Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

Career Success is the Main Driver of Upgrading Digital Skills and Habits

Proactive, Haptic Sensing / 12 Dec 2017 / By Bob Barker

Changing habits is always hard.  So too, we find, is getting people to upgrade their digital skills.  It seems that no matter how much digital technology you show people or new software you suggest they use, to get them to make any changes needs a very strong motivator which is difficult to put your finger on.  After all, many would argue they have got a lot digital stuff in their lives already; they have digital fatigue and aren’t that interested.  We think that motivator could be the effect on your career if you don’t make those incremental changes.  As digital is not a physical thing and moves so fast, you don’t see or appreciate the changes.  This could potentially be catching many people out.

This bears out in the drivers we see for digital skills from firms adopting our 21st Century Humans Upgrade Programme, which are:  productivity – or rather a lack of it, a skills gap opening up between those that keep up with digital and those that don’t, and the lost opportunity either from a sales perspective (not knowing how to create or see opportunities online), an innovation perspective (not seeing or sensing the innovation happening in the market), or from a career opportunity perspective – for example, not being visible either internally or externally, collaborative (in on things), or well informed enough to be promoted.  But the one we see which is probably the strongest motivator for taking action is career success:  fear of getting into what we call the ‘unpromotable zone’.  As one of our 21st Century Human workshop attendees once said, “I hate social media but I want to look good online”.  He knew how important showing up well online was for his career even though social media was clearly not a passion of his.

If we dig a bit deeper on the effect digital has had on our careers, there are many areas where digital has been chipping away at the traditional way we used to manage ourselves and our careers which we have not done anything about.  As Dave Aron says, “we have sleepwalked into the 21st Century”.  Much of the problem is that like so many things these days, things have been digitally outsourced to us which our companies used to do for us, or have people help us do, or the state did it.  As Peter Drucker warned in 2000, “For the first time, people will have to manage themselves, and society is totally unprepared for it”.  Here are a few examples:

Time management – it used to be that one had a physical system for time management.  Hands up who when on a TMI Course in the 80s/90s complete with Filofax-style ring binders and folders which forced you to think about your key areas and tasks?  Now you are just magically expected to know how to manage your time and tasks on Microsoft 365 or Google, with 1,000 different ways of doing it and with the unreassuring offer of online help from a bot or a badly produced video on YouTube from some hobbyist.

Learning – it used to be that one would go on physical courses in training centres to learn skills and management techniques and in the process bond with our colleagues or make new relationships.  Generally, you had a learning plan and an expectation to attend several physical events a year.  Now, with the pressure on our work lives and busy lives, everything is outsourced to the Learning Management System, online courses or MOOCs, of which, if you believe Seth Godin, 98% are never completed.  Subsequently, we aren’t taking learning seriously, or it has become what I call ‘have to’ learning around onboarding/induction, compliance, product knowledge, and so on.  In terms of growth and career learning, many of us have forgotten how to learn or can’t find the time to fit it in.  Now this is a broad generalization and, of course, many of the larger corporates still have amazing learning programmes, but for many they feel left to just get on with the option of visiting a learning portal.

Appearance/brand – we all know the value in being well dressed for work, down to the shoes you wear, the watch on your wrist, and the bag you carry.  Nowadays, one could argue that half of our brand is about how we show up online, but it’s rare to find an expert in the area of personal branding online to help you, and I bet your ‘significant other’ hasn’t commented on how your latest profile picture looks but would have commented on that old/creased shirt you went out in this morning.

Coaching/mentoring/career counselling – although there is still a lot of this going on both online and offline, much has been reduced to online appraisals and self-management, which is all great for box-ticking in the HR department, but is it actually helping people?

By going through the immersion of a 21st Century Human Programme (two days separated by a few weeks with coaching in-between via Workplace from Facebook), we get people to take a fresh look at their career in terms of how digital could effect their success.  For example:

Personal brand and purpose – it is said that the internet forces you to define yourself, so one needs to think through one’s online persona/identity, what you stand for, what your focus is, what you are going to share with the world.  The better that is projected, the more you will stand out from the crowd as someone who gets it.

Productivity/managing your time – mastering the three digital ‘thief’s of time’ listed below, so you can maximize your time at work and make enough time for your life outside work:

  • Email – how to make sure you don’t get addicted to your inbox.
  • Lack of focus – how to make sure you can focus on getting real work done.
  • Social media and collaboration alerts – how to stop being interrupted, and how to take advantage of automation.

Tools and set-up – making sure you have the right set up on your devices, passwords strategy, personal cloud, and so on, so that you are set up for speed (“speed stuns” as someone once said).  Note to self – why I need an iPhone X.

Collaboration – being aware of how different personality types communicate and where communications can break down, and learning what platforms are best for what projects so you can make sure your communications are first class.

Learning and context – setting your filters up right so you don’t get information overload, and how to set yourself up for what we call social learning so you not only learn, but share, what you learn with others.

Lifestyle and wellbeing – being aware of your quantified self so you are fit enough to perform well and aren’t in the dark in terms of your long-term health.  If you realized how long you are going to live, you would look after yourself better.

At the end of this two-day career and skills upgrade, attendees come away motivated with a plan for their 21st Century Human and career development and hopefully have embedded a few new digital habits.

But that’s not the end of it.  Ideally, attendees are encouraged to enlist the services of a digital coach (if required) to keep them accountable and to guide them on their journey because the “I don’t have time” excuse can quickly creep in and if we take our career seriously, we should also take our 21st Century Human/digital skills seriously too.

As Dan Hushon put so well at the end of the last 21st Century Human Podcast with Lewis Richards, “we owe it to ourselves and our families to invest the time to advance our careers – you have a personal responsibility to stay current”.



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21st Century
Adaptive Execution
Proactive, Haptic Sensing
Reimagining the Portfolio
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