A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

Investing in learning agility and core capabilities is as important for the individual worker as it is for the decision-making executive. Thinking openly can get us there.

The age of AI is upon us. Emerging technologies give humans some relief from routine tasks and allow us to get back to the creative, adaptable creatures many of us prefer being.

So a shift to developing human skills in the workplace should be a critical focus for organizations. In this part of my series on learning agility, we’ll take a look at some reasons for a sense of urgency over reskilling our workforce and reconnecting to our humanness.

The clock is ticking

If you don’t believe AI conversations affect you, then I suggest reviewing this 2018 McKinsey Report on reskilling in the age of automation, which provides some interesting statistics. Here are a few applicable nuggets:

  • 62% of executives believe they need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce by 2023 due to advancing digitization
  • The US and Europe face a larger threat on reskilling than the rest of the world
  • 70% of execs in companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue state this will affect more than 25% of their employees

No matter where you fall on an organizational chart, automation (and digitalization more generally) is an important topic for you—because the need for reskilling that it introduces will most likely affect you.

But what does this reskilling conversation have to do with core capability development?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at a few statistics curated in a 2019 LinkedIn Global Talent Report.

When surveyed on the topic of soft skills core human capabilities, global companies had this to say:

  • 92% agree that they matter as much or more than “hard skills”
  • 80% said these skills are increasingly important to company success
  • Only 41% have a formal process to identify these skills

Before panicking at the thought of what these stats could mean to you or your company, let’s actually dig into these core capabilities that you already have but may need to brush up on and strengthen.

Core human capabilities

What the heck does all this have to do with learning agility, you may be asking, and why should I care?

I recommend catching up with this introduction to learning agility. There, I define learning agility as “the capacity for adapting to situations and applying knowledge from prior experience—even when you don’t know what to do […], a willingness to learn from all your experiences and then apply that knowledge to tackle new challenges in new situations.” In that piece, we also discussed reasons why characteristics associated with learning agility are among the most sought after skills on the planet today.

Too often, these skills go by the name “soft skills.” Explanations usually go something like this: “hard skills” are more like engineering- or science-based skills and, well, “non-peopley” related things. But what many call “soft skills” are really human skills—core capabilities anyone can cultivate. As leaders, we need to continue to change the narrative concerning these core capabilities (for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the distinction frequently re-entrenches a gender bias, as if skills somehow fit on a spectrum from “soft to hard.”)

For two decades, I’ve heard decision makers choose not to invest in people or leadership development because “there isn’t money in soft skills” and “there’s no way to track the ROI” on developing them. Fortunately, we’re moving out of this tragic mindset, as leaders recognize how digital transformation has reshaped how we connect, build community, and organize for work. Perhaps this has something to do with increasingly pervasive reports (and blowups) we see across ecosystems regarding toxic work culture or broken leadership styles. Top consulting firms doing global talent surveys continue to identify crucial breakdowns in talent development pointing right back to our topic at hand.

We all have access to these capabilities, but often we’ve lacked examples to learn by or have had little training on how to put them to work. Let’s look at the list of the most-needed human skills right now, shall we?

Topping the leaderboard moving into 2020:

  • Communication
  • Relationship building
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving (CQ)
  • Learning agility and adaptability quotient (AQ)
  • Creativity

If we were to take the items on this list and generalize them into three categories of importance for the future of work, it would look like:

  1. Emotional Quotient
  2. Adaptability Quotient
  3. Creativity Quotient

Some of us have been conditioned to think we’re “not creative” because the term “creativity” refers only to things like art, design, or music. However, in this case, “creativity” means the ability to combine ideas, things, techniques, or approaches in new ways—and it’s crucial to innovation. Solving problems in new ways is the most important skill companies look for when trying to solve their skill-gap problems. (Spoiler alert: This is learning agility!) Obviously, our generalized list ignores many nuances (not to mention additional skills we might develop in our people and organizations as contexts shift); however, this is a really great place to start.

Where do we go from here?

In order to accommodate the demands of tomorrow’s organizations, we must:

  • look at retraining and reskilling from early education models to organizational talent development programs, and
  • adjust our organizational culture and internal frameworks to support being human and innovative.

This means exploring open principles, agile methodologies, collaborative work models, and continuous states of learning across all aspects of your organization. Digital transformation and reskilling on core capabilities leaves no one—and no department—behind.

In our next installment, we’ll begin digging into these core capabilities and examine the five dimensions of learning agility with simple ways to apply them.

This article series was originally published on opensource.com.

Part One: A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

The ability to learn and adapt quickly isn’t something our hiring algorithms typically identify. But by ignoring it, we’re overlooking insightful and innovative job candidates.

I think everyone can agree that the workplace has changed dramatically in the last decade—or is in the process of changing, depending on where you’re currently working. The landscape has evolved. Distributed leadership, project-based work models, and cross-functional solution building are commonplace. In essence, the world is going open.

