A few years ago we were considering the so-called soft skills as a fluffy set of “nice-to-have things”, whereas the real core of one’s qualification was represented by the technical skills. The world is changing and we have several pieces of evidence that corroborate the shift in the competencies paradigm and in the associated learning processes to develop the competencies of the future. A recent study conducted by the Hamilton Project pointed out that in the last 30 years the impact of social skills on success at work increased more than 15%, while the success associated with technical skills remained stable. The Future of Jobs Report points out that, in 2020, emotional intelligence, creativity and people management will be on the top of the list of the skills required. Such new pivotal role of social skills can be explained by the different needs that are triggered by the market complexity and acceleration technological advancement. Individuals need to be able to combine their expertise with those possessed by others in a short time frame. We cannot cope alone with such complexity, but we can learn how to collaborate with others to keep the pace of the change.
Organizations that want to succeed must embrace and consider this new paradigm and need to design learning environments that favor the development of such skills. The development of social skills needs a lifelong learning approach that is based on different pillars:
The process should be continuous for allowing a constant feedback, and cannot be reduced to a set of “training hours” delivered in class. For example, it could be achieved by blending a traditional learning environment with individualized activities before and after the class and through the development of networks that favors the continuous interaction among individuals.
It should be based on active learning, allowing participants to experiment and apply rather than simply memorize. Therefore, the role of the individual becomes the main character of the learning process, as someone responsible for his learning. Such an approach changes also the role of the instructors, who embrace a facilitator role in supporting individuals (rather than being the only and unique source of knowledge).
The learning process should be interactive, thus leveraging on the social interaction among individuals in order to share experiences, feedback, and knowledge, and to maintain the momentum for continuous learning.
This shift is an incredible challenge and opportunity for the individuals and for the organizations. University and business schools have the responsibility to facilitate this change by supporting organizations and individuals in their lifelong learning journey by designing programs that go in the direction of being “learning partners” rather than “courses suppliers”. They should be able to follow and stimulate the individuals beyond the classroom in order to support them in the paradigm shift, rather than in the mere transfer of contents.
Lifelong learning represents a new paradigm for facing the challenge of developing skills to face current complexity, and it is a shared responsibility that involves individuals, organizations, and educational institutions.
This article is written in partnership with MISB Bocconi
MISB Bocconi, located in Mumbai, is the world’s only offshore presence of Università Bocconi, one of Europe’s premier universities. Founded in 2012, MISB Bocconi offers Post-Graduate programs in Business and Executive Education, designed and taught by the faculty of SDA Bocconi, Milan, Italy.
MISB Bocconi’s key differentiator lies in the wide-ranging practical and academic expertise of the SDA Bocconi faculty; pro-active learning pedagogies include industry interaction, job-oriented internships, and projects to prepare students for global leadership. International exposure is integral to the program through the dual campus student exchange between Milan and Mumbai.