leads and earns the respect and support of the others organization members.

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

What defines an exceptional leader

Leadership by default





Re-inventing the job interview

6 09 2006

I’ve been monitoring with great interest the idea and reactions to Seth Godin’s post The end of the job interview. He questions our current job interview process and proposes an interesting alternative.

Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at our hiring and interview processes. Are they serving our needs and requirements or creating future problems?

Reinventing the job interview and hiring process makes perfect sense when we reflect that it was developed for a 20th century workforce that consisted primarily of manufacturing laborers.

The 21st century, brings an abundance of knowledge workers and forces us to ask what is the best method to determine if they are right for our organization. The interview and process required in order to understand the potential employees abilities are very different for knowledge workers.

The top leadership and management jobs in our companies have always been filled by candidates that have come with recommendations from other companies or executive networks. This provides a certain level of security that they had the skills in the old job, but no guarantee they will succeed in your organization and corporate culture in the future.

We are already seeing a shift in how we hire and select candidates. The use of networking and on-line social networks are allowing job seekers and employers access to individuals (at all levels of the company) who come with a certain degree of “recommendation”.

Dr. Ellen Weber has added her opinion to Seth’s ideas at Brain Based Business. Her piece Seth wants to bury job interviews for his own alternatives adds scientific and psychological perspectives as to why or why the concepts might just work.

David Maister lends his voice to the discussion with a resounding “I’m of the belief that the overwhelming majority of recruiting interviewing is a complete waste of time. In Screening for Character he argues that we should be hiring attitude and character, and our goal in the hiring process is to identify these traits. But there is a catch. We are not trained to do this. He suggests that candidate recommendations from others that we respect and trust are our current best method to assure “success” in the hiring process.

It’s a profound, extensive and obviously well known dilemma in our society and organizations. We know exactly what’s broke and not working well.

Now, who knows how to fix it?





How impersonal is your life and your world?

15 08 2006

We live in an impersonal world. I hear this constantly and wonder exactly what people mean when they say it. Is this a warning, an observation, a criticism, a declaration of failure in their ability to create and maintain relationships?

The world has always been impersonal, it’s just not possible that millions of human beings will relate to one another with familiarity. It’s an impossible scenario.

So why all the focus on how impersonal our lives are lately?

Is it a cry for help, a diagnosis and awareness that something is wrong or could be better?
It’s because we have isolated ourselves, by ourselves.

Impersonal is what YOU make it, it has to do with your interaction and participation with others. You are in control, you are not a victim.

Our access to wealth, communications and easy travel have allowed us to travel and move our residence often and meet thousands of people throughout the world during our lifetime. This was not possible 100 years ago.

We no longer live in Norman Rockwell’s Main street America, in a small town, where we know the neighbors, the teachers, the firemen, clerks and shop owners. We didn’t invest enough time in a safe stable environment in order to learn about others and become secure with ourselves and diversity.

In today’s world it’s so easy to walk away from ideas, behaviours and people who are not like us. We can now live by ourselves, in our own little world, designed by us and just for us. The only problem is, we are social creatures and we do want others in our lives. We have created a dilemma by isolating ourselves.

It’s just common sense that this exposure to so many people we don’t know, and who don’t know us, is bound to create a bit of tension or coldness in our initial contacts. Depending on how you respond and interact with others, these interactions can remain cold and impersonal, or might warm up and become pleasant and more personalized.

Simple acts that allow others to let their guard down are all that’s necessary. A smile, a hello or thank-you, a question or comment that initiates a conversation is sometimes all it takes to break the ice.

Relationships are made and created through trust and time. It’s about giving your time, showing interest, and learning. You cannot expect to become best friends with anyone in a week or month, be realistic. You cannot create a meaningful relationship by watching co-workers or neighbors through your window.

Proof of how easy it is to begin a relationship can be found with the Internet, social networks, chat-rooms, etc. All you have to do is throw out a comment or question and in a matter of minutes be involved in communication with a perfect stranger. Why then the complaints about an impersonal world? What’s different when you are not on-line, and are face to face with another human being?

If you think the world is cold and impersonal, take a look at your actions and behavior and determine if you are actively participating to open the door in your communications and relationships. Does your world revolve around you, your problems and your little internal universe? I’ll bet you think the world is impersonal.

