Virtual Office – are you geared for this?

We are experiencing a rapid move to online meetings, working from home and flying solo in performing our day-to-day tasks. But are we geared for this? Do we have the home setup that can support these requirements?

By now you might have been involved in at least one online meeting, being it through Zoom, Teams, or other online platforms available. You might like it or not, but this is going to be the norm for quite a while – even when you return to work, it might be months or even up to a year that some staff members might not be able to work from the office – at risk individuals due to their age or medical conditions.

In South Africa, we are already on Day 51 of lockdown. This implies that if you are able to work from home, you already had to work from a virtual / home office setting for 33 work days. So how did it go so far?

Complete these couple of questions to assess your current home office setup and where you might need to assist yourself to set it up for more effective functioning.

I Dare (you) to Dream

When we were young, we played the game – what do you want to be when you grow up… We would lie on our backs, looking at clouds, dreaming up the most amazing heroic contributions we would make to the world (around us) that will make us happy – but mostly what we think would make the people around us happy. I wanted to wear a uniform and become a police officer!

We grew up in a world were ‘world’ meant our immediate family, our street, neighborhood, town, and if you had a HUGE vision – our country… If somebody happened in our town, we might hear about it a week later in our local newspaper – IF it was important enough for us to read it. If something was not news-worthy enough according to the local newsroom, it did not make the papers.

However, if something happened in our street, the ‘street-news-letter/reporter’ made sure everybody heard about it… It is easy for us to spread the bad things that other people do – in our eyes – rather than good efforts…

Today, we know everything at the click of a (google-)button – if we are interested in it or not, if it is local or not, in context or not. “Our world” now has a global footprint. The crisis in another country becomes the blueprint of the crisis in our country, our province, our district, our town, our neighborhood, our street, our home, our hearts…

But

What if…

What if we can still dream… What if there is an alternative path guiding our experiences through this trying time…

Take a moment to watch this music video

… the time to share has come; … I dare to dream

A legacy is the story of someone’s life, the things they did, the places they went, the goals they accomplished, their failures, and more. Legacy is something that a person leaves behind to be remembered by. Legacies are pathways that guide people in decisions with what to do or what not to do.

What legacy do you want to leave? How would you like to step out from lockdown once it is lifted?

  • Would you want to be a victim or a leader?
  • Would you want to be a statistic or a change-maker?
  • Would you want to be in crisis or offering solutions?
  • Would you want to be passive or lead?

We don’t know what the future holds. We are not even clear on what we hope it would look like if we had a say in it. We are trying to balance what we hope it will look like with what we know it will not look like (ever again). We are spending so much time on surviving and hoping, that we neglect to dream and prepare.

Humankind currently needs purpose-driven leaders who remain consistent at their best performance. Purpose-driven leaders with a clear understanding – and are comfortable with it – that people now need ‘the vulnerability speech’ (it is okay to feel vulnerable in this time) rather than ‘the motivational speech’ (let us reach for success!). Purpose-driven leaders who understand that the vision and mission needs to stay the same in order to provide a sense of ‘known’ to contribute to stability, but who is brave enough to re-align operations to address current needs.

Let’s get real. It is not only the company’s needs that changed over the past couple of months. Staff needs have shifted too. People want to know what they will return to when allowed. Individuals had the time and space to re-think their purpose in life, what legacies they want to leave, the skills they have to offer, and the dreams they had for themselves growing up. It is not only company structures that need to shift into a ‘new world’. Every person’s shift into their ‘new world’ can provide solutions to companies if they were offered the opportunity to communicate this freely…

Purpose-driven leaders need to identify new skills to take the company forward – and find those skills, and make it happen. They need to

  • allow these voices to be heard – with no fear of potential consequencial dismissals
  • conduct skills audits of current staff – do you know what they really love to do, are good at and have to offer
  • find the unique contributions and skills of each staff member needed in the current context
  • and apply people’s skills in the most appropriate roles

I am proudly South African! Many voices are going up in criticism and a lot of energy is spent on social media platforms on pointing out errors or gaps, fear of being excluded from support (fears based on different reasons) , or lack of progress in our country. People I respect and follow and support sometimes add their voices to these popular discussions. Although I understand this and share the losses and frustrations and have these small debates in my head, this is not the legacy I want to leave moving into the future.

I ask myself – How do I want to lead through this crisis?

  1. Do I want to be a leader who panic – running around like a headless chicken trying anything (done that already) and criticizing anything and everything around me
  2. Do I want to be a passive leader – freeze long enough to miss the point and miss the immediate needs of people (been there) only to wake up as a follower
  3. Instead, I choose to be a purpose-driven leader – reset-regroup-relaunch en Show Up, Step Up en Give Back

I dare to dream that this is possible.

Lying on my back (pun intended), looking at the clouds and dreaming of what I want to be when I get (grow) up…

The time is now…

I Dare You to Dream…

Freelance Professionals during Lockdown – a Poll’s Results

What started out as a curiosity question, turned out to be a very insightful exercise. I wish to share the results with those who participated, but also those who are interested to know how freelancers within the skills development sector are affected during the mandatory lockdown.

This is in no way a scientific research project or intended to be one. Participation was voluntary and I would like to thank all who participated! Thank you for participating! The poll is still open for participation and you can complete it by following this link: https://forms.gle/xDomirPUHG3Hf1CaA

This poll started when I asked – in my mind – a simple question on a Facebook group dedicated to Skills Development Professionals. I asked if we know how many freelance professional Facilitators, Assessors, Moderators, and SDF (Skills Development Facilitators) we have in South Africa. Somebody I spoke to guessed there could be close to 120,000 – 150,000 of ‘us’ in this country – a number I reckon could be a good guesstimate.

A couple of responses indicated that it will be interesting to know the answer to the question. Somebody suggested I put out a poll to ask. One specific comment motivated me to put together this poll! Somebody asked:

“Who is asking?”

My immediate answer (which I kept to myself) was – we all should ask the question – so I compiled the poll.

Within the past 36 hours (current date stamp: 2 May 2020, 00:30 am), 177 responses were recorded. I hoped for a bigger response. It was published on about 5 different Facebook groups, some with more than 3,000 members, as well as distributed through a couple of private network connections. Although the uptake seems low (almost 0,14% of a potential 120,000 audience), the results are still shockingly true to my concerns.

The following statistics are in no way scientific results of a formal research inquiry, but simply the results of a curiosity concern about fellow professional freelancers affected by a hard lock down with no end in sight for the skills development and training sector soon.

Results

As of Saturday, May 2nd, 2020 at 00:30 am, 177 responses were recorded. As the poll is still running, results are still coming in. The following is based on the 177 responses recorded.

Figure 1: Freelance Professionals

Freelance professionals represented in this poll varies from a combination of Facilitators (145), Registered Assessors (140), Registered Moderators (83), Skills Development Facilitators (52), Consultants (72) and representing Skills Development Providers (37). A combination of responses was allowed per respondent on all relevant roles they fulfill.