And yet our talent acquisition strategies, development models, and internal systems have shifted little (if at all) to meet the demands these shifts in our external work have created.

In this three-part series, let’s take a look at what is perhaps the game-changing key to acquisition, retention, engagement, innovation, problem-solving, and leadership in this emerging future: learning agility. We’ll discuss not only what learning agility is, but how your organization’s leaders can create space for agile learning on teams and in departments.

Algorithmed out of opportunities

For the last decade, I’ve freelanced as an independent consultant. Occasionally, when the stress of entrepreneurial, project-based work gets heavy, I search out full-time positions. As I’m sure you know, job searching requires hours of research—and often concludes in dead-ends. On a rare occasion, you find a great fit (the culture looks right and you have every skill the role could need and more!), except for one small thing: a specific educational degree.

More times than I can count, I’ve gotten “algorithmed out” of even an initial conversation about a new position. What do I mean by that exactly?

If your specific degree—or, in my case, lack thereof—doesn’t meet the one listed, the algorithmically driven job portal spits me back out. I’ve received a “no thank you” email within thirty seconds of hitting submit.

So why is calling this out so important?

Hiring practices have changed very little in both closed and open organizations. Sticking with these outdated practices puts us in danger of overlooking amazing candidates capable of accelerating innovation and becoming amazing leaders in our organizations.

Developing more inclusive and open hiring processes will require work. For starters, it’ll require focus on a key competency so often overlooked as part of more traditional, “closed” processes: Learning agility.

Just another buzzword or key performance indicator?

While “learning agility” is not a new term, it’s one that organizations clearly still need help taking into account. Even in open organizations, we tend to overlook this element by focusing too rigidly on a candidate’s degree history or current role when we should be taking a more holistic view of the individual.

One crucial element of adaptability is learning agility. It is the capacity for adapting to situations and applying knowledge from prior experience—even when you don’t know what to do. In short, it’s a willingness to learn from all your experiences and then apply that knowledge to tackle new challenges in new situations.

Every experience we encounter in life can teach us something if we pay attention to it. All of these experiences are educational and useful in organizational life. In fact, as Colin Willis notes in his recent article on informal learning, 70%‒80% of all job-related knowledge isn’t learned in formal training programs. And yet we’re conditioned to think that only what you were paid to do in a formal role or the degree you once earned speaks solely to your potential value or fit for a particular role.

Likewise, in extensive research conducted over years, Korn Ferry has shown that learning agility is also a predictor of long-term performance and leadership potential. In an article on leadership, Korn Ferry notes that “individuals exhibiting high levels of learning agility can adapt quickly in unfamiliar situations and even thrive amid chaos.” Chaos—there’s a word I think we would all use to describe the world we live in today.

Organizations continue to overlook this critical skill (too few U.S. companies consider candidates without college degrees), even though it’s a proven component of success in a volatile, complex, ambiguous world? Why?

And as adaptability and collaboration—two key open principles—sit at the top of the list of job skills needed in 2019, perhaps talent acquisition conversations should stop focusing on how to measure adaptability and shift to sourcing learning agile people so problems can get solved faster.

Learning agility has dimensions

A key to unlocking our adaptability during rapid change is learning agility. Agile people are great at integrating information from their experiences and then using that information to navigate unfamiliar situations. This complex set of skills allows us to draw patterns from one context and apply them to another context.

So when you’re looking for an agile person to join your team, what exactly are you looking for?

Start with getting to know someone beyond a resume, because learning-agile people have more lessons, more tools, and more solutions in their history that can be valuable when your organization is facing new challenges.

Next, understand the five dimensions of learning agility, according to Korn Ferry’s research.

Mental Agility: This looks like thinking critically to decipher complex problems and expanding possibilities by seeing new connections.

People Agility: This looks like understanding and relating to other people to empower collective performance.

Change Agility: This looks like experimentation, being curious, and effectively dealing with uncertainty.

Results Agility: This looks like delivering results in first-time situations by inspiring teams and exhibiting a presence that builds confidence in themselves and others.

Self-Awareness: This looks like the ability to reflect on oneself, knowing oneself well, and understanding how one’s behaviors impact others.

While finding someone with all these traits may seem like sourcing a unicorn, you’ll find learning agility is more common than you think. In fact, your organization is likely already full of agile people, but your culture and systems don’t support agile learning.

In the next part of this series, we’ll explore how you can tap into this crucial skill and create space for agile learning every day. Until then, do what you can to become more aware of the lessons you encounter today that will help you solve problems tomorrow.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

Part Two: A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Simplifying Organizational Change: A Guide for the Perplexed

Simplifying Organizational Change: A Guide for the Perplexed

Here’s a 4-step, open process for making change easier—both for you and your organization.

Most organizational leaders have encountered a certain paralysis around efforts to implement culture change—perhaps because of perceived difficulty or the time necessary for realizing our work. But change is only as difficult as we choose to make it. In order to lead successful change efforts, we must simplify our understanding and approach to change.

