Apr 21

piggy bankI enjoyed the Certiport EMEA Partner conference last week and presented my thoughts on how we can turn some of the current tech-education trends into opportunities for our regional distributors.

As usual I talked about the new mobile workforce, the mismatch between skills available and employer needs, and the importance of young people owning their learning paths and skills portfolio, but I also opened the door to one of my favourite concepts of the emotional bank account, originally defined by Stephen Covey.

When you work in consultative sales, it is all about building a strong and long-term relationship with your customers. The work you do, the time you commit, the actions you take, all deposit into an emotional account with the customer that builds your reputation and cements the partnership. Over time, you deposit enough into the account to have lots of credit and if something happens that causes the account to need a withdrawal (a technical error, a mistake, a bit of bad service) then you have enough in the account to keep the relationship strong.

As technology takes over more of the fact- and rules-based decisions, the people who excel at building and maintaining relationships and the emotional bank account with their customers, are the ones who will stand out – this is how people will make a difference in future and where technology is less likely to have a say.

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Mar 20

The ShardI have traversed three continents these last few weeks, from Europe to the west coast of America, then back and across to the Middle East.

The trips all centred around assessment and skills events – culminating in apprentices week in the UK. “Everyone is worried about skills” said the BBC’s Steph McGovern at the CITB Building Futures conference. The challenges are different but the concerns are the same – whether you sit in the US or UK with their growing economies or the Middle East with their large numbers of young people, a shortage of the right skills to meet the needs of employers and their evolving industries will impact progress.

I believe technology doesn’t always help – young people make choices based on cultural changes and technological influences, and yet industries, jobs and the needs of employers are not the same. They must be aligned.

We do have a solution – young people learn from other young people, so let’s showcase our stars and use technology to promote them as case studies of success. In other words, a career in IT can mean working at Sky TV or motor racing, a career in construction might give somebody the opportunity to be in the team that builds the next Shard or Premier League football stadium. Let’s create success stories of young people who love their work and promote them as role models – then use technology to spread the word.

I close with real hope – I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and desire to succeed shown by the apprentices at the JustIT learner awards night where I shared my thoughts on the fusion of technology and education – I will continue to shout from the rooftops, that if you wake up with the attitude, desire and motivation to do a great job, invariably you will do well.

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Mar 05

robot-takeover-130412-office-worker-200x200There is a Future of Work event taking place this week, so I will add my remarks to this field of discussion. It is important to keep perspective and recognise that in this race between computers and people – people need to win. It is key that we find the things that humans are really good at, to make our pitch for the long term.

The work environment is changing. More than 1 billion people will work virtually this year; mobile will extend its dominant position; artificial intelligence and robots could automate 40% of jobs within 20 years. Those most at risk include security guards and financial advisers, but just about every clerical and administrative role is at risk.

Technology is pervading every work environment and so people have to take charge of their careers and re-skill and up-skill themselves for the next role or project in hand. Everyone has to be responsible for their own development.

For the lower skilled or those starting out, I am concerned. There will be fewer job opportunities and weakened job security for them, plus how do they take their first step on the work-progress-skills cycle?

With the need for lower-skilled roles drying up, the most worrying paradox is that we are struggling to fill jobs at a time when we have a record number of people available to fill them. The mismatch shows no signs of abating and parts of Europe have very high unemployment rates for young people. We need to do something about it and give everybody a chance.

Jan 05

Maslow_2014_revised.jpgThe Christmas holidays are just about at an end and people are turning their attentions to the new year and their work. Gifts have been exchanged, clementines and chocolate devoured and the gyms have started their annual marketing campaigns to entice more of us to exercise, if only for two weeks in January.

As the new year rolls in we have other matters to deal with – new terms and skills, even new anxieties. The future of work may well mean no CVs, no performance reviews, no permanence. Business Intelligence might easily be shared in real time via wearable devices, mobile certainly could dominate everything and many business services crowdsourced.

Topping the LinkedIn hottest skills list last year was ‘Statistical Analysis and Data Mining’ and the most popular coding language was ‘Python.’ All of this was new to the average person and business.

The standout thing for me was the sudden loss of time yet it became even more important to assign time to networking, speaking to and meeting important customers and key influencers in our lives. The image above right made me chuckle – I enjoyed my Business Administration classes back in the 80s the most, and no class was complete without Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but last year we added 3 new rows to life’s necessities.

The biggest change of all this year will be ‘FORO’ – the fear of running out, and so our briefcases and satchels will need to include even more cables and devices.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

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Nov 10

Big cheese

American inventor Charles Kettering said, “We should all be concerned about the future because we will spend the rest of our lives there.” With that, more of us are sitting up and taking note.

Technology continues to disrupt all industries and no more so than where it intersects with education. The idea of a single education followed by a single career is long in the past, so we have to take control of our portfolio of skills and continue to upgrade and refine it regardless of the work we do. We have to stay in touch, not just with gadgets and technology but what we know, as the sector we work in evolves at pace.

MOOCs such as FutureLearn are examples of technology helping us managing this requirement – short bursts of learning relevant to an immediate work need – or even an interest. Learning about photography, about wine, film or an historical event, can be the most pleasurable of all, plus it makes for a well-rounded individual.

With careers no longer linear and tenure within job roles around the 3-4 year range, we must learn to adapt, constantly learn, move sideways and even be prepared for downward steps, before we make upward moves on the long journey to the “big cheese” position.