Figure 2: Currently working full time

The reality of 108 respondents (62%) is that they are not full time employed and only earn an income through freelance contracts. The other 38% earn income from training providers or a combination of the different options indicated. No Training Provider is allowed to offer any training during lockdown (some are continuing with online and mixed-mode activities), which leave the 38% quite vulnerable.

Figure 3: Earning during lock down

The majority of the respondents (108) only earn an income as freelance professionals. A concerning high 70,6% (125) indicating that they have not earned any income since the lock down. In the previous figure, 38% indicated they are working in different combinations as freelancers, only 1 Training Provider, or multiple Providers. As mentioned above, no Training Institution is allowed training activities. Some respondents indicated that although they are working full time, they only received half or part of their salaries during the lock down period.

Figure 4. Provincial Representation

Almost half of the participating respondents represent Gauteng (84) with the Western Cape (36) and KZN (27) some of the other provinces.

Figure 5. Gender

The gender split between males (60) and females (114) indicates that two-thirds of the respondents were females. This was not a compulsory question and 3 respondents did not provide an answer.

Figure 6. Age Groups

The majority (108) of the respondents are between the ages of 31 and 50 with 41 respondents between 51 and 60. With many years of experience, the skills these respondents accumulated over the years can be very valuable during the uncertain period our country finds ourselves in. It will be a shame if these skills are not put to use to contribute to solutions in this time – and as a result, assist these professionals to earn an income to sustain their families.

Figure 7. Race

The split between Black (68) & Coloured (19) South African and White (64) South African respondents with 14 respondents who prefer not to indicate their race.

The comments combined speak of the dier reality freelance professionals funds themselves in during this lock down in South Africa. Although the number of respondents are relatively low, I fear it is an accurate reflection on the income generation realities of the majority.

Concerns

What became very clear this week during public announcements, was that Universities, TVET Colleges, and Skills Development Partners will not open their doors soon. Some people are optimistic and expect to go back to on-site training in September, but with the Health Department’s predictions that the pandemic will reach it’s peak the same month, it seems most unlikely that any doors will be opening soon.

I fear that there is not a public insight into the unique challenges freelance professionals in the Skills Development Sector faces and the impact it already shows on the possibility to recover. Any contracts agreed on before lock down might either be in danger, put on hold indefinitely, or was already canceled.

My own experience covers all three of these realities, as one SDP I just started facilitating training the week of the announcement of the lock down later that week (rightfully) decided to cancel all contracts with freelance facilitators and only utilise inhouse skills to finalize the project. I had a workshop scheduled with another client which had to be canceled due to the lock down. Part of this workshop would be dedicated to potential new projects to be implemented in partnership. The natural outcome is that this has been postponed indefinitely. Other contracts were just canceled in one-liner emails.

None of these should come as a surprise. But all of these had an immediate effect on Freelancers month-end income planning and cashflow management.

Although nobody is to blame for these realities and losses of freelance professionals, the impact was immediate, without warning, without rules of engagement and with devastating effects on the livelihoods of households.

I know I am describing two-thirds of South African self-employed population.

The one challenge I’ve had ever since the lock down and announcement of the Government’s support to SMMEs and other groups is that somehow Private Colleges (SDPs) are not fitting anywhere, including Freelance Professionals providing services to SDPs. Many of these professionals are operating as Sole Proprietors and might not even have a structured system of paying UIF. This immediately disqualifies them for support from the UIF support option.

As most of these Professionals do not employ other staff, they do not qualify for the TERS relief fund either. Micro entities within the skills development sector with only 1 or less than 5 full-time staff apply to the SMME support funds. Some of the feedback received was: “Please apply to the support provided by the Department of Education”, or, “Your entity does not qualify. As we received an enormous amount of applications, we had to make tough decisions to support SMMEs with higher staff numbers to mitigate the impact of larger numbers of potential job losses”.

The Minister of Higher Education made it very clear this week that Private Education Entities are private businesses in their own right and should cover and plan for their own losses accordingly. It might seem a relevant response in any other context, but in the bigger picture of what our country is facing, and in contrast to the spirit in which our President has been guiding the nation through this difficult time, there might have been alternative approaches to save EDUCATION in our country.

The minister of Education also made a quick comment about our President’s Skills Levy payment holiday of 4 months when he suggested that SETA Grant funding might not be allocated as planned. SETA funded projects represent a large % of SDPs training projects. If Private SDPs are not supported by the Government, and the source of Grant allocations are at risk, what effect will this have on non-governmental Skills Development?

If SDPs fold, freelancers are running short on income generation partners to fall back on after lock down. I do not have the relevant statistics, but I got the feeling over the past couple of years that Private Universities and SDPs are contributing in a huge way to skills development in our country. Many TVET Colleges rely on Private Institutions to partner with them on Government funded training offerings implementation. Do we not cripple Post-School Education?

Freelance Professionals have valuable contributions to make! My curiosity about how many ‘others like me’ there are provided some information to prioritise this defined sector equally to any other person affected by the mandatory lock down, to be supported.

Together we can influence the Coronairus curve.

Hopefully, we will not forget to mind the curve of people who’s total income generation options are wiped…

Update

Thanknyou Sylvia Hammond for this contribution on Skills-Universe https://www.skills-universe.com/groups/training-service-providers/forum/topic/dhet-call-to-private-providers-to-contribute-to-an-integrated-pset-ecosystem/

Matters raised are much needed. Big thanks to APPETD for the work they are doing to voice concerns of Private Providers.

A Basket of Skills

Growing up I took great interest in my dad’s hobby of making ‘potjiekos’. Potjiekos is a traditional South African stew prepared on the fire with a 3-leg black steal pot, prepared slowly over medium heat for around 2 – 4 hours of cooking, adding meat, vegetables, and spices to your liking.

No one potjiekos tastes like the next one. Each and every time you use the same ingredients, other factors impact the taste of the end result. The weather and the impacts on the heat of the coals, the amount of water you add, the seasoning, the freshness of the vegetables, the fat component of the meat, how long it takes you to brown the onions and meat before you add the root vegetables, how many times you open the lid, the balance of water versus steam in the pot, when to add the more fragile vegetables like the mushrooms and how many times you stir the content before it is done.

See, my dad was an expert! No matter any of these variables, he always produced a winning end-result – at some stage literally, as he won many competitions with his potjiekos skills. He perfected his choice of ingredients and simply adjusted his technique as the context required. Some days he will brown the onions and take it out before he adds the meat to prevent it from leaving a burning smell. Other days he will add it together at the same time to infuse the meat a bit more with the smokey flavour the onions produces.

He might not have been an educated man, but my dad understood something of knowing what is needed, to acquire different ingredients to perfect the taste of the flavor he aimed for at the end of the process and paid attention to variables in order to get his timing right, add the appropriate ingredients at the right moment and knew how to trust the process…

A basket of skills

It is no longer enough and realistic to only have knowledge and skills focused on what you were trained to do. We are entering uncharted waters and the unknown is far greater than the known at this stage. New knowledge is being created at an accelerating pace. There is too much knowledge for you to know everything you need to know to fulfill your current roles – what about new knowledge you, your company, and our country need to explore to know how to respond to this uncertain global economic context. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the information overload that you find it difficult to select out relevant information.