Change isn’t something rare. We live everyday life in a continuous state of change—from grappling with the speed of innovation to simply interacting with the environment around us. Quite simply, change is how we process, disseminate, and adopt new information. And whether you’re leading a team or an organization—or are simply breathing—you’ll benefit from a more focused, simplified approach to change. Here’s a process that can save you time and reduce frustration.

Three interactions with change

Everyone interacts with change in different ways. Those differences are based on who we are, our own unique experiences, and our core beliefs. In fact, only 5% of decision making involves conscious processing. Even when you don’t think you’re making a decision, you are actually making a decision (that is, to not take action).

So you see, two actors are at play in situations involving change. The first is the human decision maker. The second is the information coming to the decision maker. Both are present in three sets of interactions at varying stages in the decision-making process.

Engaging change

First, we must understand that uncertainty is really the result of “new information” we must process. We must accept where we are, at that moment, while waiting for additional information. Engaging with change requires us to trust—at the very least, ourselves and our capacity to manage—as new information continues to arrive. Everyone will respond to new information differently, and those responses are based on multiple factors: general hardwiring, unconscious needs that need to be met to feel safe, and so on. How do you feel safe in periods of uncertainty? Are you routine driven? Do you need details or need to assess risk? Are you good with figuring it out on the fly? Or does safety feel like creating something brand new?

Navigating change

“Navigating” doesn’t necessarily mean “going around” something safely. It’s knowing how to “get through it.” Navigating change truly requires “all hands on deck” in order to keep everything intact and moving forward as we encounter each oncoming wave of new information. Everyone around you has something to contribute to the process of navigation; leverage them for “smooth sailing.”

Adopting change

Only a small set of members in your organization will be truly comfortable with adopting change. But that committed and confident minority can spread the fire of change and help you grow some innovative ideas within your organization. Consider taking advantage of what researchers call “the pendulum effect,” which holds that a group as small as 5% of an organization’s population can influence a crowd’s direction (the other 95% will follow along without realizing it). Moreover, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10% of a population holds an unshakable belief, that belief will always be adopted by a majority. Findings from this cognitive study have implications for the spread of innovations and movements within a collective group of people. Opportunities for mass adoption are directly related to your influence with the external parties around you.

A useful matrix to guide culture change

So far, we’ve identified three “interactions” every person, team, or department will experience with change: “engaging,” “navigating,” and “adopting.” When we examine the work of implementing change in the broader context of an organization (any kind), we can also identify three relationships that drive the success of each interaction: “people,” “capacity,” and “information.”

Here’s a brief list of considerations you should make—at every moment and with every relationship—to help you build roadmaps thoughtfully.


Organizational success comes from the overlap of awareness and action of the “I” and the “We.”

  • Individuals (I) are aware of and engage based on their natural response strength.
  • Teams (We) are aware of and balance their responsibilities based on the Individual strengths by initiative.
  • Leaders (I/We) leverage insight based on knowing their (I) and the collective (We).


“Capacity” applies to skills, processes, and culture that is clearly structured, documented, and accessible with your organization. It is the “space” within which you operate and achieve solutions.

  • Current state awareness allows you to use what and who you have available and accessible through your known operational capacity.
  • Future state needs will show you what is required of you to learn, or stretch, in order to bridge any gaps; essentially, you will design the recoding of your organization.


  • Access to information is readily available to all based on appropriate needs within protocols.
  • Communication flows easily and is reciprocated at all levels.
  • Communication flow is timely and transparent.


  • Balance responses from both individuals and the collective will impact your outcomes.
  • Balance the I with the We. This allows for responses to co-exist in a seamless, collaborative way—which fuels every project.


  • Skills: Assuring a continuous state of assessment and learning through various modalities allows you to navigate with ease as each person graduates their understanding in preparation for the next iteration of change.
  • Culture: Be clear on goals and mission with a supported ecosystem in which your teams can operate by contributing their best efforts when working together.
  • Processes: Review existing processes and let go of anything that prevents you from evolving. Open practices and methodologies do allow for a higher rate of adaptability and decision making.
  • Utilize Talent: Discover who is already in your organization and how you can leverage their talent in new ways. Go beyond your known teams and seek out sources of new perspectives.


  • Be clear on your mission.
  • Be very clear on your desired endgame so everyone knows what you are navigating toward (without clearly defined and posted directions, it’s easy to waste time, money and efforts resulting in missed targets).


  • Behaviors have a critical impact on influence and adoption.
  • For internal adoption, consider the pendulum of thought swung by the committed few.


  • Sustainability: Leverage people who are more routine and legacy-oriented to help stabilize and embed your new initiatives.
  • Allows your innovators and co-creators to move into the next phase of development and begin solving problems while other team members can perform follow-through efforts.


  • Be open and transparent with your external communication.
  • Lead the way in what you do and how you do it to create a tidal wave of change.
  • Remember that mass adoption has a tipping point of 10%.

