Among other activities this past year, I have found myself leading a training subcommittee.
Typically, employee professional development has been the responsibility of the individual managers.
With the push for us to spend our money smarter, the division decided to try a more coordinated approach.
Rather than treating this as a typical training subcommittee, where we sit and debate on what courses belong in the curriculum for the department, we decided to as some harder questions.
- What needs to happen to make the department more responsive to change?
- What behaviors do we want to see (and not see) in our environment?
- What topics do we want to pursue as areas of emphasis and why?
- What environmental supports need to be available for any training intervention we decide to pursue?
- How will we know whether anything we do is working?
I’ve been very fortunate that with this committee, I found 4 people willing to run with me.
Day 1 – we decided to tackle the direction we wanted to march in.
Armed with the University’s and Division’s Strategic Plans (which hadn’t been published quite yet), 2 whiteboards and some pens, we did a bit of brain dumping and surfaced the following environmental trends:
- There is a push at the University to expand its international presence. The school I work at is also known for its International Affairs program, so there’s that.
- Nomadic Workforce
- There was a telework initiative a few years ago that moved a number of us to remote worker status for at least a couple of days a week. Got the staff off of the expensive real-estate and allowed the University to reduce its leased footprint in the city.
- We are on two campuses – and many of us travel regularly between the two campuses. So even those who argue against telework have difficulty arguing for everything being “in person” these days. There is usually at least 1 person either working remotely or on the other campus. Everyone is too mobile. Come to think of it – the ONLY meetings I have been in during the past year where everyone was physically in the same location has been staff meetings – called by my boss way in advance OR when we all happen to be in the same place at the same time.
- Engagement through technology
- Um…we’re the IT Department. Of COURSE there will be technology.
From here, we then defined some themes that supported these trends.
After much scribbling and conversation – the team came up with the following list.
- Consumerization / Brokerage
- Adaptability / Agility
Notice how the vast majority of the themes are soft-skills heavy.
Our ability to keep up with the technical skills we needed wasn’t questioned. Looking at the training plans for the division, most teams focused on technical expertise. However, the team felt that soft-skills will be the differentiator in how effective we can be as the environment evolves – for the Division, as well as for individuals.
And as I do my own research and observation among my friends in the wider world – I am seeing dramatic changes that necessitate being much more “people-friendly”. Organizations are looking for people they want to work with, not just people with the requisite technical chops. The least I can do is help my colleagues be better prepared for this “brave new world.”