Fuel business innovation with human skills training

By Future Talent Learning

Innovation is essential for organisational survival. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts more than 1 billion workers will need reskilling by 2030. Innovation is not just about technology. It is also about human skills.

 

While technological advancements and data-driven strategies play a pivotal role in driving innovation, with AI currently revolutionising the way we work and live, the human element remains irreplaceable. Andrew Scott, author of The 100 Year Life, cautions that "As machines get better at being machines, humans must get better at being human."

 

Learning programmes that focus on human skills can help businesses to transform themselves into more innovative organisations. They can help employees to:  

  • develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for innovation
  • be more creative and come up with new ideas
  • collaborate more effectively with each other and with customers

In short, this is where learning programmes focusing on human skills step in to provide a transformative approach to business innovation.

 

The era of transformation and innovation: succeeding in a BANI world

 

Over 80 per cent of executives surveyed by Mckinsey and Company say that innovation is among their top three priorities, yet less than 10 per cent report being satisfied with their organisations’ innovation performance. 

 

Organisations must embrace continuous change to adapt and thrive in a brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible (BANI) world. Disruptive technologies, changing consumer behaviours, and global market dynamics have redefined traditional business models. 

 

According to Craig Fenton, who leads Strategy & Operations at Google UK and Ireland, over the last 50 years society has experienced technology-driven innovation cycles. In this context, innovation becomes not just a competitive advantage, but a survival imperative. Innovation isn't solely about creating novel products or services; it involves reimagining processes, enhancing customer experiences, and finding new avenues for growth.

 

The crucial role of human skills in innovation 

 

Only 25% of long-term career success depends on technical knowledge, according to Stanford University. Research by PwC found that 79% of CEOs are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce is threatening the future growth of their organisation. This compares to just 63% in 2014 – confirming that concern over skills has risen in line with the advent of new technologies.

 

Amid the fourth industrial revolution, the value of human skills has only grown. They form the foundation of effective teamwork, leadership, and customer engagement. These skills encompass:

  • emotional intelligence
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • adaptability
  • creativity
  • critical thinking
  • problem-solving

 

Organisations must recognise fostering a culture of innovation requires more than just implementing cutting-edge technology. It's about creating an environment where employees can harness their creativity and work collectively to find solutions to complex challenges. Human skills empower individuals to think outside the box, approach problems from different angles, and adapt to evolving circumstances – all essential components of the innovation process.

 

 

The role of workplace learning programmes in driving innovation

 

Traditional education systems and workplace training, focusing on ‘just-in-time’ education aren’t working. This is where learning programmes focusing on human skills come into play.

 

“We can’t predict what jobs will exist in the future, so we have to focus on a set of core transferable skills…… Having the right mindset, encouraging curiosity and adopting an approach which promotes lifelong learning are crucial in this fast-changing world of work."

 

Kirstie Mackey, Director of Citizenship & Consumer Affairs at Barclays UK.

 

To respond effectively, and to navigate the scale and pace of change, organisations urgently need to up-skill every employee’s ability to explore, learn, and grow. It’s not enough to improve leadership capabilities at the very top of the organisation or to limit it to a putative group of high-potential leaders.

 

1. Teaching leadership skills 

Human skills don't always come naturally to everyone. More than 68% of managers consider themselves to be ‘accidental managers’, according to a study by thehrdirector.com. However, they can be learned and cultivated through proper training. 

 

Often organisations promote individuals into management positions without any overall plan to ensure they have the time and space to develop essential leadership skills. These employees often fall back on what they know they’re good at. They don’t become leaders; they become doers. Rather than leading, they spend their days micromanaging, failing to build relationships, and being vague about team goals. 

 

Learning programmes provide a structured way for employees to develop the human skills needed to be a leader, bridging the gap between their current capabilities and the skills needed for innovation. 

 

2. Promoting collaboration

Innovation thrives in collaborative environments. Learning programmes that emphasize teamwork, communication, and collaboration help employees build strong working relationships. 

 

When team members can effectively communicate their ideas, share insights, and work together harmoniously, the likelihood of generating innovative solutions significantly increases.

 

3. Encouraging adaptability

The pace of change in the business world demands adaptability. During the Industrial Revolution, we developed a model of management based on three key components: forecast, plan and execute. In a BANI, standing for ‘brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible’, world this model no longer works

 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that more than 1 billion workers will need reskilling by 2030. Today, the skills employees need to keep doing their current jobs are changing all the time, while movement within an organisation is no longer just vertical, but also horizontal, diagonal and even in and out. It’s no longer enough simply to train people for the next rung on the corporate ladder.

 

Learning programmes that teach adaptability and flexibility enable employees to respond to shifting market conditions and adopt new strategies swiftly. These skills are vital for innovation, as they allow teams to pivot when necessary and explore new directions.

 

4. Nurturing creativity and problem-solving

Creativity and problem-solving are at the heart of innovation. For Craig Fenton, Director of Strategy and Operations at Google, the quest for future innovation lies in what makes us innately human – our creativity. In a world where change is the only constant, the ability to learn constantly and imagine a future is vital. 

 

Learning programs that encourage creative thinking and teach systematic problem-solving techniques equip employees with the tools needed to tackle complex challenges. By nurturing these skills, organisations empower their workforce to identify innovative opportunities and devise effective solutions.

 

5. Utilising human skills to develop empowering leadership

Leaders who possess strong human skills are more likely to inspire innovation within their teams. The expectation that leaders should be omniscient, all-knowing individuals is increasingly outdated. In such a changeable world, leaders need to be able to embrace the unknown and be comfortable saying “I don’t know”. 

 

Overcoming economic turbulence and market instability means evaluating and iterating as you go. Be flexible, avoid making snap decisions and, above all, communicate. That’s why authors and researchers such as Daniel Goleman have argued powerfully that emotional intelligence is fundamental for leadership.

 

Learning programmes can help aspiring leaders develop emotional intelligence, empathy, and effective communication – qualities that are crucial for fostering a culture of innovation.

 

Supercharging innovation by embracing diversity 

There is an increasing body of evidence cognitively diverse teams can boost innovation. Cognitive diversity, also known as neurodiversity, means the different ways individuals think, process information, solve problems and make decisions. 

 

A Harvard study found that teams with greater thought diversity were able to solve problems up to three times faster than teams made up of people who thought in similar ways. In addition, cognitively diverse teams can boost innovation by upwards of 20 per cent, according to Deloitte.

 

That's why investing in accessible learning programmes, including short courses, workshops, and online modules is vital. They offer a flexible and efficient way for all of your employees to develop and refine their human skills. Programmes designed to be practical, relevant, and applicable to real-world scenarios are a valuable investment for individuals and organisations. Incorporating microlearning into your organisation's L&D strategy is not just a trend; it is the future of learning

 

As the demand for human skills continues to grow, bite-sized learning emerges as a transformative approach to education, equipping individuals with the tools they need to thrive in the modern world.

 

 

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