At the same time, much of what we know is no longer relevant or valid for our work, with the lifespan of our current skills shrinking. We therefore find it increasingly difficult to maintain the level of knowledge and skills required in our current jobs – let alone the skills we will require in our future jobs. Do we even know what that will look like? Do we even know what will happen in our industry and our country – or closer to home, to our own income security?

For a moment I will assume that you either work for yourself, or will have to find a new way of earning a living or at least consider adding to your current source of income. This might imply that you were self-employed before the lock-down, that your company were not able to retain you as staff member or that you had to take unpaid leave or a reduction in your salary to retain your job. Or perhaps this was a wake-up call about income security and you need to start a side-hustle in order to not have all your eggs in one (salary-earning) basket.

Whatever your context, you be of opinion that you only have one set of skills. You might fear that you don’t have what it takes to get yourself out of this financial uncertain situation. But we are not one single set of skills. We are not empty vessels entering an unknown harbor. We have all that it takes to apply what we know and what we can do in a different context if need be. We have the ability to re-invent ourselves if need be. I had to do this 3 times already in my 25+ years of earning an income.

Allow yourself a bit of credit. You might surprise yourself with the following activity’s results if you open up your mind to be convinced.

Tick the skills you think you already have (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-skills-every-professional-needs-to-have-4150386 ):

TRADITIONAL SKILLS LISTAPPLIED SKILLS
CommunicationAdvocating for yourself and your causes
Asking for help or advice
Brainstorming
Building buy-in to an idea
Business writing
Dealing with difficult people
Facilitating
Handling office politics
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Interviewing
Managing a positive relationship with an employer
Listening
Networking
Persuasion
Resume writing
Public SpeakingArticulation
Confidence
Creating presentation slides
Self-confidence
Projection
Receiving criticism and feedback
Social skills
TeamworkConflict resolution
Relationship building
Team building
Team management  
Time ManagementAttention to detail
Fundamental motivation
Meeting deadlines
Project management
Punctuality
Self-starting 
LeadershipAccountability
Budgeting
Calm under pressure
Coaching
Coordinating resources
Decision making
Goal setting
Growth mindset
Information gathering
Influence
Management
Mentoring
Meeting management
Planning
Politeness
Positivity
Prioritization  
FlexibilityAble to change your mind
Analysis
Anger management
Patience
Perceptiveness
Problem-solving  
Personal SkillsCareer management
Career planning
Competency
Creative thinking
Critical thinking
Dressing professionally
Emotional intelligence
Enforcing boundaries (personal, professional)
Ethics
Honesty
Humility
Integrity
Patience
Perceptiveness
Perseverance
Persistence
Practicality
Resilience
Respect
Self-awareness
Self-confidence
Self-management
Self-promotion
Self-regulation
Stress management  

I have a friend who was kicked out of an organisation due to something he had no control over. He had to re-invent himself and when we had coffee, he confessed that he did not know what to do, as his entire work-life of about 15 years, he focused on this one job (context) and do not have skills to make it in ‘the world out there’ (in a different work context).

I listened patiently to what he had to say and how he missed working with the people he grew fond of, organising meetings and addressing large groups of people on specific topics he put together on PowerPoint. How he missed solving people’s personal problems and assisted many to prioritize the time they spend with others and work. He talked about important people he met and chairing meetings where tough decisions had to be made.

When he was done, I asked him what he would want to do next in his career. He looked at me as if he thought – did you not hear a word I was saying?

I started to identify the universal skills he described. Communication, Public Speaking, Teamwork, Time Management, Leadership, Flexibility and Personal Skills. When he looked at me as if he is not sure what I am talking about and how it would help him, I told him these words:

“You have all the skills in your basket that is needed to walk into any corporate company!”

You might not feel it right now, but you too have all the skills needed to do what you need to do to move forward.

“Yes, but I do not have the technical skills to build an online shop”

Maybe not, but you have problem-solving and creative skills, networking skills and the ability to set goals and attention to detail to self-start a process to either get the skills needed or to connect with somebody to partner with who has the skills needed.

“Yes, but I do not have any idea what I need to do next or what to focus on”

Maybe not, but you are very perceptive to people’s needs and if you apply your analytical skills, you can produce at least 5 great ideas from a brainstorming exercise on what people need right now and how you might fill the gap to get them what they need.

“Yes, but I am not a risk-taker and I do not have the startup capital”

Maybe not, but you know the project cycle and that everything starts at some point and develops as you research the scope, the timeline and budget available, and when and how to scale. You know that not all projects need high capital input, as you will be able to add the capital as you start to sell the idea small steps at a time.

You have what it takes – now apply it in a different context

Although some skills might need a bit of touch-up or refresher, you have what it takes to tackle anything you set your mind to! Yes, the heat might be a bit higher, but then you simply lift the iron pot a bit higher to balance the coals reaching the bottom. There might not be enough water to steam the vegetables, but maybe you could add them a bit earlier to be exposed over a longer time. Perhaps your family is hungry and cant wait 4 hours to eat, but then you simply add a bit more water early on in the cooking process and add a bit more heat to the pot to have a simular end-result quicker.

I believe we all have a basket of skills that is sufficient to cook up a great nutritional meal to feed our family. We might have been asked to only use the most popular ones up til now – by our employer, by our context, or by our own standards.

But the world as we know it changed. We cannot continue on the same path that brought us here. We need a different outcome and therefore need a different approach.

We need to forget about the safe, comfortable way of living with all our eggs in one basket and start to diversify our income streams, sectors, and energy.

We need to unpack our basket of skills and come up with new recipes.

How do I respond

By now, every person on earth is aware of, feels the impact of, and fear the realities of “the life after” the Coronavirus pandemic. I wrote the following content on June 26th, 2019, and never published it anywhere… Even the title was “How do I respond”… But the context was not as drastic a crisis than what we currently experience around the world. I’ve drafted this content 10 months ago and neglected to publish it because I wanted to perfect it, to make sure it is the right thing to say at the right time, hitting the right target market to have a huge impact…

If only I’ve published it back then AND acted on it myself, me and many others might have accepted the challenge to up-skill ourselves with critical skills. Skills experts listed 10 months ago already which would enable us to respond to “The Impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the World of Work”.

To prove how scarily close our current context is to what was predicted and advised during a webinar I’ve attended with the above topic, I will keep the text exactly as I’ve drafted it 10 months ago. Afterward, I will reflect on a couple of comments on our current context and “Our World of Work”. so let me ask the (title) question again:

How do I respond

(26 June 2019)

The short answer?

Be pro-active

Be realistic

Be prepared

Be part of the reality

The longer answer?

You could either be comfortable in your current income generation approach (job) and be satisfied with the current realities. Or you could be realistic by being pro-active and prepare yourself to be part of the reality. Preparing yourself for the changes in work does not imply you need to quit your current job. It might simply imply that you become more aware of your current contribution to your company’s requirements, your attitude, your ability to apply your skills and knowledge in a different way to be creative, problem-solving, and innovation. This might even give your current employer the insurance that you need to be in the team they take into the new way of doing business.

