Talent Management

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The Challenge of Scaling Soft Skills

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We understand a lot about how to develop the “hard skills” of analysis, decision-making, and analytical judgment, but we know a great deal less about the genesis of “soft skills” like empathy, context sensing, collaboration, and creative thinking, which are becoming increasingly valuable in the workplace. Understanding the obstacles to developing these soft skills and then addressing those barriers is crucial for our schools, homes, and workplaces.

Gender Discrimination Still Exists — Now What?

In both practice and research, we are doing a better job at bringing attention to the problem of gender bias. But we haven’t established enough tangible suggestions for how to challenge it. New research has begun to investigate the efficacy of ‘scripts’ — a set of words or phrases, such as, “Can you repeat what you just said?” that would signal to a peer that he has crossed a line, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

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If You Cut Employees Some Slack, Will They Innovate?

Giving people time and resources to pursue innovation projects can produce extraordinary outcomes — but only if you match your “slack strategy” to employee type. The authors found that different types of employees respond in different ways to slack innovation programs; that different kinds of slack resources are better suited to certain types of employees than others; and that different kinds of slack innovation programs produce different kinds of innovation.

The Quest to Create Utterly Normal Virtual Reality Experiences

Virtual reality is used today for job training, but that’s just the beginning. In a Q&A, Jeremy Bailenson, a leading expert in virtual reality, says that VR has the potential to be a much-improved video conference tool — one that’s good enough to reduce our need to commute. What Bailenson calls “avatar-based communication,” with eye contact and facial expressions, has the potential “to create the intimacy and non-verbal behavior that you get face to face.”

The Impossibility of Focusing on Two Things at Once

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Neurological science has demonstrated that brains are not hardwired to focus simultaneously on day-to-day activities and long-term objectives. In the workplace, that presents a challenge: How can employees maximize individual performance while enhancing organizational success? Research into employee behavior underscores the need for organizations to help employees familiarize themselves with perspectives not readily available in their current roles.

The Time for Retraining Is Now

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None of us know how our technological future will unfold. But whether there will be a net increase or decrease in jobs overall, it’s clear that these will be different jobs, requiring different skill sets. We need to act now to enable current employers and employees to gain the skills they are going to need in the brave world of AI technology.

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How Leaders Face the Future of Work

Some leaders have failed to realize that the daily lives of those who work in their organizations will inevitably be transformed over the coming decades. But it’s the responsibility of leaders to create clarity about the future of work. That means being engaged with creating a narrative about the future of jobs, actively championing the learning agenda, and role modeling work flexibility — for instance, by taking paternity leave or working from home.

What Sets ‘Superbosses’ Apart From Other Leaders?

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In a Q&A, Sydney Finkelstein, the author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, notes that employees entering the workforce today have technological capabilities unmatched by any workforce before them. That’s changing the way leaders must operate. Today’s best leaders embrace technology as a management tool but retain a human touch, creating opportunities for the employees they manage and enabling flexible work practices.

The New Digital Mandate: Cultivate Dissatisfaction

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Employee satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. Satisfied employees produce higher quality-outputs and have less turnover. But satisfaction can inhibit innovation: People who are OK with the current way of doing business are not likely to transform it. They need to be aggravated enough with their current situation that they are willing to take the risks to change it. By sowing the right kinds of dissatisfaction, leaders can drive their organizations to higher levels of innovation and value.

Building a Robotic Colleague With Personality

Researchers are exploring how to create intelligent machines that work with us better as opposed to taking our place. Robots that can express human body language can have a positive effect on their human colleagues, enabling them to be more effective at their jobs, take on higher-level tasks, and realize psychological benefits. The overall result is a more productive human-robot team.

Rationalizing Yourself Out of a Promotion

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Some women who feel like they won’t “fit” a stereotypical job description will talk themselves out of wanting it. This process of negatively evaluating promotional opportunities is due to a process called “job crafting.” As a result, managers who wish to employ female executives at the highest levels of their organizations should be especially careful of the signals they might be communicating to potential applicants.

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The Long Journey to Understanding Intangible Assets

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The “intangible assets” people bring to their jobs are valuable — but challenging to quantify. Understanding the complexities of assets such as a person’s capacity to continue to learn new skills and ability to manage the stress of work and home life can help organizations get a better handle on alternate ways of sustaining employees. Understanding the notion of intangible assets can also help individuals think more concretely about how they allocate their time and energy.

Could AI Be the Cure for Workplace Gender Inequality?

Artificial intelligence is beginning to replace many of the workplace roles that men dominate. The parts of those jobs that will have staying power are those that rely more heavily on emotional intelligence, abilities such as empathy, persuasion, and inspiration — skills in which women typically excel. In the AI economy, men won’t be as successful as women unless they embrace these differentiator skills.

Surviving a Day Without Smartphones

For young adults accustomed to continually checking their cellphones, even a single day without access to them can be anxiety-producing. What are the implications for executives about managing this constantly connected generation – and their devices – in the workplace?

What the Military Can Teach Organizations About Agility

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Once bastions of command-and-control management style, U.S. military institutions have moved to the forefront of organizational and leadership agility. Today’s military leadership emphasizes efficient movement through four decision cycles — observe, orient, decide, and act — to speed up its response to external threats. It’s also investing significant resources to become more agile and experimenting with innovative solutions.

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