Future SkillsAs Facilities Manager’s we already have one of the most diverse and rapidly growing job descriptions and areas of responsibility. Our workplaces are changing fast and the introduction of increasing amounts of technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) means that ever-expanding sets of data are a reality that we need to deal with. The good news is that automation will take the lion’s share of the repetitive and logistical tasks associated with the processing of information. So if we are to take real advantage of the advances in technology the role of humans in the workplace needs to adapt.

“More than ever value accrues to those that show up those that make a difference those that do work that matters” – Seth Godin

The Big Picture

Using global megatrends and drivers of change, the Institute for the Future (Based at the University of Phoenix in the USA) has identified 10 future skills for the workforce.
In order to make some sense of these future skills, the 10 future skills can be grouped into three main categories.

1. Assimilation: The first three future skills are Cognitive Load Management, Computational Thinking together with Novel and Adaptive Thinking are all about how we interact with and absorb the ever increasing and complex information we receive from the outside world.

2. Integration: The next three future skills are Sense-Making, Transdisciplinarity and Design Mindset are all about how we use and apply the information we receive in our interface with the outside world.

3. Collaboration: The final four future skills are Social Intelligence, New Media Literacy, Virtual Collaboration and Cross-Cultural Competency are about the relationships and the interactions we have with other people.

Whilst it is crucial for us all to upskill ourselves to meet the need of the future, facilities manager’s and workplace professionals need to be developing these future skills in yourself and your teams.

10 Future Skills

 1. Cognitive Load Management

Institute for the Future definition: The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximise cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.

We are constantly bombarded with information and demands on our time and the reality of our world today is that many of the more traditional productivity techniques simply don’t work anymore. Cognitive Load Management is what we use to call time-management. This has grown and developed to include concepts such as goal setting, stress management, work-life balance and information overload.

Within open plan offices, we’re no longer able to shut ourselves off for hours at a time to do deep and uninterrupted work. We are easily diverted by environmental distractions as well as inconveniently and incessantly interrupted by others.

To make matters worse we do ourselves no favours in our constant search for a cognitive dopamine fix in the form of email and social media and other seemingly more attractive distractions, as well as our need to be constantly available to others around us.

Whilst we expect our facilities teams to align themselves with the  Client’s objectives and our organisational goals and put these first, they, in turn, are demanding more flexible working hours in exchange for achievements of their own personal goals as well.

As a result, we need to formulate new strategies for productivity and performance from our work teams. This can take the form of creation of 90-day projects rather than twelve-month goals.  FM is about being available so organise the team to work in short uninterrupted bursts rather than looking for hours of solitude behind closed doors. The use of collaboration software will help accommodate team members with flexible working hours and probably, more importantly, the ability to find ways to align personal and professional goals.

2. Computational Thinking

Institute for the Future definition: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.

Computational thinking is more than just being good with numbers. It is going to become increasingly more important for everybody to be able to understand, manipulate, analyse and interpret numbers and data.

It should be given in this day and age that as a leader you have basic numeracy skills and the ability to work with and manipulate spreadsheets and understanding basic statistics. Computational thinking is using those skills like a detective to understand the data as well as knowing the right questions to ask to decipher what the data is pointing to.

Computational thinking is also about understanding that the increasing use of sensors in the workplace and the use of sophisticated predictive analytics mean that we will need to be aware of and understand the limits of the data and the biases that are involved in both formulating and extracting datasets.

 3. Novel and Adaptive Thinking

Institute for the Future Definition: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

This skill set is more than just innovation. Innovation is important and this relates to the novel part of this skill but it is also important to be adaptive. The adaptive element has three components

  • Independence: Being able to think for yourself when faced with new and unfamiliar situations
  • Judgement: As a leader, you’re faced with ever increasing degrees complexity in decision-making. Judgement is about the ability to exercise good judgement when there is no clear answer.
  • Decision-making: decision-making is not necessarily about making quick decisions, it is about exercising judgement and being decisive but without being impulsive.

These are important leadership skills fro the Facilities Manager and you may well have these already. As leaders, we are often guilty of not developing these skills sufficiently in our team. In fact, we often (unintentionally perhaps) sabotage their development by discouraging team members from acquiring these skills. As an example are you guilty of

  • Delegating a task then micromanaging to ensure that it gets done the way that you want it to
  • Delegating a task but taking it back when mistakes are made
  • Delegating only the clearly defined tasks
  • Asking for feedback and information but always making the decision yourself
  • Asking for a decision but the overriding it with your own decision

Ask yourself honestly if this is descriptive of how are you deal with your team’s ability to make decisions if so, you are not developing these adaptive thinking skills in your team.