What does the 4th Industrial Revolution means for business

In a recent survey to measure business and government readiness for the 4th Industrial Revolution (https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/opinion/what-is-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-14127465 ), Deloitte* polled 1600 C-level executives in 19 countries. On the whole, participants were positive about the likely effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – 87% of executives believe it will lead to greater equality and stability, and three quarters said business would have much more influence than governments and other entities in shaping this future.

However, only 14% of respondents are confident that their organisations are ready to fully harness the changes associated with this technological revolution, and only 25% say they have the right workforce composition and skill sets needed for the future.

The Deloitte study showed that organisations which are using the 4th Industrial Revolution technologies are mostly doing so to make their operations more efficient and cost-effective, rather than pursuing new business models that can potentially deliver much greater value and help to prepare for the future. In part, this approach reflects the difficulty of making a business case to invest in advanced digital technologies.

However, in an environment where technology is having a transformative effect on industry after industry, companies that don’t start preparing now for the Fourth Industrial Revolution not only risk falling behind, but also passing up the opportunity to influence the future.

Question:        Where do you fit in?

Response:        Anywhere you want to fit in!

Reason:           It depends on what you do NOW, where you will fit then!

Opportunity

The opportunity for growth is a reality! Education and training will have to change fundamentally.

For businesses in Africa, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a tremendous opportunity to raise their competitiveness globally and to play a more important, decisive role in shaping the future of any country.

For government, it offers innovative solutions to pressing infrastructure challenges and new possibilities for tackling societal issues related to education and employment.

There is the spoken and unspoken fear that technology and automation, in particular, is going to take away jobs and deprive people of employment. On the contrary, all previous industrial revolutions created many more jobs than were ever lost – chiefly through the creation of new industries and business models.

There is no reason to think the Fourth will be different, especially when one considers that the countries which have most readily adopted automation and robotics – notably China, Germany, Japan and South Korea – stand out for the competitiveness of their industries and their low levels of unemployment.

Leon Viljoen is the MD of ABB Southern Africa.

(https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/opinion/what-is-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-14127465)  

Your response

To ensure the short answer is clear:

Be pro-active – by adding to your skills-set, you will put yourself in a great position to affect change within your company, or to contribute to successful implementation of needed skills to enhance your company’s relevance in the marketplace. If you are not part of the solution, you might be seen as part of what is keeping the company from moving forward. Be pro-active in preparing yourself for new skills needed. 

Be realistic – do not try to become who you are not. Do not resign and start your own business because you fear you might not fit into your company in future. Be realistic in your application of new skills. You might share your knowledge and skills to your employer but they might not implement changes immediately, as the wheel turns slowly. Be creative! 

Be prepared – prepare your mindset, your attitude and improve your skills. Be prepared for potential changes that might become realities.

Be part of the reality – and part of the solution. Your company will notice your efforts when your attitude is one of problem-solving, solution-driven, innovation. If changes come to your specific job requirement, be part of the solution to improve on those requirements.

How do I respond – The Covid-19 Reality

(26 April 2020)

Perhaps the answers might have shifted in priority… Maybe it should read:

Be part of the reality – it does not help we panic. The “World of Work” DID change. This IS our new reality. Your job might either not be affected at all, or not as much or you could be on the other side where it had an 80 – 90% negative effect on your job. If you are not affected as negative or directly by the lock-down realities, your clients might be, or your community or your family. It does not really matter in which sector you work. If you work in the health sector, it is not business as usual. If you work in the corporate sector, it is not business as usual. If you are an entrepreneur, it is not business as usual.

Be realistic – we cannot escape the sudden changes in our world. You will not return to work the same person. You will not walk back into your office and find that you can simply pick up the file on your desk you left there 5 weeks ago, and just continue from where you left it. There might be retrenchments of staff due to financial hardship – if you are one of the lucky ones not to be retrenched, the reality is that you might have to step into more than your normal responsibilities to still deliver the service or product to your clients, but with less staff…

Be prepared – if you know this now, you should prepare yourself for the impact of going back to work. You might even have to prepare yourself for possible retrenchment or accepting a reduced salary and to have exhausted your total annual leave for 2020.

Be pro-active – even if your job might be secured. Many people are quoting Winston Churchill who said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” in the mid-1940s as we were approaching the end of World War II as he, Stalin and Roosevelt forged an alliance – which lead to the formation of the United Nations, creating opportunities in the midst of a crisis. What is your strategy? Which alliances do you need to explore or form for the better good of your own financial survival, growth or sustainability? Do not let this crisis be just that – a crisis. Use the time you have to act pro-actively, creating solutions on challenging times ahead.

A few learnings

I’ve joined the Future Females Founders Club in early April one morning when I stumbled onto one of many free webinars I’ve happened to note just moments before it kicked off. And in that first session, one of the participants made a comment:

“Currently I choose progress over perfection”…

This became my drive and motivation to move forward and to up-skill myself as I am building the airplane… I realised, go slow is overrated and irrelevant in this current context and reality of being self-employed offering services, training, and consultation to clients within the training sector.

Ten months ago, I could have published 12 e-books I’ve planned to write, but chose perfection. But I waited to perfect it – and in the end never finished it.

But we need to look at the skills needed to be part of a new reality. This is the reason for the birth of Future Skilled. In the coming days, I will explore the skills needed – especially in this new world which we now call our reality…

This blog’s purpose is to explore the skills we might need to navigate our way through the new normal. To respond to the realities of what awaits us when life returns to a state of freedom of movement again. I actually struggled to finish this previous sentence – because I wanted to say “…when life returns to normal…” I am not sure what that ‘normal’ would look like, as it will most definitely not be business as usual or at least not the definition we linked ‘normal’ to about 2 months ago.

The following posts will explore a bit of these skills needed. It might not be new to anybody. Perhaps you will loose interest. Or perhaps you will get the clarity you needed to know how to respond to your new reality.

Let’s keep talking to each other.

What if it is no longer ‘Business as Usual’…

What if we are better off after the current Corona Virus pandemic? What if our world got rid of all the unnecessary noises? What if our children managed to received hands-on life-integration skills that no school curriculum could teach them? What if working from home for some staff-roles proves to be more effective? What if we come out on the other side with a better life philosophy on the value of things, services, sectors, politics, people, and life in general?

I am not taking away anything from this global crisis or the impact it has on human lives, the economy or our health systems (& health workers), the poor and needy without sufficient food security – or anything other aspects (public or personal) that affects even ONE person… I acknowledge that being able to address all of this is FIRST priority! I am talking about AFTER ALL OF THIS IS DONE… When we start to settle down with the new realities created due to our current reality.

Have you calculated the pros and cons yet? For yourself, your family, your community, your economic status, your country, the world? Even if you were only focused on or able to identify the cons at this stage, at least you know that this pandemic affected you – basically everybody alive today! I guess that if you are able to identify the cons by now, you might have settled in your mind somehow that the impact of this current situation, will be felt for many months or year to come.

Maybe, when you feel ready, you should also try to dream up some of the consequential pros. Although it might not feel as if there is ANY of those at this stage, you cannot stay focused only on the problem. This will not only keep your thoughts in a downward spiral, it might also prevent you from staying focused on moving forward. Because we all need to put the one foot in front of the other.