Four steps to simplify change

You now understand what change is and how you are processing it. You’ve seen how you and your organization can reframe various interactions with it. Now, let’s examine the four steps to simplify how you interact with and implement change as an individual, team leader, or organizational executive.

1. Understand change

Change is receiving and processing new information and determining how to respond and participate with it (think personal or organizational operating system). Change is a reciprocal action between yourself and incoming new information (think system interface). Change is an evolutionary process that happens in layers and stages in a continuous cycle (think data processing, bug fixes, and program iterations).

2. Know your people

Change is personal and responses vary by context. People’s responses to change are not indicators of the speed of adoption. Knowing how your people and your teams interact with change allows you to balance and optimize your efforts to solving problems, building solutions and sustaining implementations. Are they change makers, fast followers, innovators, stabilizers? When you know how you, or others, process change, you can leverage your risk mitigators to sweep for potential pitfalls; and, your routine minded folks to be responsible for implementation follow through.

3. Know your capacity

Your capacity to implement widespread change will depend on your culture, your processes, and decision-making models. Get familiar with your operational capacity and guardrails (process and policy).

4. Prepare for Interaction

Each interaction uses your people, capacity (operational), and information flow. Working with the stages of change is not always a linear process and may overlap at certain points along the way. Understand that people feed all engagement, navigation, and adoption actions.

Humans are built for adaptation to our environments. Yes, any kind of change can be scary at first. But it need not involve some major new implementation with a large, looming deadline that throws you off. Knowing that you can take a simplified approach to change, hopefully, you’re able to engage new information with ease. Using this approach over time—and integrating it as habit—allows for both the I and the We to experience continuous cycles of change without the tensions of old.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

See more work on Open leadership + culture

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

If you’re looking for talented people you can turn into cultural doppelgängers—rather than seeking to align productive differences toward a common goal—you’re doing it wrong.

Talent leaders should hire for “culture fit”—at least, that’s what we’ve heard.

For decades, actually, that’s been the most widely recommended (and generally accepted) best practice. The term “culture fit” has itself created an industry segment worth billions of dollars.

Today, however, conventional wisdom is coming under scrutiny. And in light of today’s accelerated pace of innovation, I would argue that hiring for culture fit is no longer advisable—nor is it a method for achieving sustainable growth. It’s just not the best way to grow or sustain engagement and productivity in teams or organizations.

If you’re hiring for culture fit, you’re doing it wrong. To build, scale, and sustain your workforce to meet the demands of Industry 4.0, you’ll need to take four crucial actions when seeking external talent or building internal teams. In this chapter, I’ll explore them.

1. Align talent to these four cultural identities (or environments)

“Culture” is a broad term, and it can mean many different things to different people. Some groups will define it as something like “a core set of values and practices.” Others view it more like “their style” (think nap rooms and beer on tap in the break room).

But, what does the term “culture” truly encompass?

According to the Business Dictionary, “organizational culture” is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.” It’s the ethos, values, and frameworks for how a company conducts itself internally and externally. In other words, an organization’s culture includes its core values, its expectations for behavior, its decision making frameworks, how it conducts itself with others, how its information flow operates, its power structures—even how one is allowed to express oneself within the organization. This cultural identity is crucial, as it affects productivity, performance, employee engagement, and customer relations.

When thinking about culture, we should be thinking about alignment rather than fit. “Fit” implies that your organization seeks to indoctrinate new members into its specific way of life—to clone its vision of the ideal member in everyone who joins it. When we talk about “fit” we create the potential for exclusion. It prompts us to seek someone who already embodies the values and principles we think are best (then seek to “fit” them into a pre-existing spot in our organizations), and ignore others.

Achieving “alignment,” however, is different. Alignment involves embracing diversity of thought and building inclusive, innovative, community-driven teams that are all oriented toward shared goals, even if they look and think differently from one another.

The necessity of thinking about “alignment” rather than “culture fit” becomes even more apparent when we examine the complexity of organizational culture. Every organization has four separate cultures (yes, you read that correctly!). Aligning talent “with culture” means aligning it with: your main culture, the subculture of the department, the team culture, and your geographic culture. Visualize the engine that runs your organization. You’ll see gears that move you along. Then visualize small gears for your people, team, departments, verticals, and your main organization. Each of these gears contributes to the next in order to meet goals and propel the business forward. When we have well-oiled machines (that is, when everyone is doing something better together), we are able to propel our mission and realize our organizational vision.

Let me explain them in more detail.

