The COVID-19 pandemic brought sweeping changes across business and life. Across business especially, surviving through the tough phase brought to the fore an entirely different skill set that was desired before it hit. No more were recruiters and companies depending on those age-old skill sets they were looking for in prospective candidates and employees. In every industry, a major churn took place, which called in for a revamped skill set. As per the World Economic Forum, critical thinking has emerged as a key skill required by employers in this time of rapid technological change and information bombardment.
Why is there a greater demand for critical thinking and creative solutions? How can organizations measure and develop this skill in their employees? In an exclusive webcast in association with Pearson, Matt Stevens, Head of TalentLens UK, shared with us how can organizations assess this skill and what implication does it have for the future of work.
Jobs for life are things of the past
Kickstarting the conversation, Matt shared how changes such as the fourth industrial revolution, new technologies, changing workforce demographics, disruption to global labour markets, and rapidly changing skill sets have amplified the war for talent. Consequently, skill sets are changing in most industries, and with a handful of exceptions, jobs for life will become things of the past.
Hence successful employees will be those who cannot only move from job to job but also from industry to industry, taking with them transferable skill sets and the ability to learn new skills as well.
If we look at how competencies required from employees have changed over the past years, we will see that critical thinking has risen the charts of most desired skills in 2020, as per reports by the WEF.
The top three skills desired in 2020 are complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, which are all in a way underpinned by critical thinking.
To remain employable and ahead of the curve, employees need to be adaptable, open to learning new experiences, and gaining new knowledge. However, the real power is located beneath the surface, and it means having the right set of cognitive skills alongside the right experience and desirable behaviours.
Cutting through the noise by developing critical thinking
We are in a state of information overload today-consuming over 24 million bits of information a day-which is equivalent to two books worth of information per day. It’s easy to lose the relevant information or be led by disinformation. How do we cut through the noise then?
It is helpful to remember that when dealing with complex issues, the truth is rarely black or white-it’s normally grey. Hence, to arrive at a rational conclusion, people must objectively listen to other people’s opinions and arguments. Otherwise, we will be tainted by bias. This is where critical thinking skill and frameworks are important. As per Pearson’s definition, critical thinking is the ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives while separating facts from opinions, myths, prejudices, hunches, and assumptions.
Be it a lawyer, a nurse or an investment manager, critical thinking is relevant across all industry types as it is essentially about making good decisions after objective evaluation. In fact, it is a raw material that enables other competencies.
To develop critical thinking, Pearson advocates the RED model-recognizing assumptions, evaluating arguments, and drawing conclusions. Not recognizing assumptions increases risk, poor evaluation often leads to poor conclusions, and poor conclusions lead to poor decisions. In a business context, all of this can damage individuals, teams or organizations.
To recruit excellent employees, critical thinking thus becomes an important differentiator. It is what makes the difference between good leaders and decision-makers and excellent leaders and decision-makers. It is still the top lacking competency in the workplace.
The question then arises-how can organizations measure critical thinking?
Pearson offers the Watson-Glaser-lll Critical Thinking Test, which is powered by a large item bank of questions; hence no two people can have the same questions. Made up of 40 questions, it takes 30 minutes to complete. It is available in quite a few languages and is available via an advanced API connection to your system or via an account on Pearson’s test platform. More importantly, studies have shown predictive validity between overall performance in the role and critical thinking ability.
In conclusion, critical thinking is fast becoming the number one competency in the workplace, has a direct effect on an employee’s potential performance, and can be tested as a part of a hiring process or as part of an employee development program effectively through assessments like the Watson-Glaser-lll Critical Thinking Test. Ultimately, organizations need to remember that their success depends on the quality of the thinking and the decisions made by everyone in their business!