One of my favorite movies is The Best Exotic Merigold Hotel. Dev Patel is a British Actor playing the role of Sonny Kapoor, running the Merigold Hotel in India – a decrepit hotel, but with his creativity and ability to sell sand in the Sahara, he is able to fill up the ‘rooms’ with seven British tourists who went to Jaipur on holiday. Please watch the movie – or even buy it to add to your collection. There is even a follow up called The Second Best Exotic Merigold Hotel.

Sonny’s positive approach to life seems to be the only principle he lives by! Why am I telling you about Sonny and his principles? With every challenge, dead-end, or crisis, Sonny always quiets any critique with the saying: “Everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.”.

As you can guess, the guests did not get what they expected or paid for or wanted from their holiday. One of the guests whose husband recently passed away and she went there with a long-term plan, had to find a job to be able to survive financially, at some stage says: “It is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it. And not just cope, but thrive! I got a job! My first ever!”

Maybe currently you feel a bit like this? Maybe you have a couple of children’s eyes watching you, looking up to you for guidance on how to not only cope with what must be a very uncertain and challenging time for them but also to thrive. Maybe you have a spouse without any income due to job loss or for being self-employed and not able to contribute to necessary expenses due to the lockdown. Maybe you are single and unemployed – due to your company not able to pay you anymore or due to not being able to work, or due to other reasons. It might be temporary, longterm, or permanent.

Whatever your context, the ‘cons’ that became your life-reality can be devastating.

If you need to list 1 thing from this pandemic’s realities that can be seen as a benefit, what would it be? The other day we had somebody at our home for a small repair (essential service guy). Before he left, he made a comment that really hit home and allowed me to take inventory of the obvious benefits I did not allow to acknowledge to myself. He said that it is the first time in his adult life that he and his parents (locked down together) had the opportunity to spend days-on-end to have conversations, get to know each other again, eat a proper meal together, not relying on the ‘luxury’ of drive-through instant fast foods and were able to use the time at hand to really rest.

In fact there were a couple of these ‘wise-moments’ over the past couple of weeks that helped me to create an alternative perspective on the situation. somebody posted this image:

Remember Solly from earlier? The opening scene of the movie is a VERY close up shot of the bum of an elephant walking… Solly’s first words of the movie is: “If you are not on the front elephant, the scenery never changes”.

What if you need to re-invent your self, or create an income or want to prevent future similar financial constraints and want to start a side hustle. Perhaps you want to take this opportunity to follow a long-forgotten dream. Maybe you have time to refocus your life’s purpose and become more productive and focused on what is really important to you.

We will not return to the world as we know it after lock down… Not in our country and not in the global world. We will live in a forever changed world. Or do you want to stay on the 2nd or 3rd elephant and have the same view, simply going back without any new skills, focus, or purpose.

Why not do something of value with your time – while you have a bit more of it to yourself?

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Perhaps you want to build a new website, or read a book or find something for your kids to do.

Perhaps you want to re-look your purpose in life. The Japanese word and philosophy IKIGAI offer an opportunity to rethink, re-position, and re-design your contribution to your world, your community, your work, and your families. Download this FREE self-complete sheet and use the time to ask yourself important 4 questions.

Whatever your approach to the remaining time during the lock down, make it count. Maybe the ‘world as we know it’ may be gone, but maybe – just MAYBE – there is a brand new, better life waiting – even if only in your own context!

What if you are better off after the current Corona Virus pandemic? What if you got rid of unnecessary noises? What if your children managed to received hands-on life-integration skills that no school curriculum could teach them? What if working from home or for yourself proves to be more effective? What if you come out on the other side with a better life philosophy on the value of things, services, sectors, politics, people, and life in general?

What if we like the world we are about to create for ourselves, our family, our community, our country, our existence as a global community…

Doors are still open…

Creatividad Consulting is still open for business during the lock down. Although physical contact is not possible, they are still running their services offering online service options.

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In these uncertain times, we should be focused on the things we can control, add to or benefit from. These offerings are a great value-add for companies.

A Controversial Optimist

Yes, I am living in the reality of a once in a lifetime global disaster. I am staying home to save lives as millions of others in this and other countries worldwide.

Yes, I am working from home, doing the best I can to keep my business running, to stay focussed and not to panic in such a way that it paralysis my mind.

Yes, I am a small business owner with outstanding invoices owed to me by other small business owners in the same un-asked-for reality of zero business activity for weeks…

Yes, I have taken whatever activities, services, and offerings online – some even new, creative ways of serving my clients – into the virtual reality of the internet. In most cases, it currently does not pay off at all. I think most people are not sure what to expect, how long it will last, how it will end and what will be left after it ends.

You might have experienced this yourself during (virtual) lock-down meetings. All conversations normally start with: “Hi, how are you holding up? You guys okay?” The answers normally vary – some focus on their personal health and that of their family, others confess that they are struggling with the isolation from others. And then there are the self-employed people confessing their stress of an unknown future for their business.

I’ve found myself in these types of conversations often and listen to associates in the training industry minimising the reality of social isolation and the impact on the training industry. “It’s easy – take your training online – everybody is doing it! But hurry, everybody is going to do this, so don’t wait too long to get in the game!”

Don’t get me wrong. This was part of my first contingency risk mitigation solution thoughts and actions as well… And I am sure there is a place for (some of) this.

It is not business as usual – even if taken online. Virtual meetings help us to stay in conversation with family, friends, colleagues and clients and without this new technology and connectivity, we might have even been in much deeper uncertainty and businesses in even a worse position.

But it is not business as usual. It is not even close. Over the past 3+ weeks, the reality of the virtual office computer screen comes with many sacrifices and side-effects. Meetings are scheduled daily and sometimes running for hours, leaving even the committed ones with headaches and the in-ability to sleep properly at night. Not only are we not used to social distancing, but we also are not used to feeding on each other’s energy, creativity, ideas and emotions through an electronic screen.

We were not built to not-connect… Human beings are wired to connect. We are meant to connect with each other – to feel and see and smell and touch each other to ‘be’. Human beings are UBUNTU…

UBUNTU refers to behaving well toward others or acting in ways that benefit the community. Such acts could be as simple as helping a stranger in need, or other more complex ways of relating to others. A person who behaves in these ways has ubuntu. He or she is a full person – I am because we are”… Umntu ngumntu ngabantu. The belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

I play the guitar. Since 1985. Music and sport were two of the most important things in my life growing up. Later in life, I taught somebody to play the guitar who played the piano and wanted to master a new instrument. One day before we started our lesson, I’ve asked him to show me what he could do on the piano and like a true maestro, he started to play a dramatic piece of music. As his fingers confidently hit the first very low notes on the piano, my guitar – that was standing right next to it – caught the lowest notes and ‘vibrated’ a deep sound – all by itself… He immediately stopped and with great excitement explained to me the word ‘resonate’.

He explained to me that the low notes on the piano resonate with the strings of the guitar in such a way that the sound waves produced by the piano produce a deep, full, reverberating sound. A soundwave echo… The word originates from the Latin word resonate, which means ‘resound’. The guitar ‘resounded’ the notes from the piano.