The main culture

This is your overarching company ethos, your “way of doing things.” It’s the primary “gear” that’s moving you externally in the market. It’s what others recognize as “you” and, ultimately, is why clients come to you. It is the “who you are” part of your culture. When seeking alignment, look for:

  • General characteristics and behaviors that agree with who you are
  • Brand fit and representation that aligns
  • Passion or purpose that flows into organizational mission

The subculture

Verticals or departments bring their own values to the organization’s cultural mix. Operationally, each behaves differently and pursues different goals, all of which feed into the main culture. For example, engineers building solutions think in very different ways than marketing creatives do. The goals of solution builders are very different than those of creatives. Be aware of the mix. While remaining open and inclusive in your hiring practices, don’t overlook the dynamics of a subculture. In this relationship look for:

  • Ability to cross-collaborate
  • Open communication practices
  • Big-picture thinking
  • General energy and personality fit
  • Thinking styles

The team culture

The greatest alignment you seek is right here. Team culture determines the team’s manner of working together, day-to-day, to solve problems. Team culture drives efficiency, productivity, innovation, engagement, and results. This is what allows you to build, scale, and sustain. When thinking about alignment, look for:

  • How a person responds to new information and then contributes to the process – you’ll want a well balanced team to drive all aspects of change, not just natural innovators.
  • Communication styles
  • Personality styles
  • Behaviors and thought practices
  • Alignment to open values
  • Individual “magic” (see below) and potential for (and desire for) for growth

The geographic culture

Think of geographic culture not as an engine gear itself, but rather the “grease” that aids in frictionless movement. This cultural filter might not directly contribute to meeting goals of an organization, department or team. It does, however, contribute to reducing conflict, eliminating misunderstanding, and communication delays. You’ll be looking to align with local geographical norms and global views. Considering this angle of potential alignment, look for:

  • An understanding of the geographical culture
  • A willingness to learn and integrate geographical norms
  • An awareness and intelligence of the practices, norms or variances from one’s own

2. Look for the magic

If you’re seeking people to just “fill a job,” then you’re doing it wrong.

If you think about the people you bring into your organization as partners instead of employees, you’ll have a better rate of return on your relationships. This mindset of employing partners, co-creators, and collaborators to solve problems for your clients provides a more inclusive, open approach. We use technology to “do things.” But when you take the time to find the magic within people, they will not only be engaged and perform better, but also build careers alongside you.

When assessing specific competencies, be sure to:

  • Push beyond a resume, CV, or formal degree
  • Look beyond what someone has been “paid to do” (life experience and volunteer roles actually yield amazing competencies in people)
  • Look beyond a role or title someone has held previously
  • Look for people who are not happy staying in their lanes. The potential lies in someone who seeks opportunities for growth and challenges to stretch themselves.

Remember, of course, that the demands of Industry 4.0 will require:

  • Ability and capacity to engage with fast cycles of change
  • Interpersonal skills like communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence
  • Leadership skills for running projects, teams and organizations
  • Open behaviors and values
  • Capacity to navigate open process and decision making models

And when interviewing for talent that aligns with your organizational culture, consider asking:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where or how do you want to get involved from a technical perspective?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What is one challenge you would like to overcome?
  • What perspective on teaming do you have?
  • How do you see yourself as a leader?

3. Be open in your sourcing

Becoming a dynamic, inclusive organization requires an organizational culture built on open values. Only true diversity of thought can produce innovations at the level required to thrive today.

We’ve been working to break down barriers to diversity in the workplace for decades, and we still have a tremendous way to go in our effort to close gaps. “Diversity” goes beyond religion, gender orientation, ethnicity, and so on. We must stop focusing on the labels society has assigned others so we “know where they fit.” That is a fear-based model of control.

Building our teams based on “fit” can actually create exclusive tribalism rather than what we actually intend: a sense of belonging. For example, employing hiring practices that seek talent from one primary background or educational institution will end up with exclusive environments that lack diversity of thought (even though they might represent good “culture fits!”).

We want to have people from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, and with different mindsets, so that we can collaborate and create unique solutions. Your organization should have no place for a “them versus us” mentality, which already seeds a broken system. Doing better together takes a variety of perspectives and experiences.

After a nine-month field study eventually published in the American Sociological Review, Lauren Rivera, associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, concluded that when hiring managers talk about “fit,” they focus on things like hobbies and biographies. Have you ever heard of the airport test, the question of “would you enjoy sitting next to this person on a long flight?” Rivera stated in her report, “In many respects, [hiring managers] hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.”

The tech world has become obsessed with hiring for culture fit, and has done itself (and the entire organizational ecosystem) a disservice as it has fed a growing diversity problem. For open ecosystems—communities and other organizations—to stay true to their values, building heterogeneous teams can boost performance, new ideas, and gain advantage.

4. Build (talent), don’t buy

Last year I interviewed Aaron Atkins of Slalom about a more open approach to talent acquisition. Aaron heads up acquisition in Southern California for this open organization. He shared that Slalom doesn’t seek out the “A-Players” but rather seeks people with potential for aligning creatively with the organization’s goals. Once candidates are a part of the team, Slalom begins to build talent and create utility players. Atkins had this to say about a new way forward:

“It is how we are educating and training our new folks to move towards culture change. This all comes back to a build versus buy mentality. So some organizations are large enough that they can go in and buy. They can go and acquire a new company, or they can go hire a bunch of people in the sense that we’re going to buy these folks.

Slalom is much more of the build mentality of—how do we identify the right people, with the right capabilities, and train them to have the right skill sets. So it’s moving more towards training and development of building our next level of talent.”

