Photo: Anders Jildén

#WorkTrends: Assessing Digital Skills for Hiring Now

Remote work has gone from a luxury to a form of everyday survival, with technical, practical and cultural challenges. It has also shifted the hiring process further into the digital sphere — whether we like it or not. Sean O’Brien, Senior VP of Education at SAS, joined host Meghan M. Biro for this #WorkTrends podcast episode to discuss key strategies for hiring in today’s environment. That means not only knowing the competencies your organization needs, but also having the digital capabilities needed to hire now.

Whether you’re hiring people on-site or remotely, there’s one rule, Sean said, “Return to the fundamentals.” The first step is to ask the right questions: “What skills does my company need? How often? Which skills are the most important?”

And then, a clear way to assess potential applicants is not just on skills, but on potential to learn these skills. This means interviews in remote hiring scenarios need to focus more on demonstrating those necessary skills, Sean noted. For example, hands-on assessments, portfolios at-the-ready, and potential on-the-spot problem-solving can all be done over video. Meghan added that it’s important not to forget about establishing good eye contact, pointing out the need to present ourselves in the best light, whether in-person or in video meetings.

Sean also recommended that hiring managers rewrite job descriptions. Many are written poorly or in a generic way — without reflecting the company’s needs, and lacking language that acts as a filter to guide the right people to apply.

Meghan said this means that organizations must understand the skills they need. And given the turbulence and change going on now, that also means it may be necessary to hire an expert who can help. Sean agreed, “Depth of knowledge is necessary to be successful.”

Another smart strategy is to develop the talent already in your organization, by teaching your existing workforce the new digital skills they need to keep evolving and growing professionally.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the related live #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, so you don’t miss an episode!

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do some organizations struggle with hiring for the right skills? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help accurately assess a potential hire’s skills? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to bring the right skills into the organization? #WorkTrends

Find Sean O’Brien on Linkedin and Twitter

This post is sponsored by SAS.

Millennials Are The Workforce: A Plea For Present-Casting

Our industry fixated on Generation Y with the same market-heat fervency once reserved for boomer teens: how can we engage this generation? But with 53.5 million by the beginning of this year, they take up the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, many aren’t kids anymore (the generation’s first year is 1981), and they are making major workforce decisions themselves. Some will soon be in their 40s themselves.

So while some of us still wonder ponder best recruiting strategies, here’s a not so new newsflash: them is us. Actually, it’s nearly two years since that post. It’s not about just pinpointing differences in order to get a better bead on how, what, all that. It’s about collaborating to best shape the future of work. 

Millennial behavior is the new normal.

Millennial behavior and devices caused a certain amount of boomer-generation and Gen-X headscratching. Among them: mobile / social / IM / texts not calls, lots of neat apps, preference for constant or at least quick feedback, the ability to hop jobs like a superhero in Gotham, a preference for meaning (egads) and transparency. But all of these should be woven into the workplace fabric by now. Even job hopping, which actually makes a great deal of ROI sense, enabling talent and projects to strategically align — and be optimally productive.

Millennials are becoming the older generation.

Generation Y is now having brainstorm sessions on how to capture the hearts and minds of Generation Z. We’re starting to see some interesting takes on how to handle it. (Perhaps we should have started earlier in the alphabet.) Among the challenges: making sure we’re starting in the classroom to nurture that future talent, not alienate it. Vis a vis diversity and STEM, that’s not really going to help.

The workplace will now be digital.

I’m riffing on the future as now here: it is digital. There’s a new study by PeopleFluent that I’m really looking forward to about the Digital Generation in the Workplace. I’m already thinking of it more as being about, in essence, the Digital Workplace. Here’s why: digital generations, starting with millennials, actually comprise far more than half of the workplace: cogito digital, ergo sum. By 2025, they will comprise some 76% of the workforce. As we transform our functions and strategies across the full range of the HR spectrum transform to digital, what we’re actually facing the potential of a skills and culture gap that looks backwards. The challenge: as we innovate that shift, make sure it’s up to speed with the über-facile skills and culture of those it’s meant to address. (We’re not really talking about a car service, but we are.) In other words, innovate faster, or our fancy new recruiting and training apps will be left behind by other, faster, better means.

There are other gaps to mind.

A key facet of millennial thinking that helped improve workplace culture is transparency. Among its impacts in the workplace, it has led to a better connection between company mission and employer brand. The 24/7, always on, ever-linked nature of millennial and post-millennial generations has also pushed that envelope.  We have been forced to galvanize a clearer sense of message and intention and then to make sure it carries across multiple platforms. That in itself ought to be transforming the workplace; function dictating form, and not the other way around.

Get over it.

How do we best recruit, engage, and motivate millennials? By insisting on excellence, and appropriateness, and functionality. There’s not much new about this, except in the most simple imperatives: we must be digital, social / mobile; agile; inclusive; and stop wasting time asking ourselves the if questions. Or the gap will be one mired in perception, not reality. Perhaps there’s a connect that happens when a generation is online all the time: they are acutely aware of their own place in the world, in the digiverse, of their own personal brand, in essence, because they are always expressing it. We need to simply accept that. Right now, we are all millennials.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

The Future of Work is Here: Are Your Managers Prepared?