This can only happen when these two instruments are in close proximity. It cannot happen over a Skype or Zoom or Google Hangouts connection far distances apart…

As people, we experience those moments in a conversation where there is an immediate and unquestioned feeling that requires no further explanation. We sometimes experience a common vibration or understanding of where the conversation is going without long explanations needed. Our thoughts become collective and resonate in a global dimension. We GET what is meant by simple words… We don’t need long windy explanations…

The proverbial nail under the butt vs the carrot in front of the nose… I always wanted to have an online, self-study training platform. I actually tried to develop one myself at some stage. A good combination of limited available time and limited available funds resulted in a great idea with a well-thought-through online platform structure – on paper… Or perhaps the carrot in front of my nose was not motivation enough at the time.

The nails all of us are sitting on (in the training industry) currently, at last, drives us to action online training platforms. I immediately started to explore options, tried to find an appropriate (free) online platform as well as the motivation and energy to ‘take it online’. But at some stage I got stuck – not online, but in my head…

The reality of the 4th Industrial Revolution was with us long before this global life-threatening crisis. We will need the new technology and highly advanced options this Revolution has to offer in order to keep producing on the modern demands. The lack of urgency until now prevented us from utilising them to our benefit! We most certainly will need this technology, but also – and maybe equally important, we will need to acquire vital skills associated with a new world-of-work reality (more about this to be discussed in future posts).

But somehow, I am a controversial optimist during these uncertain times.

I am not yet convinced that online training is the solution. Yes, it will most definitely open up more, bigger and more (further away) doors and will most certainly be a pivotal event in the history of education. But somehow I am not yet convinced…

Stick with me here for a moment…

How many people in our country have sufficient access to the knowledge, the technology, the connectivity, and the experience to turn towards an electronic training option? Does everybody have the ‘savyness’ to navigate an online learning opportunity? Of course, the business person and already-educated person will easily make the switch. But are they really the individuals that NEED the training? Are we not obliged to offer our best to those who need it most, those who need to ‘feel’ the motivation, who needs to ‘see’ the words come to life, those who depend on Ubuntu – those who learn by resonating…

Some of the most successful facilitators I’ve partnered with are not the ones with the best PowerPoint presentations or the best gadgets, but those who are tuned in to what is understood of what is communicated. Those who can ‘read the room’ and elaborate on certain concepts, move the order of content around to follow the energy flow of the room, those who can think on their feet to add the appropriate example at the appropriate time in order to create a-ha-moments of understanding…

I am a forever optimist… And in this case I am a careful pessimist…

I am carefully pessimistic. I believe we need a human connection to resonate with life, with our purpose in life and what we contribute to being Ubuntu… I am carefully pessimistic that virtual spaces are not the answer to our long-term survival as humans to thrive.

Within my circle of connections and context, I believe my voice might be controversial…

I am not convinced (as yet – if ever) that it is the end of the (training) world as we know it. In a short moment of panic, I too wanted to find a solution for my (academy’s) immediate crisis of no-activity. But as time allows clarity to settle in, I am more and more convinced every day that the answer to this reality is not in changing our methods, but rather our skills. Improved methods and technological gifts brought forth by the 4th Industrial Revolution will only support our future (training) interventions, not replace them.

I am an optimist. I believe in Ubuntu. I believe in human echoing, human resonance, human connection…

I am because we are…

I can because we can…

I learn because we learn…

I choose the optimistic path…

I choose to resonate…

The Innovative Entrepreneur

A couple of decades ago one of my friends was frustrated because she was not able to make an appointment with her favorite hairdresser for her quarterly foil hair-color treatment. There was too much month left for the salary to afford this much-needed self-care need… In a moment of frustration, she told her husband that he will have to be satisfied with her grey hair showing more every day until the next week when her salary is paid.

As her husband generated his own income as an entrepreneur, cashflow in their household was exactly that – cash flowing in and cash flowing out… But when he saw his wife’s need and frustration, he went into the garage with a comment: “I will see you in a couple of hours again”, got into his bakkie and returned about 30 minutes later.

After about an hour in the garage, he drove off again and 10 minutes later walked into the house with cash and told her to book an appointment. She insisted to know where he got the money from and his answer was:

“I knew you needed the cash, so I went to the dump outside of town and picked up an old window frame somebody threw away. I’ve sanded it down, replaced one of the glasses (it was one of those wooden frames with 8 smaller glass frames), gave it a good varnish and left a couple of cracks for effect. My friend at the 2nd hand shop bought it from me to sell as a photo-frame… Whenever you need cash, just ask – there are plenty of cash if you know where to find it…”

For many years after this, I always drew inspiration as entrepreneur that if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and perseverance, nothing is impossible.

Why do I need this skill of “Innovation”?

In his State of the Nations address of 2018, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa reminded us that while change can produce uncertainty, it also presents great opportunities for “renewal and revitalization, and for progress”. On 20 June 2019, he further pointed out that economic growth and job creation will come from the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises in South Africa. Many of these enterprises are the inventions of Entrepreneurs.

Innovative entrepreneurs are extremely necessary for our country. They play an important role in contributing to job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation, and can bring about a social challenge. I am not simply referring to starting a business. It includes the ability of the entrepreneur to come up with something much better than their competition at a lower price, but still cost-effective and of quality.

The economic impact of our country’s current contextual realities of lock down is therefore even higher because of SMMEs being a major part of the economic heartbeat. SMMEs are currently under great financial strain and in some cases, losing their grip on cashflow and keeping their doors open after the lockdown period.

This will certainly ask for MORE innovation and creative opportunities to return to a crippled economy in order to save jobs and support livelihoods within our struggling communities. We all can be overwhelmed with the devastating realities of our current economic context, or we can do something about it! I foresee that those 50% of SMMEs that is predicted to survive this lock down reality, will be those who is driven by Innovative Entrepreneurial Leadership…

[1]Entrepreneurship

The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses.

An entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking and is an essential part of a nation’s ability to succeed in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Innovation

The process of translating an idea or invention into a product or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

If somebody calls you innovative it refers to your ability to deliberately apply initiative and imagination to create new ideas serving a purpose to others. You are known as an inventor when you can solve a problem or address a need of a client. By adding your entrepreneurial spirit to this skill, you generate an income from being innovative to problem-solving!

Innovations are divided into two broad categories:

  • Evolutionary innovations (continuous or dynamic evolutionary innovation) that are brought about by many incremental advances in technology or processes and
  • Revolutionary innovations (also called discontinuous innovations) which are often disruptive and new.

Innovation is synonymous with risk-taking. Imitators take less risk because they will start with an innovator’s product and take a more effective approach. Once the innovator has taken the risk to develop something new, the imitators – most often with bigger budgets and resources – will improve on the innovation.

Have you ever come up with a great idea? Perhaps more than one great idea? This is innovation!

How much money did your great idea generate up till now? Is your answer to this question “Nothing”? Ideas are worth nothing until it is implemented! An innovative entrepreneur is somebody that can come up with a great idea AND put it into existence. Even if you need to partner with an imitator with a bigger budget should your resources be limited?