Slalom realized they had clients seeking specific technical talents and there was an open space that needed serving. Recognizing they were losing money because they didn’t have the “right number of folks” was not okay with them. Instead, they set about internally building competencies within their existing talent pool. Now, whenever someone is on the bench and not at a client site, they’re trained in the new skills to serve clients needs. Slalom creates utility players that can be cross-functional across a wide variety of solutions and services, which only increases their value from a market perspective.

Your challenge, then, is to take a hard look at your organization’s hiring practices and methodologies. Transforming your organizational culture—your way of doing things, including the way you work—will require taking new approaches to build truly open organizations. Open organizations, at their core, must stand on all five principles to function and produce results. Begin by building inclusive practices as you seek out potential in either your existing talent pool or those you are looking to hire.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

At the heart of what we call “digital transformation” isn’t just technology—it’s people, too. When we forget that, we put our organizations in danger.

We live in an age of innovation featuring rapid cycles of change. Futurist Gerd Leonhardt estimates we will see more change between 2015 and 2035 than in the prior 300 years of modern history. To effectively understand this change, we need to step back and see the large scale impact of this age.

The source of the changes is far more than “digital transformation” or “emerging technologies.” We are a connected and aware generation who consumes information in mass volumes in real-time through handheld devices. Policy and regulation are changing. Political upheaval is occurring. New business models are emerging. New markets are appearing. We are part of a global market and a much larger ecosystem—and as with all ecosystems, the slightest shift can cause radical changes throughout the whole of the system.

Transformation beyond the digital requires a new approach to the way we build agile, open organizations—and, it will need to start with how we empower our people to engage continuous cycles of change. With the advent of Industry 4.0, we need empowered, engaged change agents more than ever.

Humans drive change. Humans sustain change. And failing to invest in people as they grapple with change could be problematic for your business.

The importance of now

The cycles of innovation will not be slowing down (in fact, it will be speeding up). To really understand the urgency and importance of people development today, consider this.

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey offers the subtitle “Millennials are disappointed in business and are unprepared for Industry 4.0″—before even launching into the study. The survey’s findings lead to a staggering awareness that organizational and people team leaders have not taken Millennial workforce development seriously. They are underprepared for the speed of innovation and for basic teaming skills.

Why should you care, you ask? According to 2017 statistics:

  • 56 million Millennials currently are in the workforce; making up the largest group
  • Gen Z began entering the workforce in 2016 and now comprise 5% of the workforce
  • Millennials will be 75% of our workforce by 2025

As the composition of technologies inside our organizations changes, so does the composition of people—and that means the composition of expectations is changing, too. If you expect your company to not only succeed but thrive in the 21st Century, you’ll need to make an immediate investment in interpersonal and managerial competency training.

The engine of change

The rules of engagement have changed. Transformation needed for our workforce, business models and organizational ecosystems must go beyond “digital transformation” alone. However, our approach to building applications, systems, and new technologies cannot be the same one we use use to train, engage, and prepare people. Digital transformation, policy and regulation changes, new business models—all are tools, vehicles aiding the achievement of new ends or goals. But they’re not driving the change. The change engine itself is fueled by people.

Our efforts to make technology work for humans requires applying human dynamics to solutions rather than just technologies.

An inclusive, holistic approach

Change is personal and response varies by context.

For example: You’ve probably worked on projects with someone who seemed resistant to the initiative. They may have asked 1,000 questions. Or they wanted to continue to reiterate, over and over, the legacy of what had already been built. As an innovator, your likely assumption was that they were being “wet blankets” to the team and initiative—and, had no place on an innovation team. (Am I right?!)

Or maybe this was the case: As a detail-oriented risk mitigator, you might have been given a project full of creatives who you don’t understand. It is frustrating. The need to move fast, without details, or a risk assessment—this boggles your mind. You’re thinking, “Vision is great and all, but let’s talk about the potential pitfalls along the way.” It has raised all of your red flags, and your assumption is they aren’t in touch with reality—and might not even be that good at business.

Each of these (too common) scenarios depicts a mismatch of attitudes toward change. In my work, we’ve discovered that people engage change in nine different ways across a spectrum of filters. The output of the change engagement—a “change language,” if you will—reveals a person’s positive contribution to either drive change (and aid in adaptability) or to optimize and sustain the change. When combined with interpersonal competency development, this awareness of positive contribution allows each person in an organization or on a team to understand how to navigate change by leveraging their strengths.

This awareness also helps people avoid feeling displaced or like they’re not contributing value to a process or project. It also provides them with a communication style that aids in their being understood. Taken together, this increases engagement and fulfillment in the work, as they’re operating from a more natural and comfortable position.

When a leader then leverages this information to build a well-balanced, high-performing team, they’re providing the entire organizational ecosystem with an engine of change that can now “surf the wave” of innovation rather than be caught in the undertow.