Are you interested in giving, sharing, listening, learning and accepting others and their diversity? I’ll bet you think the world is a pretty fine place to be.

Related Links

Lonely and have no friends

What happens when we have no friends

Social networks, are they a part of your life?





Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.





What does it mean when you don’t like the boss

8 08 2006

One of the major reasons given by people who desire to open their own businesses is that they want to be free of working for a boss.  It’s a bit naive to think that by trading corporate life for entrepreneurship you will avoid working for a boss.  There is always someone monitoring your performance and work.

In the corporate world a boss is there to monitor your performance, organize and criticize your work, support and provide resources or strategy, and maintain work harmony between team members.  Conflicts with the boss can be broadly divided into two major groups; personal conflicts and professional conflicts.

Personal conflicts are those related to situations driven by differences in personality, jealousies, sexual harassment, race or religious differences, and insecurities of the participants.

Professional conflicts are those directly related to the work and final work output; lack of skills or ability, ethical issues, theft, absenteeism, addictions, failure to do quality work, failure to do the work on time.

If your reasons for leaving the corporate world are heavily weighted toward a history of personal conflicts with the boss, what does that mean?  Are you a problem?  Is your personality one that provokes or seeks conflicts?  If there is a pattern here?  Some strong introspection is required before you break out and open your own business.

If professional conflicts are foremost on your list, be careful.  These are signs that you and your work abilities may be at fault and not the boss.

If the history of problems with the boss can be summarized as strategic, control, or decision-making conflicts, then I think you may be correct in seeking to run your own show.

Entrepreneurs love to say they are free and work for themselves.  In a sense they are correct, they are 100% responsible for their success or failure, and this is exhilarating and does make one feel free.  But they are now “working” for the customer, the bank or lender, the employees, and their suppliers.

Sure these are different relationships from the traditional boss-employee structure we are familiar with, but still difficult to develop and maintain, as are all human and commerical relationships.  Failure to maintain them will result in a loss of income or increased costs, and ultimately business collapse.

It’s not easy to work without a “structure” and a boss for the new entrepreneur.  It’s not impossible, but does require a set of different individual skills, great motivation and organizational abilities.  If you are invigorated by strategy, decision-making, and taking responsibility, entrepreneurship may be a good decision.





The “entrepreneur vs. corporate world” debate continues

31 07 2006

The debate regarding working in a corporate environment versus becoming an entrepreneur is sure to get a large readership response these days.  Everyone wants to know “what’s better?” and why, and everyone has an opinion. 

The philosophical arguments are fun to listen to and evaluate, but at the end of the day, we all make choices about where and how we work, based on our individual circumstances, talents, skills, abilities, desires and fears.

Much of the pro-entrepreneur supporters promote the glory of doing what you like, when you like, and the freedom to make your own schedule.  Perfectly valid arguments.

The pro-corporate supporters point out that access to important resources, education, and information is hugely facilitated by corporate environments.  Again, perfectly valid arguments.

I’m a firm believer that each person decides upon a lifestyle, and makes all subsequent decisions in order to support their preferences.  Even the failure to choose a career and lifestyle is a decision and model now trumpeted as “Slacker”.  True happiness does not exist just because you are an entrepreneur or a corporate employee.  There are always tradeoffs in any situation and environment.

I moved from being an entrepreneur to a corporate environment and back several times in the course of my career.  During this time I also changed my country of residence from the USA to Mexico.  Every change was “better”, and more importantly allowed me to move closer to my lifestyle goal.   But none of changes gave me more time, or more money, or more stability.  Each change provide me with more of what I required at that time, but each had a price.

People don’t make changes unless they are unsatisfied with the current situation.  To make job and career changes in your life requires an adjustment and modification of many other actions.   It’s never all good, and it’s never all bad.

Next time you ponder leaving the corporate world to fly as an entrepreneur, give some serious thought to what you will be giving up as you reach for the new opportunity to change.  Determine what exactly is so attractive about changing jobs and job titles.

Are you just day dreaming and caught in a “grass is always greener” scenario?

Is the new lifestyle you wish create worth the sacrifice and risk?

Everyone is able to accept success, but are you willing to accept failure?

Could you achieve or move closer to your goals in your present situation?

Related Rants:

Ten Misconceptions About Having a Job (Why Entrepreneurship Isn’t All It is Cracked Up To Be)

Ten Reasons You Should Never Get a Job