Over the last couple of weeks I have been running a couple of workshops in a local school for kids around the 16-17 year old age group. The focus of the workshops was to trial a “Future Skills” (soft skills development) programme aimed at high school students based on lessons learned from my experience in education, with the Young Enterprise Programme, my own research and helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives develop similar skills. The premise of the workshops is that academic results and even technical skills do not determine how successful a person will be professionally. Instead, the most important factor that will determine how far one will go in career involves dealing with others, ie., people skills. But, My research and experience indicates that young people not only lack the soft skills themselves but the opportunity to develop them.
It doesn’t matter which field whether it’s medicine, law, engineering, journalism, the arts, one of the trades or any other career as the most successful individuals in each area are not necessarily the ones who had the highest school grades or those who are the most technically gifted. Instead, the top stars in each field are the ones with the best people skills. This has been borne out by Daniel Goleman’s research into Emotional Intelligence (EQ), where EQ designates emotional intelligence and IQ represents academic, intellectual or technological knowledge. He found that EQ was between 2 and 5 times a better predictor of success than someone’s IQ.
Unfortunately, people or ‘soft’ skills as they are sometimes known, are not usually taught in classrooms at many educational levels. Many students who end up spending all their time and energy during their school years to maximise their academic results do not end up learning to effectively interact and work with others, especially if not developed outside of the classroom. In effect, their development can be unbalanced too much towards pure academics.
The result can be that some students are ill-equipped to interact with and integrate into the world of work.
Also, as education and employment conditions become more competitive, potential interviewers and recruiters look for personal attributes like attitude, values, punctuality, goal management, collaborative team skills, and listening skills as differentiating factors.
Based on feedback from employers on what they look for in high-potential employees or candidate employees, the areas that our programme aims to address includes:
…as key elements that research and our experience tells us help enable and determine greater success.
Rather than create a whole set of materials that would go down the ‘tell’ road, my approach was have a conversation about each of these areas with the same group of students. It was very blank sheet of paper but I didn’t want to lead them down a path but to explore each of these issues, understand what they meant to them and pass on a few tips in each area. That way I could better judge what worked and what didn’t and leave the students scope to tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like.
The outcome: The workshops went really well. I got some great feedback from the kids about what they liked and what I could do better. Now, I’m going refine the materials in the light of this.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, first of all, is is a subject close to my heart and, second, I believe that people (customers, team and leaders) are at the centre of all sustainable business growth. This is not just people in the present but also our people in the future.
I’d love to do more of these workshops in other schools or share what I know with people that would like to help in this effort. Do you know any schools that would like to host this type of workshop? Would you like to help? Would you like to help with investing in your next generation of customers, team members and leaders?
Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks to davitydave for the image