Each person in your ecosystem has the capacity for positive contribution and value to either drive change, adapt, optimize, or sustain change. Everyone has the capacity to be a valuable contributor, to channel the way they engage with change, and to make it work for everyone. This understanding combined with interpersonal competency training is what will drive the engine of change.

To become a true open organization, the shift to people development with interpersonal and change competency development must be a top priority in order to sustain growth.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Proof Openness Scales

Proof Openness Scales

Lessons from Slaloms successful growth prove that openness scales.

Recently I’ve had the immense pleasure of discovering Slalom, and I was fascinated to learn how they do open. Aaron Atkins and Shannon Heydt, both working in talent acquisition for Slalom, sat down with me to share challenges related to scalability—and explain how recruiting and talent management play a strong part in shaping company growth.

Slalom’s case is rich and illustrative. But to understand it, we must first understand scalability.

Scalability is the ability of something to adapt to increasing demands. Meeting your business demands starts with your people and frameworks far before you fulfill a service or product.

Scaling is also quite challenging. It can involve (literally) years of doing the hard work with a slower growth pattern and seemingly overnight an explosion of growth occurs to meet your business demands.

When this explosion occurs, workflows suddenly become inefficient. Talent management struggles to keep up with onboarding, retention, coaching, development, staffing appropriately, and so on. What worked last quarter will no longer support the ecosystem you’re facing today.

Scaling in the open

In open organizations, scaling requires a strong identity; successful scaling relies on who you are to carry you and your people through times of intense growth. I’m talking about your core ideas and values. And I don’t mean the wall art in the break room with the really cool font that reiterates your value statement.

Instead, your organization’s values, ideas, and frameworks should be heard and felt through all interactions modeled from top leadership to the new hire. It should be a living and breathing presence in the room because it is such an integral part of your culture and people.

If you were to build a foundation for a house with different size blocks and heights, the house would collapse as you began to place structural weight on it. One common misconception about open organizations is that they lack structure. To the contrary: in open organizations strong, obvious structures and frameworks set the flow for the ecosystem participants desire. In open organizations, however, structures don’t just allow you to run an effective and efficient organization, but also allow for the emergence self-leadership and autonomy while still meeting strategic goals.

How you address your processes, workflows, and frameworks can make or break you. But, most importantly, your communication strategy and execution will be paramount to your organizational success.

Let’s take a look at how an organization operating with an open mindset—like Slalom—is handling the challenges of scalability, within their value-driven ecosystem, and with intention.

Tipping point challenges

Founded in 2001, Slalom aims to do consulting differently. It has now landed on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work (2016). Founders wanted to do purposeful work—and to do it in a way that allowed them to maintain the ability to do great work for their clients.

This meant they had to break typical organizational frameworks and build an open culture. They’ve been experiencing rapid growth, and like all organizations amid waves of change, continue to experience both wins and challenges.

Slalom noted several challenges to tackle when they hit their tipping points: consistency across markets, people development, and communication. Their approach to scalability is to intentionally build a strong, sustainable ecosystem through recruiting, people development and feedback. They quickly learned that what worked for 80 consultants doesn’t apply to the more than 4,500 they now employ.

One thing that has propelled them forward is their cultural ecosystem.

Recruiting for culture

Slalom is intentional about who and how they hire. They seek a culture fit first.

What does that mean for them? For starters, it means:

  • experienced hires with different perspectives and a strong competency for feedback
  • talent acquisition based on relationship first (investing in getting to know a person as more than a resume)
  • looking for innovation tendencies, communication skills, coachability, knowledge and self-governance competencies

Leveraging people

Talent managers at Slalom have found that some people struggle with the responsibility of guiding their own career pathways. So they placed “Learning Leaders” in every market to support continuing education and to provide guidance and empowerment for career ownership.

Slalom encourages innovation and problem solving, which leads to a merit-based promotion system. Without the confines of a “set track to follow,” employees are free to fill gaps they see when they bring solutions to the table.

“We strive to create diversity for our culture,” says Atkins. “We can then use different mindsets to come together as a team and deliver the best solutions for our clients.”

Feedback loops and honest conversations

When an annual culture survey revealed that communication was not keeping up with growth, Slalom took the findings seriously. Leaders took to each market to discuss and ask for shared dialog.

As a result, an incredible number of 9,000 ideas emerged from all over the country. After filtering down the ideas to trends, passions, and strategic directions, Slalom had a strong base for their organizational direction based on feedback from their employees. They ask, listen and put feedback into action.

Slalom also upped its communication game in a world demanding digital and real-time feedback, launching a series of videos from each core leader to explain strategic objectives. By taking such a personal approach, they’ve closed gaps that can occur in both distributed workforces and those that have grown to a significant size. The practice uses transparency and human connection to engage employees.

Slalom has also integrated real-time feedback loops into weekly time submissions. Asking their people (in the moment) how things are going keeps the feedback fresh and real. Closing these gaps can increase retention and improve work efforts.

It isn’t easy

Scaling isn’t easy. Even with a strong ecosystem in place, one powered by clear values and vision, growth comes with a fair share of challenges.

