The Conceptual Age is here, but who makes up this new workforce that is about to overthrow the organizational Training Monarchy?
The Industrial and Information Ages required focus and specialization. Dan Pink makes a compelling case that The Conceptual Age workforce must have the ability to tap into their right brain skills. This means a greater reliance on the creative, artistic right brain aptitudes:
- Big picture vision. Rather than delivering specific answers, it is now more important to see the big picture. Workers must have the ability to put various pieces together, see how they fit, combine elements never previously combined, and detect broad patterns.
- Context. Facts are so widely available and easily accessible, so developing a compelling story by putting them into context and delivering them with emotional impact becomes a differentiator.
- Human interaction. The work remaining in the US will require a workforce able to understand people. What makes them tick, how to empathize with others and build relationships.
“L- Directed Thinking remains necessary but is no longer sufficient. We must become proficient in R-Directed Thinking and master aptitudes that are high concept and high touch,” he explains. “We must perform work that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time.”
Another key component of the Conceptual Age workforce is Generation Y or the Millennial Generation (Americans born between 1977-2002). Their presence in the workforce is already being felt. They are successful multitaskers, and are well suited for employers who expect employees to balance a variety of tasks and a professional and personal life. Members of Generation Y consider work a social element in their lives, reports Marie Puybaraud, director of Global WorkPlace Innovation at Johnson Controls and the author of the OXYGENz project report. For this generation, being engaged emotionally in their work and feeling a sense of community is critical. They pursue opportunities to learn and seek work that’s meaningful. Quality of life is also particularly important to them and they understand the relationship between a balanced life and productivity. They are extremely comfortable with modern tools and technologies, have a continuing thirst for learning and personal growth, and want to be creative and have new experiences. They search for jobs that match their passions and talents and don't just stay in jobs for comfort and security.
Because Gen Y-ers are self-starters who value career development, there is an opportunity — and a growing need — for organizations to provide the kind of training that quenches their thirst for growth. "Gen Y-ers … want the autonomy to shape their own careers, and that means providing the tools to allow them to develop personally and professionally, so they have options around where they want to go," Professor Ellen Miller, author of a study on the impact and effects of Generation Y in the workplace (The Reflexive Generation: Young Professionals’ Perspectives on Work, Career and Gender).
- "I want to learn. Learning is at the top of the list. I always want to be in a position where I feel overwhelmed by the potential to learn. I like to surround myself with smart people."
- "I don't necessarily need to know everything, just where to find it."
For this generation, building courses that pile as much information as possible into a tidy package is a bad idea. We need to develop courses that recognize and play to the way this generation learns, which is significantly different from that of previous generations.