Building the Future Through STEM [Podcast]

STEM, an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, will greatly affect the future of work. STEM is at the core of innovative technologies, driving not just the success of businesses, but medical advancements, education, and more.

The demand for tech workers and engineers is especially growing, and some worry that our educational system isn’t keeping up. When the time comes for current technical talent to retire, how can we prepare upcoming generations to take over?

Our Guest: Speaker, Author, and Futurist Rachael Mann

I was excited to welcome back Rachael Mann for a second time to the #WorkTrends podcast. Rachael is a futurist with a passion for tech and science. She frequently speaks at events across the country, channeling her 14 years of classroom teaching experience to lecture on topics ranging from disruptive technology, education, and careers. She is the author of The Spaces You Will Go, co-authored the book Martians in Your Classroom, is a founding member of the Council on the Future of Education, president-elect for the NCLA executive board, and vice-president of New and Related Services for ACTE.

One of the biggest issues STEM faces right now is education, says Rachael. Basically, schools should offer it as a part of their curriculum to make young people aware of its existence. And there need to be more opportunities for experts to teach it.

“We need to offer the right education in order for kids to be interested in STEM. But we also need the right teachers,” Rachael says. “And I think that really has a huge impact on the workforce. Students aren’t seeing science, engineering, math, and tech role models or understanding what opportunities are out there for them.”

Of course, parents play a vital role in inspiring future generations to get into STEM too.

“There are so many free resources available to parents with hands-on, fun activities. Give kids books with characters that they can relate to who are interested in science and tech. I wrote a children’s book called The Spaces You’ll Go about a little girl named Cass with her kangaroo robot, and they’re exploring space-related careers,” Rachael says. “These kinds of activities allow children to envision themselves someday in a field that they’re curious about.”

STEM: Our Future May Depend on It

By incorporating STEM into education, kids can learn from a young age that their work can have a positive impact. This early exposure can get them passionate about big world issues moving forward.

“Whether it’s this global pandemic, cybersecurity attacks … overpopulation, renewable energy,  anti-aging therapies, there are just so many problems connected to STEM,” Rachael says. “And when it comes down to it, those big problems offer the biggest opportunities for young people to change the world through their careers.”

Of course, while a lot of technical and scientific knowledge comes with STEM skill development, it’s important to focus on the human aspects of the fields as well. After all, we’re using STEM to improve life on Earth and our interactions and connections with each other.

“We have to be more human,” Rachael says. “As we think about technology and advancing the world, it’s more important than ever to focus on humanity and the skills that can’t be replaced by robots or technology.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about technology, science, and STEM education by connecting with Rachael Mann on LinkedIn.

How the Future of Work Could Shift Company Cultures

Your company’s culture might be changing at this very moment.

The future of work is shifting as more and more millennials enter the workforce. They have goals and motivations that are different from today’s current workers. Also, the increased advancement of technology continues to have a substantial impact on the evolution of workplaces.

All of these changes mean that a shift in company culture is inevitable. How work is viewed and treated will certainly alter as this new crop of college graduates enters the workforce. There are a few ways the future of work will change and what that means for company culture.

More Freelancers

You might never need to put a worker in a cubicle ever again.

Technology has made it possible for workers to do their jobs remotely from home. Twenty-three percent of employees worked remotely in 2015, which was up from 19% in 2013. Remote work is appealing to workers because they get to work from home, eliminate a stressful commute and be more flexible with hours.

Freelance workers mean company cultures will start to accommodate long-distance collaboration. This means video conferencing will become a vital form of communication. Platforms that allow multiple people to work at once like Google Docs will be a necessity to big corporations. Face-to-face interactions will become a rarity as the next generation takes over the workforce.

Less Hierarchy

Get ready, managers. The way you lead your employees is about to come into question.

The days of strict guidelines and intimidating demeanor are over. Future workers demand that their leaders be more honest and inspirational. The hierarchy lines that have been drawn will start to blend as leaders will inspire employees by example.

New workers want to be given a reason to work for a company. They want to inspire others while being inspired in the process. Managers will have to transform more into role models and change the culture to a positive, team-oriented environment.

Better Technology

New technology is constantly making it easier to track inventory, project future sales earnings and distribute products across a variety of industries. For example, the retail industry has evolved in many ways thanks to the internet. We now know that ecommerce sales even have a positive impact on brick-and-mortar stores, with 43% of online shoppers purchasing extra products when they claim their online purchases in-store.

Even better, more efficient and automated processes leave additional free time for non-robotic workers. With this time, workers can personalize each order and put in an extra effort that’ll set their company apart from others. A hand-written letter can go a long way toward retaining customers and showing them you care. The boost in technology will allow workers to add a personal touch to products.

Meaningful Work

Is the work your company does considered meaningful? Does it have a positive impact on the community? This is a shift your company might be forced to make.

30% of millennials believe the work they do has to be meaningful. This is much higher than the 12% of current managers who think meaningful work is important.

Millennials want to feel like they’re making a difference. They grew up with the internet and social media, where their voice can always be heard. With one click of a button, they can make someone’s day with a friendly comment or like. Millennials want to take this into the workforce and impact people’s lives.

Instant Feedback

You know that annual performance review that’s supposed to boost morale? It’s about to become obsolete.

The future of work demands managers give instant feedback. Instant messaging and social media have made quick feedback a normality in today’s culture. New workers will want to hear about their progress as it’s happening. They believe they will learn and improve much faster.

Managers will have to be aware of how their workers are performing at all times. Annual performance reviews will no longer be sufficient in the future.

Be Prepared

Your company’s culture is changing as you’re reading this right now. Be prepared for the future and accept the inevitable shift in culture.

Photo Credit: İstanbul İşletme Enstitüsü via Compfight cc

The 6 Dated HR Technologies Your Company Needs to Replace

Just like professionals from other industries, human resource professionals are dependent on technology. However, the pace of advancement means some technologies become outdated very quickly.

It might just be time to replace these six HR technologies with something a little more modern.

  1. Licensed Human Resources Management Systems

According to a survey from Cedar-Crestone, more than 40 percent of companies are either in the process of replacing or planning to replace their traditional human resources management systems. Furthermore, approximately one-quarter of respondents confessed they’d likely completely do away with old licensed systems and replace them with something more up-to-date.

Cloud-based systems are becoming very popular, and some analysts say there are no brand leaders that dominate the tech space for HR management systems. It’s just a case of researching the options available and seeing which ones are most suitable.

  1. Static Computerized Training

Many employees tolerate having to spend long hours in front of computer terminals to complete mandated training. However, HR experts are realizing this is no longer the most practical way to help employees learn, especially in the retail industry.

The retail world is increasingly turning toward what’s known as a mobile associate communication platform. The iPad is popularly used, along with dedicated apps that don’t just train store associates by sending them pertinent information, but allows them to access better support during customer interactions. This technology lets users instantly check stockroom numbers and show video content that demonstrates different styles, uses and colors.

  1. Bulky, Obsolete Training Manuals

Many companies have thick training manuals that come from head offices and only get updated once a year, or even less often. These have become impractical because information may change rapidly, and sometimes the manuals are so poorly organized that workers cannot find the information they need.

Delivering important information in an audio-based format may be what’s next. Audio files can also be much easier for employees to digest. Additionally, employers can reference industry podcasts and audiobooks from sites like SoundCloud or Audible. As a bonus, podcasts and audiobooks can even improve your employees’ commutes.

  1. Lengthy Employee Feedback Surveys

For generations, HR representatives have used various methods to figure out how employees are feeling. Paper-based surveys have already largely been replaced by computerized versions, but still, employees often feel frustrated because the surveys are so long.

A Japanese app called Niko Niko is much more streamlined, and it only requires employees to describe their moods through a single emoticon, plus up to 140 text characters. With the information gathered, HR representatives can see if poor morale is restricted to random people across departments, or if the majority of individuals who are fulfilling a certain type of work are feeling low, fed up or otherwise discouraged. If necessary, HR representatives can gauge the data and quickly take action as needed. Because employees give feedback each day through Niko Niko, there’s only a very small chance of morale problems going unnoticed.

  1. Corporate Wellness Programs Characterized by Pedometers and Spreadsheet Software

Although improved employee wellness is an aim of many HR professionals, even the most motivated among them struggle to make that dedication translate to the employees. Encouraging physical activity is only half the battle. Over the years, corporate wellness program participants were frequently given pedometers and told to enter their activity levels on spreadsheets. Certain brands of pedometers are notorious for miscalculating true activity because they confuse other types of movement with walking. Furthermore, having to enter data on spreadsheets might feel like a trying task, plus could lead to dishonesty.

Fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit, are replacing older technologies for keeping tabs on employee activity. Data can get transferred automatically to computers so employees don’t have to waste time filling out paperwork and won’t be able to make up numbers.

  1. Inflexible, Uniform Onboarding Processes

Some HR team leaders are already depending on apps to facilitate the onboarding process. However, despite that step in the right direction, they often forget every newly hired person is different. Therefore, using the same onboarding process with everyone – regardless of the technology – may not be very effective.

Facebook is taking a much different approach with the people who’ve been recruited for its engineering team. All new engineers go through a six-week, highly interactive boot camp where they dive right into the code and even get a chance to fix bugs. At the end of that onboarding experience, the engineers get to choose where to focus their efforts instead of being assigned to a team by HR.

These are not the only outdated tech practices HR professionals need to re-evaluate. However, they represent some things that may be hindering employees and employers from offering the best skills or company resources.

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