We often talk about the “future of work” as if it’s a destination; but the reality is that the future of work is already here. Technology’s impact on the remote and part-time workforce is transforming work culture right now. Are your managers prepared and ready to embrace this new work world?

The “future of work” is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from technology’s impact on work environment to changes in organizational structure, marketable skills, and government policy. Today, let’s focus on the five aspects that most impact your bottom line:

  • Productivity
  • Technology
  • Big Data
  • Organizational Structure
  • Leadership

Leadership in a competitive organization requires keeping track of all five.

The Positive Impacts of Remote Work

Global Analytics did a deep dive into the 2005-2014 American Community Survey (executed by the US Census Bureau) and found that 80 to 90 percent of the US workforce says they would like to work remotely at least part of the time. Currently 3.7 million people (2.5 percent of the American workforce) work from home at least part time—a number that’s sure to grow.

This attractive workplace benefit isn’t just the draw of working in PJs. Workers want flexibility to balance work and personal commitments, and prioritize it as much (if not more than) salary and benefits. Because of this, enabling staff to shift schedules and telecommute has a significant impact on retention and recruitment.

Remote work has also been shown to improve productivity and cut office expenses. Harvard Business Review studied Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, testing remote work by designating half of its employees as remote workers over a 12-month period. Not only did it save money, Ctrip reported that workers who stayed home showed 13.5 percent higher productivity.

The global market for talent has also been a significant incentive to allow remote emplpoyees. With valuable skills often in short supply locally, many businesses have turned to overseas professionals— and often at a more budget-friendly rate.

These shifts have transformed what it takes to be a successful manager, both in terms of communication and management skills, but also in how to set expectations. “They’re at their desk” isn’t a valid measurement of productivity anymore, especially when employees don’t share office space. Instead, expectations need to focus on goals and outcomes, and workers need to be equipped with a suite of tools that make communication and collaboration simple, whatever the distance.

Technologys Impact on Productivity

Email is still cited as one of the top forms of communication by Americans. As much as we complain about our inboxes, we still use them—and for remote workers, they’re vital. But in a modern workplace, email isn’t enough.

With workers inside and outside office walls, companies must use technology that holds their teams together: real-time communication across devices, easy tools for collaboration and data sharing, and shared resources.

There are plenty of free and affordable tools that can keep a team connected on a level that’s nearly as good as face-to-face. There are plenty of free tools available, Google Hangouts and Skype being just two examples. By investing in paid videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or GotoMeeting, businesses can keep team members connected on a more reliable and secure level.

Another challenge is to manage projects and tasks in a way that enables remote and in-office personnel to work together seamlessly without a lot of extra email or admin time. Tools like Asana and BaseCamp help keep complex projects on track and organized. Evernote is another great tool, and for ongoing communications that save your inbox from overload, and it’s hard to beat the incredibly popular Slack.

No matter what technology you choose to handle workplace communications, it’s essential that you have a plan and that staff is comfortable using the tools and staying compliant.

Are You Using Big Data Yet?

Back in May, my friend Daniel Newman wrote a piece for Entrepreneur where he covered the use of big data outside of customer experience and sales. He was spot on when he said, “Many businesses, however, forget that our number one customer is our workforce.”

Businesses have the data on hand to better understand employees’ behavior, motivations, successes, and concerns. The challenge is to learn how to interpret the data that’s collected.

Instead of relying on HR personnel to report on employee triggers, data scientists or analytics professionals who understand how to interpret data can take the guesswork out of workforce management. If you know what you want to measure, and how to interpret the data, big data is your friend. Otherwise it’s useless, time consuming, and counterproductive. Hint: befriend big data.

Organizational Structure: The Change is Here

With the hype around the large Millennial generation, there’s a lot of talk about flat organizations with little or no hierarchy, where collaboration and “managing up” are part of everyday work life. Companies like Zappos are experimenting with a nearly flat work structure, dubbed “Holacracy.” Whether Holacracy works for them is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that the organizational hierarchy is becoming less defined.

There are no hard and fast rules for exactly how to structure an organization or department—each is unique with its own characteristics. It is clear that large, slow moving, siloed organizations are susceptible to disruption—and they may never see it coming. Companies that embrace a more streamlined, fast-moving culture are already reaping the benefits.

Leadership Today

Developing and grooming leadership within an organization has long been a topic for managers, and it too has evolved with the changing workplace. Those with a Millennial mindset want different things from their leaders, and they want a seat at the table when it comes to decision making and strategy.

This new way of working means leaders no longer lead by directive—they lead by being inclusive, and by embracing technology and a more transparent work environment.

Business leaders have to be on their toes in this new world of work. Progressive companies are ahead of the wave and understand that you can’t wait around for the future of work—it’s already here. Preparing your leadership team for these changes can help you be one of the companies that excels in the new business world order.

Photo Credit: barbato.assicurazioni via Compfight cc

This article was originally seen on Millennial CEO.