Without action, a great idea will stay just that – an IDEA!

What is unique about innovative entrepreneurs?

Some people can see a solution to a problem before the problem is even defined.

If you ask somebody what they think the lifespan of an apple is, some people will try to figure out how long an apple can stay fresh, while others will pick it up and eat it to show how short it can be. Some people see the big picture and others get lost in the detail of the simplest thing. Innovative entrepreneurs are the kind of person who will find 20 different uses for a paperclip in 40 seconds and will be able to motivate each use.

Entrepreneurship goes hand-in-hand with innovation — the ability to produce new ideas, provide better solutions and pioneer new products. The most successful entrepreneurs are not simply the hardest working person, they’re the most innovative. Successful entrepreneurs stand out easily. They normally have key personal characteristics that separated them from others. It is good to recognize these characteristics in oneself and others:

Opportunity seeking

To see and act on new business opportunities; to come up with good business ideas, to seize unusual chances to make ideas happen, to organise finance, equipment, workspace and assistance. They can have multiple brilliant ideas running simultaneously with ease and success.

Persistence

To keep going even when the going gets tough; able to try different ways of overcoming obstacles; to make personal sacrifices or put great effort into completing a job. Exercise patience until a task has been completed and a goal has been reached.

Commitment to work contract

To accept full responsibility for completing a job; to ensure that the job is done well (even if this means pitching in and doing a range of different kinds of work)

Demand for quality and efficiency

To work towards the highest standards; to improve on past performance. They preach perfection but practice progress. Perfectionism is sometimes seen as negative, but to discard it, it opens the door for mediocrity. Great innovators still preach perfection, yet they live in the reality of progress. It’s a healthy pendulum-swing between the two. They strive for the ideal and get work done in the real.

Risk taking

To have the courage to take well-thought-out risks when necessary. Risk-taking is risky and many fears the uncertainty it brings. But by welcoming fear you get the benefit of what being afraid brings – heightened awareness, compassion for others you are working with, and an unbreakable commitment to survive at all costs. Fear can enable progress and innovation. When the feeling of fear arises, rather than a fight/flight response, embrace it as an advantageous adrenaline rush.

Goal setting

To set clear, well-defined long and short-term goals (and objectives).

Systematic (orderly) Planning and Monitoring

To develop and use clear step-by-step plans to reach goals; to monitor progress and to find another way of achieving goals if necessary.

Information seeking

To actively search for information on products, services, customers and competitors. They’re obsessive note-takers. Your conscious mind (working memory) can only process small chunks of information at a time. Thomas Edison left 3,500 notebooks behind at his death. Richard Branson revealed a key business tool – a notepad – as he is always seeking feedback from flight passengers and cabin crew and using that information to innovate. Your most successful idea can come from anywhere; while you’re waiting for the toaster to pop or while driving in traffic on the freeway. 

Persuasion and Networking

People-skills – the ability to communicate effectively and to persuade and motivate others; to be able to build up a network of people to assist with achieving objectives.

Self – confidence

To have a strong belief in self, the inner certainty that one can meet challenges. Successful entrepreneurs and great innovators are highly confident. People with high confidence performs better in stressful situations. When others see risk, highly confident and innovative entrepreneurs see opportunity; when others see roadblocks and potential failure, they see victory. A key part of innovation is implementation – it’s not to come up with an idea first, but to be the first to produce it.

Creativity and innovative ability

Creativity refers to a person’s ability to think creatively. Innovative ability refers more to the use of creative abilities to create something concrete.

They’re brilliantly lazy

Bill Gates said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Gates could substitute “a lazy person” with “an innovative person.” Innovators will find the best and easiest route to get a project done. It boils down to efficiency. Innovators live by the saying, “Work smart, not hard.” They don’t just strive to create the best product, but also the best process. The best product combined with the best process is scalable!

They don’t wait for things to break.

Great innovators don’t wait for things to break, they stay ahead to live by the belief that ‘it can always be better’. Rather than wait for a problem and then provide a solution, great innovators find ways to ensure the problem will never even exist.

They understand the creative process.

The four classic stages of the creative process: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination & Implementation. Incubation is the moment in the creative process just before the ‘ah-ha!-moment’. It allows for the unconscious process to disseminate all information gathered for the conscious process to deliver the creative idea and solution.

They pursue multiple streams.

Just like the creative process, alternative interests overlap and feed off each other. Having multiple projects breaks the pressure of succeeding in one single venture. It will also expand your knowledge and interests within your business.

Which entrepreneurial characteristics do you have? Which of these are you currently struggling with?

Discussion Points

The most important personal resources of entrepreneurs are their attitudes and motivation – those abilities and attitude that often cannot be obtained through training. Very few entrepreneurs have all the characteristics needed for success and some do not apply all their skills in the right way.

Here are a few such shortcomings or weaknesses you should be aware of:

  • Setting up unrealistic time frames

Entrepreneurs are usually in a hurry. They want to achieve their goals very quickly. Unfortunately, in their excitement, they often underestimate the time and resources required to reach their goals. Do not waste time, but also do not jump into an idea without doing your homework and planning properly.

  • Keeping things to themselves

Entrepreneurs often do not know how to get the help of others. They want to do everything themselves and they don’t want to ask for help from anybody. An idea is worth nothing if you do not implement it. If you are not able to implement it without help and keep it to yourself, it might never see the light. Make sure to seek assistance in a responsible way.

  • Too many interruptions

Because Entrepreneurs are so keen to do everything themselves, they normally allow too many interruptions to interfere with their business. It might be necessary to develop a strategy when and how to tend to email, administration and planning. It might work to set aside a Monday or Friday for administration where you focus on spending time on planning, catching up on reports and to file all necessary documents and files electronically or a filing system.

If you are working on creative products you will know when is best for you to focus on this. For me personally the only time I can really focus on something creative, is when everybody else is asleep. There are no interruptions and time seems to stand still between 10 pm and 4 am. It does help however if you are in control of your own diary to schedule the next day’s meetings only from 10:30 or 11 am.

  • Working without a plan

Many Entrepreneurs prepare a well thought through business plan to start a business, but then they never look at their plan again. There is a reason why a business plan has a certain structure. It provides for a logical think-process to be followed in order to cover all aspects needed to be considered. A well-structured business plan should assist you to focus on the core aspects to keep in mind when setting up and running with your idea.

  • Not doing homework

Entrepreneurs are normally so excited to start a business or to branch out into a new area that they tend to rush into something without doing enough market research, checking their resources, or finding out what the competition is like. These aspects are important to consider and might even give you the edge of advantage.

[1] A couple of Definitions taken from http://www.businessdictionary.com (text quoted in italics)

What is coming?

4th industrial revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on previous revolutions, which began in the 18th century (First Industrial Revolution) with the invention of the steam engine. The Second Industrial Revolution used electricity to create mass production, and the Third used electronics and information technology to automate production.

The main differences between previous revolutions and the Fourth are the pace of change – breakthroughs are happening at a rate unprecedented in history – and the scale of disruption; today, every industry is being transformed at an accelerating speed[1].

