This year The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published it’s the first “OECD Skills Outlook” and there are several themes that should get us all thinking as leaders about the types of skills our people need to be successful. The report starts by talking about how technological innovations over the last half-century have affected almost every aspect of life. These changes have increased the demand for some skills in the workplace and reduced the demand for others. One of the many graphs presented shows that between 1960 and 2009 demand for routine manual, non-routine manual and routine cognitive skills in the workplace has dropped 5%, 7% and 10% respectively while the demand for non-routine interpersonal and non-routine analytic skills has grown by approximately 15% each.
The report states “In addition to mastering occupation-specific skills, workers in the 21st century must also have a stock of information-processing skills, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving, and “generic” skills, such as interpersonal communication, self-management, and the ability to learn, to help them weather the uncertainties of a rapidly changing labour market.”
What this tells me is that the rapidly changing technical environment impacts us as leaders to ensure that our team members are well-equipped with these skills to operate effectively, autonomously and in a timely manner as the environment changes around them.
While I believe the “generic” skills mentioned above are important, I think the Big Three of Literacy, Numeracy and Problem Solving and the ones most critical to initially evaluate your team on. I’ll provide the definitions from the report to give you a starting point:
- “Literacy is defined as the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”
- “Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life.”
- “Problem solving in technology rich environments is defined as the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.”
The report (all 466 pages of it) goes into great detail on how individual nations fare in each of these areas, the gaps between the skills required and the skills possessed and the challenges in filling these gaps. My goal today here is not to delve into those kinds of details, but just to think about if your team has the levels of these skills you believe they should have and if not, how will you as a leader find a way to grow those skills in each of your team members?
Final Thought: If your team is fully equipped with these skills, have you prepared yourself as a leader to evaluate the products and ideas they come up with?
Reference: OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing.