Skill requirements for today’s workplace

Information Technology skills have been in high demand over the past ten to fifteen years and countries like India have capitalized on this, leveraging their people’s desire to grow and their low labor rate.

IT will remain a high demand field into the future, especially with app development and miniaturization of electronics to get everything to the wearable market.

However, IT is a commodity today and the market of IT professionals has become over saturated with available talent, especially with business process outsourcing companies literally knocking down your door to get at your work.

This issue really pressures employees today, especially the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, to fear daily for the job their doing today and future prospects. Let’s face it, almost anything repetitive is at risk of both outsourcing and automating. And, both options are cheaper and normally improve the service.

So, today, what are the things that are much more difficult to outsource and automate?

That would be Analysis and Problem Solving.

To gain a competitive edge in today’s job market, whether you’re in IT or not, is to build skills in data analysis and problem solving. IT systems can evaluate large pieces of data, if it’s structured, and data can be reported in predetermined manners, but the employee of today can truly demonstrate value if they have the skills of analysis and problem solving.

Additionally, these aren’t overly obscure skills for employees to learn that you have to earn through a degree or spend hours going to training. With a little bit of education, and a fair amount of common sense, you can apply these skills.

Also, these are the type of skills you can apply today in the job you’re doing. You don’t need to find a job somewhere that fits these skills…every job today needs these skills and often we outsource the job because it lacks these two capabilities.

So let’s look at these two items:

Analysis. If you haven’t heard the words Bid Data by now, you’re living under a rock. Companies today aren’t looking at just one piece of data to make decisions anymore, they are tying together everything they have in their company and whatever they can get their hands on to make much more informed decisions.

I’m not proposing you become a big data wizard…that is a specialized capability, although I think that is the new frontier in business. What we lack in most companies is armies of workers who can analyze the data they have in front of them every day.

This means they understand one of the most basic of tools most people have–pen and paper–and can organize and collect the right information to start to make decision. Additionally, workers today don’t need to know any in depth data analysis tools like Minitab that your local process improvement expert uses, but the everyday Microsoft Excel program is your powerful weapon in this new normal.

To properly analyze data, all employees today need to have a small, but effective tool bag to work from. They need to know things like affinity and tree diagramming…sounds difficult, but it’s a simple skills. This works well with data, information, and ideas. Additionally, there are seven basic charts that every employee needs to be able to create, read, and understand: bar chart, line chart, histogram, Pareto chart, control chart, box plot, and radar or spider chart. The Pareto chart is a type of histogram that combines both bar and line charts together. Pareto, box plot, and radar charts allow you to compare data for deep analysis. Control charts are much more powerful line charts. Along with this skill, you need to learn the anatomy of charts and how to use multiple axis’ to analyze and report data.

Lastly in the analysis realm, the employee of today’s workplace needs to know root cause analysis. It’s one thing to be able to review and report data, but to truly use data to dig to the root cause is powerful.

Problem Solving. The start of problem solving is problem identification. Being able to even see that you have a problem is the first step in problem solving.

Problem solving, to be effective, must follow a repeatable process. There are many problem solving approaches that people can learn, but understanding the core of PDCA is pretty powerful. Once you understand how all–and I do mean all–repeatable methodologies are based on PDCA, you’ll have cracked the base code on the problem solving system.

Another key component to problem solving, which is in line with following a problem solving approach, is to be able to establish and follow a project. A project is a series of steps that have a beginning and an end. Effective and efficient problem solving works best when performed in a project. Once you can think in project speak, you can plan out how you will solve any and every problem and you’ll be able to tell anyone how long it will take and where you are in the process of solving the problem.

The biggest key to problem solving is being able to define the problem and the goal, without trying to solve the problem up front. Many of us think that we are really good problem solvers, because we jump into a problem once identified and immediately put a fix in place. I’m here to ell you that you are part of the problem. Learning true data-driven problem solving and applying it, is a skill. Fighting fires is not.

These two skills of analysis and problem solving are key in today’s workplace and they are also very absent! Both compliment each other and they are fairly easy to learn. Mastery is another thing, but with time everyone can get there. Be a data-driven problem solver and you’ll never fear again the threat of outsourcing and automation. You’ll have a skill set that you can apply in any job anywhere.

I am going to start a weekend blog much like my Think Big, Take Small Steps, weekly blog to focus on this topic. I will walk through both of these skills and feature a specific approach or tool. I plan to post this blog every Sunday and apply graphics and screen shots to help with the understanding. Follow my blog to keep up with the story.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

One Response to Skill requirements for today’s workplace

  1. Pingback: Leaderment | John R. Knotts

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