“We are currently in the midst of an industrial revolution with an exponential pace of change and it is disrupting every industry in every country. This revolution is different from the past three in terms of velocity, scope and impact. It is a digital revolution, characterized by a fusion of technology that is impacting every aspect of how we work and how we live, creating threats and opportunities. Skills that we learned in formal education are now becoming irrelevant. Employees should be prepared to completely reskill themselves.[2]

In the State of the Nation 2019 (#SONA 20 June 2019), President Cyril Ramaphosa said:

“We will continue to develop programs to ensure that economically excluded young people are work-ready and absorbed into sectors where ‘jobs demand’ is growing. These sectors include global business processing services, agricultural value chains, technical installation, repair and maintenance and new opportunities provided through the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution. (… and later…) Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution?”

We need to rethink our (previous) thinking…

Answer the following by ticking only 1 of the following 2:

  • I know 20+ people with a 20+ year work relationship with a single (only one!) employer.
  • I know 20+ people with a combined work experience of 20+ years of work, but with multiple employers/income generation opportunities – some of them with more than 1 employer/project/focus at a time.

It is a reality that the world of work is changing! A couple of decades ago it was frowned upon to have more than 2 or 3 employers listed on your CV. The trend was to have full-time, lifelong employment in fixed occupations with clearly defined job descriptions. This is changing drastically moving into the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Due to different reasons, people currently are re-inventing themselves and show flexibility between occupations, industries, and cross-functions within the world of work. Currently (pre #COVID-19) it is estimated that more than half of salaried workers are either part-time or temporary employed with one or multiple companies – and even across continents.

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound exciting? Does this sound terrifying?

If this excites you and you are stuck in a 9 to 5 work environment with limited movement opportunities, you might be missing out on a work-arrangement that will bring the best out of you and your skill set. You are not only one set of skills!

If this is your reality after the #COVID-19 pandemic and you are motivated by the nail underneath (vs the carrot in front), you might be terrified! Maybe it is time to re-think yourself, your value, your worth, your #BasketOfSkills…

You have a #BasketOfSkills that makes up your VALUE as a “worker”

Experience, tenacity, and creativity become almost more important than formal education. The 4th Industrial Revolution with a ‘technology character’ is bringing unknown opportunities – and challenges – to the workplace. Business owners will be looking for people comfortable to dig into their #BasketOfSkills – fulfilling a variety of roles within the business – that will allow them to deal with the unknown future.

The following research (original source not known) was included in a webinar presented by Suzanne Hattingh in June 2018:

  • 65% of children starting school in 2018 will enter jobs that don’t exist today
  • 65% of children now at school will have 14 different jobs before age 40
  • 67% percentage of jobs in South Africa are at risk from automation (Ethiopia 85%, China 77%, India 69%, Nigeria 65%, UK 35%)
  • 60% of what students learn in their 1st year at university is outdated by their 3rd year.

Examples of these disruptive technologies are: (according to McKinsey Global Institute, 2013)

  • Advanced robotics: increasingly capable robots or robotic tools with enhanced ‘senses,’ dexterity and intelligence can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate;
  • The ‘internet of things’: the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable them to collect, exchange data and ‘talk to one another’;
  • Artificial intelligence exhibited by machines that work and react like humans and are capable of speech recognition, visual perception, decision-making, problem-solving and learning;
  • Devices and physical systems that store energy for later use that could make electric vehicles cost-competitive and bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries; and
  • Drones, cloud technology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, software-based digital therapies, next-generation genomics, 3D printing, and driverless vehicles.

These are no longer science fiction. General Electric has designed robots that can climb and maintain wind turbines. A 3D printer in the Netherlands built a footbridge over a canal by using long robotic arms and lasers to melt the metal powder – without the help of human hands, girders or concrete foundations. Self-driving robots can deliver parcels and groceries anywhere within a three-mile radius using less energy than most light bulbs. Motor manufacturers are already road-testing driverless cars, and the head of Ford predicts that in the future driving with a steering wheel will be “as antiquated as wanting to ride a horse”. (The Edge Foundation, 2016) On 25 August 2016 Singapore launched a trial and “became the first country in the world to have on-demand driverless taxis – a new technology that is advertised to disrupt the transport industry”[3].

How does this influence me – you?

Workplace changes

I frequently refer to my CV as my School of (work)Life. Although I would not change anything captured in my list of work experience as an employee, I realised I have many aspects of the environment I’ve worked in, that I would NOT like to duplicate in my own business.

As I struggled to find a perfect enough matching employer, I took the leap and became my own employer. Unfortunately, I am not as brave as this sounds, as I did not take this leap for the proverbial carrot in front of my nose, but rather because of the nails I was walking on every day at my last workplace. Two opportunities from previous employers that came in simultaneously did offer a soft landing though. This offered me the choice if is wanted to stay where I am or to create an independent space where I can focus on what I know I am good at and have to offer.

Stepping out into this new exciting and unsure venture, the best thing I did to clear my head and give me a clear vision I’ve based my consultancy on, was to decide what I wish NOT to include in my own business.

This basically came down to:

becoming a place where I WANT to work and not HAVE to work

I made a list of expectations, approaches, ethical considerations, location, working hours and types of colleagues that did not bring the best out of me in the companies I’ve worked in. This gave me a clear indication of what would motivate me to work. A quick result of this exercise:

  • EXPECTATIONS: The expectation to implement something I buy into, something I created myself or products I developed, tested and are satisfied with myself. I had plenty experiences where I was expected to give much more (time, myself, availability) than what I was willing to give or was paid for. 
  • APPROACHES: Transparency and collaboration with colleagues, clients and end-users in such a way that the entire engagement becomes a developmental approach. Clients are mostly caught off guard with transparency and are more willing to grow when they know all the potential risks and benefits upfront. And there will always be enough work for everybody – by collaborating with others always makes you stronger in your efforts!
  • ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Dignity and honesty are two of the most important ethical principles I do not compromise on easily. I’ve walked away from high-earning projects where people’s dignity was not respected and uphold.
  • LOCATION: I did not see the point in working from a single place, wasting time in peak hour traffic. It allowed me to move into client’s spaces to get a better understanding of where they function, how they deal with their staff and clients and what aspects of their working environment they might take for granted.
  • WORKING HOURS: I realized that my peak hours for creative work only starts when everybody else is falling asleep. I choose to concentrate my efforts during personal peak-times instead of working against the flow.
  • TYPES OF COLLEAGUES: I am a problem-solver and creative thinker kind of optimistic worker. I do not see the point in identifying a problem without a couple of solution options, I do not believe in a dead-end in projects and processes and is struggling to work for a manager that works from a place of fear instead of problem-solving.

Who do you want to be? Would you be motivated by the carrot in front of you, or forced by the nails you walk on?

Unfortunately our context globally forced us to think about the way we work, the skills we currently HAVE vs the skills we currently NEED…

Maybe it’s time to discover new skills to fit into the #FutureSkilled group of professionals needed to take the world of work, into a new (mostly unknown) future…

[1] https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/opinion/what-is-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-14127465

[2] Jacob Morgan, https://bit.ly/2M1ZfHF

[3] http://www.straitstimes.com