Get ready for the ride, it will be different and is likely to be bumpy.

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Sep 16

DSC_7552I had a great time presenting at the Learning Live Conference in London last week and engaged in some great discussion afterwards. I wanted to share one of my points here, and how we can use change to our advantage.

Our work environment is evolving and more than 1 billion people will work virtually by 2015. Are we thinking about this – can it help us attract new talent, from further afield, and save operational costs?

At the same time, artificial intelligence and robots could automate a high percentage of jobs (40% of jobs within 20 years across the board), as technology pervades every work environment – this means it is down to us as individuals to continue to up-skill and stay in touch, particularly as more and more low-skilled positions are taken over by technology. This will result in fewer job opportunities and weakened job security for the low-skilled. Coupled with that is those who do work hard and seek the next step may well be trapped in low-level entry positions as older workers stay in post longer. Just because the older generation have the cash to spend doesn’t mean they want to retire. In fact, older workers are better engaged and can add more value in the workplace than ever before. In many cases their experience is priceless.

But with change, automation and new technology comes opportunity – we have to believe that – and as Ashok Vaswani, Barclays CEO for Retail Banking said recently, “People are not designed to do the same thing again and again and again. Utilise people where it requires the mind and the application of judgement.”

Let’s think about that.

Aug 02

I attended the Certiport Global Partner Summit and the MOS and ACA World Championships this week in California. Let me explain.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young people enter competitions, at a national level, to see who are the most creative Adobe and most proficient Microsoft Office Specialist users. After months of competition and excitement, around 130 competitors gathered in a hotel at Disney in California this week for an intense conclusion to proceedings. As the results were announced, the young winners ran to the stage to earn their medals and prizes as family, friends and those watching from afar via live broadcast jumped into raptures. So what does this all mean?

For the winners, no doubt fame awaits them in their countries when they return home and probably a gateway to a nice job role in the near future. That is very well deserved. For the IT industry, even more. These world championships highlight everything that is good in our industry. The work the Adobe competitors delivered as part of the Kiva project, for example, could easily have been created by a professional agency. The fact that most of the kids were not native English speakers made it even more remarkable.

I saw the future. It lies with those excited kids having a fantastic time, representing the next generation of IT workers, innovators and companies. My summary of the week was that every IT vendor should have a competition, should invest in the next generation in this way, because it is some of the most powerful and compelling branding and engagement I have ever seen.

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Oct 03

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I was thrilled to be asked by the Pearson Diversity team to present to the interns who joined our organisation this week and I was even more pleased to see how positive they were.

I chose to present something different – with our company tagline being ‘Always Learning’ I didn’t want to just talk about our division and the business we are in, so I told them why I think they are our future! I sprinkled my story with technology of course, but my emphasis was on talent.

I took this direction because I was enthused by a person who inspires me, CEO of Burberry Angela Ahrendts. She recently posted on the importance of storytelling. Each time I have been truly uplifted by a presentation, it was because of the story told and shared, and in the current digitally-driven world, where are we are often overwhelmed with information, rediscovering the age-old principles of storytelling will help us connect and differentiate, so I took that course.

It paid off – I met some great young people, our workforce of now and our leaders of tomorrow, and I had fun telling sharing story.

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Apr 30

A student was asked to describe her good teachers but she couldn’t, explaining that they were all so different, but she could easily describe her bad teachers because they were all the same.

A recent, brilliant report from Sir Michael Barber at our company, Pearson, about the future of education called ‘An Avalanche is Coming’  (www.pearson.com/avalanche) emphasised great teachers as one of the biggest differentiators in learning, and we see it time and again where students of all ages are inspired because of the person that leads their class.

Isn’t that always the case? Whatever a company stands for, is it not always the people building the relationships, doing the deals and serving the customers who are the face of our companies? Therefore why do we attempt to recruit anything but the best to represent us? As the great quotes states, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Some companies I know such as Cisco Systems recruit staff at odd places, such as the finish line of great races, because they figure these are people with true character, grit and determination.

Normal is boring, quirky is memorable and remarkable is the difference between success and failure.

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Mar 14

I enjoyed being a part of the ‘Voice of Apprenticeships’ Conference this week, where I presented immediately before Skills Minister Matthew Hancock MP. I shared my views on how technology is changing not just how we must think about educating the next generation but how we engage and reach these students today.

MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are getting a lot of press currently and the UK’s FutureLearn programme led by the Open University is leading the way. Smartphones and tablets are changing how we absorb information and education must follow suit, in smaller, bite-sized chunks, when and where the learner chooses to digest it.

Education may well take the form of a pick-and-mix bag of choices, but hopefully not as expensive as the pick-and-mix outlets selling confectionery. It may be that the role of the education institution includes tracking and approving building blocks of learning that add up to a unique qualification and that very few degrees actually look the same, but are pieced together based on an individual’s requirements and more importantly, the needs of a job role and the workplace.

What are the choices? History and prestige means the top tier universities will always have a demand for places, because of the prestige of having the institution listed on one’s CV or profile on LinkedIn. But for the rest, there is no choice. The majority of learning establishments have to change their value proposition; a student in a small town in England, or even as far as Africa or Asia, won’t pay to attend a mediocre lecture, when they can learn online from world experts.

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