However, investing in your ecosystem from the beginning will help lessen the growing pains. Create strong structures for your people to operate. Leverage the wealth of talent within your people. Communicate with transparency and open real-time feedback loops to smooth transitions. Remain agile, and you’ll find the right sustainable business models that work for you.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

For more case studies, download The Open Organization Workbook

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Forbes: Seven Ways Companies Can Realign Culture And Vision

Forbes: Seven Ways Companies Can Realign Culture And Vision

Seven Ways Companies Can Realign Culture And Vision

Today’s leaders know that culture and vision are what enable a diverse team to work together toward common goals. This means leaders must take steps to shape the culture and enforce the vision in a cohesive way — and sometimes get rid of past structures that no longer serve the business.

But where do you start? The first step is to recognize when the two are not in alignment.Next , begin taking small steps in the direction that best supports the business’s vision. If you’re diligent about where you focus your attention and the ways you communicate, your team will follow suit.

To learn more about how leaders can realign culture and vision, we asked members of Forbes Coaches Council to share their opinions. Here’s what they said:

Read more here on Forbes…


Know Your Vision, Know Your People And Be Adaptable

Use your vision and values as a compass for all decisions in order to stay in alignment to where you are going. Make sure you have the right people on your team. Listen to and know your people as they are mission critical to your success. Stay flexible on the journey while remaining true to your values. Remember that your culture will change as your organization evolves. – Jen Kelchner


This article has a mention by Jen Kelchner or is authored by Jen Kelchner and was originally posted on Forbes.com. Jen Kelchner is a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council and frequently writes on leadership and the workplace.

Forbes: 12 Experts Discuss The Difference Between Leadership And Influence

Forbes: 12 Experts Discuss The Difference Between Leadership And Influence

12 Experts Discuss The Difference Between Leadership And Influence

Leadership and influence are related (and even sometimes used interchangeably), but they’re not one and the same. If your goal is to become a leader and an influencer, understanding the difference is crucial.

For coaches whose job it is to help managers, executives and entrepreneurs master the skills they need to lead effectively, subtleties like these matter a great deal. Below, 12 Forbes Coaches Council members explain each concept in depth and offer some high-level examples to illustrate the impact of each.

Read more here on Forbes…


Influence Can Happen Without Leadership Yet Will Be Fleeting

Being a leader has more to do with who you are than influence. Influence can happen without leadership yet will be fleeting. The magic formula is impact + grow + leadership= influence. Create areas of impact and growth for others in your life/business as you walk out being who you are as a leader. This combination creates organic influence and leaders become beacons for change. – Jen Kelchner


This article has a mention by Jen Kelchner or is authored by Jen Kelchner and was originally posted on Forbes.com. Jen Kelchner is a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council and frequently writes on leadership and the workplace.

Forbes: Should Culture Be Created Intentionally, Or Should It Be An Evolutionary Process?

Forbes: Should Culture Be Created Intentionally, Or Should It Be An Evolutionary Process?

Should Culture Be Created Intentionally, Or Should It Be An Evolutionary Process?

Culture” is more than just a buzzword. If you’re a leader in today’s business world, you know culture is a driving force of success.

First, a strong culture helps companies attract and retain employees. Second, a strongculture strengthens the company’s brand and helps employees stay aligned while working toward goals.

But should you create culture intentionally or let it be an evolutionary process? We asked members of Forbes Coaches Council. Here’s what they said:

Read more here on Forbes…


Intentional Foundations Prepares You for Organic Growth

Culture creation must be intentional to be in alignment with who you are and what you want your company to represent in the marketplace. You’ll attract the right employees and partners to fuel your performance. Just as people grow, your culture will develop organically over time and adjustments will be made to fit who you are becoming. Be conscious of the legacy you want your culture to create.

– Jen Kelchner


This article has a mention by Jen Kelchner or is authored by Jen Kelchner and was originally posted on Forbes.com. Jen Kelchner is a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council and frequently writes on leadership and the workplace.

Forbes: 13 Ideas To Promote Female Equality In The Workplace

Forbes: 13 Ideas To Promote Female Equality In The Workplace

13 Ideas To Promote Female Equality In The Workplace

Recent data shows that there is a 21% pay gap GPS +0.40% between female and male workers and a third of businesses have no women in senior management roles.

There’s a number of things businesses can do to address this, like having salary audits, encouraging more open conversations, and assigning in-house champions.

Below, 13 coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer more tangible solutions to promote female equality in the workplace.

Read more here on Forbes…


Walk It Out in Daily Life

It goes beyond our workplace to our home life, too. What we teach our young girls and women about who they are and how they can contribute starts early. Walking it out in our actions and communications removes fear and creates places for change, including the current workplace.   – Jen Kelchner


This article has a mention by Jen Kelchner or is authored by Jen Kelchner and was originally posted on Forbes.com. Jen Kelchner is a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council and frequently writes on leadership and the workplace.

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