Is Technological Fluency One of Your Competencies? A critical skill for the future of work

Six years ago I was asked to contribute to a book titled Epowerment:  Achieving Empowerment in the Eworld.  The author Dr. Izzy Justice is an expert on emotional intelligence and a thought leader in the field.  He also happens to be a Charlotte resident.  Dr. Justice believes that Epowered organizations possess learning aptitude and benefit from more aha moments.  As part of the book he turned to human resources industry experts to share their thoughts on the skills and capabilities required for success in a technology driven world.

I was fortunate enough to contribute.  Below is what I shared:

  • A critical characteristic for success in the future will be personal agility.  Agility encompasses the concept of change readiness with speed.  In the past, being open to new ideas and willing to change was enough.  In the future, the speed with which individuals anticipate and adapt to change will be a major differentiator of those who excel and those who just survive.
  • It used to be that people who enjoyed working with computers and technology were geeks. Today, and, more importantly in the future being tech savvy will be a requirement. Leaders need to understand the technologies available to them both in the form of smartphones and desktop applications.  These efficiency tools can be game changers.  Those who embrace technology and learn to leverage technology to their personal advantage will come out the winners.
  • The investor mentality.  As a leader be an investor.  Focus on increasing your market value by constantly providing additional value.  When making career choices think of each job as an investment in your future potential.

I share these thoughts now six years after I wrote those words because they are as relevant today as they were in 2010.  I believe that technology has dramatically changed the way we work and I see our kids embracing it much more easily than we do as adults.  I consider myself an early adopter and tech savvy, but I struggle to keep up.

Kids tech savvy

Being tech savvy used to label you as a nerd, today it is a prerequisite for success in business, school and life.  It amazes me to watch a two-year-old navigate through the menus on an iPad.  The way in which business is conducted has changed dramatically since I entered the work world in the early 1990s.  I still recall, my first job at Bear Stearns began with computer terminal training.  I shared an IBM terminal, which had a dimly lit screen, with a fellow management trainee.  Over the years and the course of changing jobs and industries, the technology continued to evolve and improve. 

That first Blackberry that I was issued in 2001 with its scroll wheel and black and white screen seemed so cool, yet it changed everything.  No longer was there a clear separation between work and home life.  The balance of things was changed forever.  As mobile devices continued to evolve quickly, the power of the handhelds began to rival those of a desktop computer.  The advances in technology have significantly changed the culture of work.  Business decisions today move much more quickly.  Everyone seeks instant access to information.  One weekend, a group of Overlook friends were out wakesurfing when the Police song “Message in a Bottle” came on the radio.  The question was asked, “What is Sting’s real name?”  In the middle of Mountain Island Lake three of us whipped out our phones and thanks to Google, Siri and Cortana we all had the answer “Gordon Mathew Thomas Sumner” within thirty seconds.  Some see this as progress enabled by technology and others see it as the destruction of our society.  Texting has surpassed calling as the number one use of mobile phones.  We still call them phones, but in fact people tend to prefer to text versus call.  This creates an awkward communications dynamic.  Yes, texting is asynchronous allowing the recipients time to contemplate their response in a way that can be achieved without an awkward pause when on a phone call.  The downside is that tone and intention is often lost or misinterpreted when texting.

Technology fluency is now taught in schools starting at the grade school level.  Fourth graders know their way around a PowerPoint Presentation and Eight graders are completing the majority of their homework assignments on their tablets.  These are important skills for the business world.  The challenge is really for the generation of workers who entered the workforce before every office job included a laptop and mobile device.  Keeping up with technology can be a challenge. 

As an early adopter, I love to play with new technologies as they come to market.  Building platform agility by becoming comfortable in Windows, iOS, Android and other platforms increases one’s technology learning capabilities.  All available platforms today are excellent and quite intuitive.  Over the past three years I have switched from an iPhone to an Android phone to a Windows Mobile device and back to Android.  I like all three platforms seeing distinct advantages in each.  What I recognize is that by switching, I force myself to learn new things and to develop further technological mastery.  This self-improvement exercise has made me more flexible and better at adapting to change.

The workplace of the future will most definitely be driven by technology and more than likely the tools we use today will be replaced by a new set of devices and operating systems for the future.  Those that learn to adopt new tools and technologies quickly will be best prepared for long term success.

Being tech savvy is a competency that everyone needs to work on.  Try switching technology platforms in the coming months as a test of your own technological agility.  It will make you a better agent of change and prepare you for the future of work.