 4. Sense-making

Institute for the future Definition: The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed

This is the first of the Group of integration skills in other words how we apply the information we receive to the outside world.

In cognitive load management, we highlighted the future skills required to avoid being overwhelmed by the ever-increasing amount of information bombarding us from multiple sources. Sense-making is the skill of absorbing information, sifting through it and finding connections, patterns meaning and significance.

It is easy to take information and make superficial judgements, sense-making is about going deeper and further. Thinking and taking the time to think is perhaps the most unused but essential leadership skill. In order to be able to look at things and make sense of them, we need to understand the bigger picture and make connections to understand the significance. We can do this by applying Socratic type questioning to information by asking questions like

  • Why is this so?
  • What is this an example of?
  • When will this occur again?
  • How does this relate to other seemingly separate information?
  • Where can I predict this will happen again?

5. Transdisciplinarity

Institute for the Future Definition: Literacy in, and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.

Historically most people learn one skill in one discipline and then develop a deep knowledge in that skill over many years as part of their career path. Some may occasionally learn other skills in their career as they move from perhaps a technical discipline into management but their core expertise is confined to a single discipline.

As we know the world has changed, jobs and sometimes entire industries are disappearing due to automation. New jobs, roles and industries are being created every day and increasing competition for available jobs is a constant reality.

Transdisciplinarity is the ability to think and work effectively across different disciplines. It is the ability to transfer skills and be able to communicate across all levels and disciplines and to understand and communicate concepts outside of your everyday skill set.

As FM’s, we need to look for ways to increase transdisciplinarity in our team members. In doing so we’ll have to balance competing priorities of applied expertise in one area and broad expertise across multiple areas.

 6. Design Mindset

Institute for the Future Definition: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes

Most of the skills we have discussed so far refer to manipulating information. However, it is important to also create effective and efficient processes for managing this information. When we refer to design mindset we are not talking about designing physical objects but rather the ability to look at the data and design desired outcomes from new processes, systems, procedures or guidelines to create the right environment for success.

It is important to differentiate a design mindset from a process mindset.  Design mindset emphasises the skill not just to follow a process but to assess an existing process or designing a new process to ensure a better, more efficient or more effective outcome.

This skill is related to new and adaptive thinking and is the ability to perform well in new and unfamiliar situations, the difference is that not only do you adapt effectively to the new situation you can foresee a more desirable outcome and design a process to get there more efficiently.

In an FM context design mindset and new and adaptive thinking are particularly important when looking to improve delivery processes for transformative outcomes.

7. Social Intelligence

Institute for the Future Definition: The ability to connect with others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.

The last four future skills refer to the Collaborative mindset or the ability to form and improve relationships. The first of these is Social Intelligence. Some may refer to this as “people skills” but this would do this important skill set an injustice. Social Intelligence describes a skill that goes much deeper than just teamwork, it describes a person who is able to take a human and empathetic approach to business which research tells us is what our employees respond best to. In 2013, Harvard Business Review published its list of the top six things employees want now:

The 2013 Harvard Business Review article  Creating the Best Workplace on Earth published a list of the top six things employees want now:

  • Identity: “Let me be myself”
  • Transparency: “Tell me what’s really going on”
  • Talent: “Discover and magnify my strengths”
  • Pride: “Make me proud I work here”
  • Meaning: “Make my work meaningful”
  • Support: “Don’t hinder me with stupid rules”

Leaders with social intelligence recognise these needs in their team members and work diligently to assist them. In an FM context, it is important that leaders also help team members develop their own social intelligence as they are often the face of the operation and have day to day contact with the Clients.

8. New Media Literacy

Institute for the Future Definition: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

Unsurprisingly this skill is about the use of the myriad of modern communication platforms and tools in the form of social media and other online channels.  This is probably the easiest of the ten future skills to understand and accept as most of us are exposed to this in our personal and business life. However, this makes it easy for us to take this for granted and not see the professional benefits as well as for most of us to do it poorly. It is also about more than just how they exist now but to see the future and the possibilities of how these can be used and evolved.

This makes it easier for us to take these new platforms for granted and not see the professional benefits as well as for most of us to do it poorly. It is also about more than just how they exist now but to see the future and the possibilities of how these can be used and evolved.

It would also be true to say that there are many assumptions around who would be good at social media. Young people for instance spring immediately to mind, but this may be a mistake, a big part of this future skill is being able to leverage this expertise and media for persuasive communication, which may be beyond the capabilities of the younger members of your team due to inexperience. This emphasises the importance of the influence, persuasion and communication skills and not just using the technology for its own sake.

