The future of work and what Susan Boyle can teach us about talent

By Veronica Munro

KJO, one of the leading Oil and Gas companies in the Middle East hosted the Leadership and Talent Forum in Dubai recently.

Day One – Lynda Gratton and the Future of Work

Day 1 featured the well-known Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, Lynda Gratton.  Lynda was recently awarded the lifetime Achievement Award at the HR Most Influential Awards 2013 and was also nominated for the 2013 Thinkers50 Leadership Award.

Lynda made some important observations on some key indicators that are impacting the future of work:

– The Profound Connectivity of the world and the huge impact this is having on our ways of living. The accessibility of ‘on-line education for all’ from the best educators in the world; the ability for a remote farmer in Africa to sign up for weather forecasts and advice on when to plant and when to water his crops, and the sharing of ideas, innovations and ‘movements’ that are now possible across the world.

– The World Is Rebalancing. Where once the West had preferential access to the best education, labour markets and opportunities to work, the whole world now has access to these. And, those who are motivated and clever can now become part of the global talent pool.

– Big Ideas Crowd.  Networks arise across the world, communities of practices with specialist skills connect with each other and increased innovation comes through diversity of thinking as well as talents, nationalities and education.  The speed of innovation is prolific.

KJO Lynda Gratton

– Unemployment has been partly due to the huge lack of alignment between the future needs of the business market, educational relevance and government policy.  Whilst in the past there wasn’t a strong connection between the three, there is now a clear need for corporations to ‘clearly signal’ what their future workforce needs will be so that governments and educational institutions may develop ‘work ready’ citizens in their countries.

– Generations at Work. Traditionalists who designed companies, baby boomers who run them, Gen X and Gen Y that is tech savvy, globally connected and all feeling the same about the world.  And now, Gen Z – the 1.5 year olds already playing on their parents iPads!  What will become of them? The dynamics of these, the differing needs of all and the relationships between them will create some challenges the workplace has never experienced before.

– Resilient people and Derailers.  Where once IQ was key for identifying talent and the growth of a successful innovative workforce, the essentials now include Emotional Quotient (insights, energy, motivation, self-awareness) as well as Social Quotient (socially connected, trusting relationships, networks, community of practices).  Without just one of these, it would be a real derailer in today’s and tomorrow’s world of work.

Before she left for her next conference in Zurich, Lynda also shared with us that her latest book ‘The Shift – the future of work is already here’ outsold ’50 Shades of Grey’ in Japan!  Interesting!

Day Two – Mike Forde and ‘Good enough is not GOOD enough’

Day 2 featured one of the UK’s leading Sports Executives and recent Director of Football Operations for Chelsea FC, Mike Forde.  He is widely recognised for driving innovation and cutting-edge methods to create a sustained business model for Elite Player Performance.

Mike shared some great insights about the commonality between the world of work and sport and what creates high performing teams.

  1. Changing your thinking every day – the Fosbury flop is a clear example
  2. Numbers drive everything
  3. Perform or you don’t play
  4. Last year’s results become this year’s baseline
  5. Constantly grow and invest in yourself and your teams

KJO Mike Forde

His three top tips included having passion and desire and a curiosity about success; cultivating a winning mentality and ensuring ruthless execution and knowing what will move the needle and produce results.

Talent identification was also critical: ‘99% of recruitment is about who you don’t sign’.

Talent comes in many different packages and it is the responsibility of the CEO and the business teams to identify talent (not just the role of HR). He reminded us of the YouTube video of Susan Boyle at the X Factor – which demonstrated very clearly how the judges almost missed her hidden talent due to her ‘packaging’.  It is well worth watching.

Mike did a interview with Dubai’s business radio station Dubai Eye on the morning of his session at the forum. Have a listen here, he had some very interesting insight about the talent challenges of Dubai Expo 2020.

The two days also included a number of shorter presentations from KJO, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Mercer and Towers Watson.  There were different panels of experts each day that had lots of frank, open and often challenging debate on some fundamental challenges facing the government, education, culture, job seekers and employers within the GCC.

A big thank you to our hosts, KJO, for a thought-provoking and great networking event facilitated by IIR Middle East.  Well done too to the Forum Chairs – Sandrine Bardot, Former VP, Mubadala and Tom Raftery, Former VP, Arc International.

Veronica Munro is Head of Leadership Effectiveness at Standard Chartered Bank working with CEOs and Regional leaders in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Europe. Veronica can be reached on LinkedIn here.

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