With the often distributed nature of our workforce working on client premises, there is huge value for FM to utilise new media for communication and technical objectives but those of us of a certain age would do well to swallow some pride and accept some reverse mentoring from our younger colleagues on the subject.

9. Cross-Cultural Competency

Institute for the Future Definition: The ability to operate effectively in different cultural settings.

I have written a lot about the benefits of diversity in the workplace in my posts 9 Simple Steps to Workplace Diversity  and The 4 Unique Benefits of Diversity in Outsourcing as well as several others. Our world is getting “smaller”, with more situations where people interact with others from different cultures in the same workplace, with freelancers and virtual team members, on social media, with customers, when travelling, in blended families, in the media, and so on. That’s why cross-cultural competency is so important.

To understand this in the workplace, consider an analogy of how a society approaches cultural diversity. Broadly, there are three levels, from least to most diverse:

  • Tolerate: You accept it, but expect conformity. The attitude is “We’ll tolerate your differences, but won’t make any concessions to you. You’re welcome to join in, but you have to play by our rules.”
  • Integrate: This is the “melting pot” society, which supports equal opportunity by absorbing differences. The attitude is “You’re different, and that’s unfair to you, so we’ll help you change to fit in. Now everybody’s equal again.”
  • Embrace: This is the truly multicultural society, which welcomes differences. The attitude is “You’re different, and we can all be better because of those differences.”

Research concludes that companies that create a diverse workplace significantly outperform their counterparts on all fronts, especially financially

10. Virtual Collaboration

Institute for the Future Definition: The ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Technology brings our world and our work closer, but it also needs a new set of future skills for communication and collaboration. For example:

  • Everybody isn’t in the same office, so you can’t just peek your head over a partition and ask a question.
  • People are in different time zones, so you can’t always conduct meetings, even virtual meetings.
  • Even in the same time zone, people work flexible hours, and might not always be available at the same time or on the same days.
  • In virtual meetings – even with video – it’s more difficult to see non-verbal cues, such as body language and interpersonal interactions.
  • Informal conversations in the coffee room or in corridors don’t happen in a virtual team.
  • Virtual teams have less personal rapport and social interaction, so they don’t bond and build trust in the same way as in-person teams.
  • People from different countries – with different cultures, different languages, different standards of living, and different attitudes, need to work together.
  • If some people are in the office and others aren’t, the latter sometimes feel neglected (“Out of sight, out of mind”).
  • It can be more difficult to train, coach, or mentor virtual team members.
  • All of these reasons are magnified when the collaboration involves people outside the team – for example, customers, suppliers, or the media.

In an earlier and somewhat humorous post The Reality of Teleconferencing Tripp & Tyler highlight some of the challenges in utilising teleconferencing. For these reasons (and many others), many teams face challenges with virtual collaboration. However, because the need for it will increase, it’s an essential skill for the future workforce.

Collaboration tools will keep improving (for example, virtual reality will soon be common for meetings and training), so the skill goes beyond just understanding specific tools or software. Instead, this skill involves the principles of virtual collaboration:

  • Use the Cloud: The more you use the Cloud for data, software applications, and documentation, the easier it is for virtual team members to collaborate.
  • Show your face: It can be difficult working with someone you don’t know and might never meet, so allow team members to be human and share their personality. Allow them to share their funny, quirky and personal side as well as their professional skills.
  • Let go of perfection: Aim for “80% right, 100% complete”. Don’t try to control everybody, and don’t try to control every aspect of the process or the outcome. This doesn’t mean you compromise your standards, of course! It simply means you loosen the reins and be more flexible to accommodate different people.
  • Work to a plan: Be clear about milestones, deliverables and deadlines, and make sure everyone involved in the collaboration knows and understands the plan. Team members might be in different time zones, working to different timetables. With a clear plan, each person knows their roles, responsibilities and the results they are expected to deliver.
  • Set the ground rules: Set clear rules and parameters for executing the plan so everyone understands how the collaborative effort will work. This can be as simple as avoiding assumptions (Does “5pm” mean 5pm in your time zone, my time zone, or another?) and as complex as creating backup plans (If somebody misses a deadline, do you need to wait, proceed without their input, or take some other action?).
  • Think global: When collaborating with international team members, take into account their different locales – things like time zones, language, spelling, currency and customs.

Question:What additional skills can you think of that will be applicable in the future workplace and how will you set about applying these with your team?  Please leave your comments below