Managers earning organisations 21st century a broader range Skills, Knowledge Attributes succeed. Issues rapid change, shifts management thinking, understanding global context, continuous improvement ongoing leadership development impact aspiring manager.
KSAs of the 21st century workforce
Why KSAs are important
At the beginning of the 20th century, the knowledge, skills, and attributes of workers were defined in a relatively concrete, fixed, and limited fashion. In factory systems of mass production it was demanded that workers serve the organization for which they worked obediently and compliantly. Perhaps this concept is best epitomized in the concept of Scientific Management, as advocated by Frederick Taylor. "Prior to scientific management, work was performed by skilled craftsmen who had learned their jobs in lengthy apprenticeships. They made their own decisions about how their job was to be performed. Scientific management took away much of this autonomy and converted skilled crafts into a series of simplified jobs that could be performed by unskilled workers who easily could be trained for the tasks" (Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management, 2012, Net MBA). Taylor viewed workers are basically lazy, and thought they would do their best to minimize their required output, for fear of being asked to do more and work harder. Taylor attempted to quantify the best way for workers to perform tasks, like cogs in a machine, so that regardless of the employee's will, they were able to perform to employer specifications.
The idea of worker-as-machine is incompatible with 21st century management needs. Even lower-level workers need to think creatively and managers must be open to their input. A worker on the floor of a factory may have an idea of how to render work more efficiently; a retail employee must understand how to make the company's service as well as the product compelling enough to encourage consumers to part with hard-earned dollars. "The core job dimensions of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback all were missing from the picture of scientific management" (Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management, 2012, Net MBA).
Today, managers must exhibit technical proficiency, adaptability to the new global marketplace, and superior communication skills to thrive. But the discrepancy between the skill sets that workers possess in the 21st century and what is actually needed is evident in recently-released job figures. "Recent grads can't get jobs. People can't afford to retire. Unemployment is up (again) and the latest jobless figures are bleak. But companies are starving for highly skilled workers. And the discrepancy has been getting worse" (Hasham 2012). The knowledge, skills, and abilities of the 21st century workforce must include technical knowledge of one's profession, computer savvy, and flexibility in the face of change, as well as tolerance of diversity and communication skills.
KSA 1: Technical knowledge -- the critical deficit of many highly-skilled managers
Although the economic downturn has affected virtually every economic sector to some degree, particularly hardest-hit are low-skilled manufacturing jobs. "People's skills don't match the skills required in the workplace" with the shift to a knowledge-based vs. service-based economy (Hasham 2012). "Low-skilled but high-paying jobs have moved offshore, leaving either low-paying jobs or professional jobs that require specific technical skills with too few people to fill them" (Hasham 2012). Skilled workers with the necessary knowledge and attributes are critical in driving growth.
A good example of this is seen in the field of healthcare -- baby boomer nurses will be retiring soon, as there is increased demand for nurses to take care of a rapidly-aging population. While more young and transitional workers are considering healthcare as a possible career opportunity, there is a shortage of nursing instructors which has severely limited new nurses' ability to train for their careers. "According to AACN's report on 2011-2012 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2011 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints" (Nursing faculty shortage, 2012, AACN). This highlights how a mismatch between skills and attributes can have a negative effect upon the individual student and upon an entire, vital segment of the economy.
Many workers are also not leaving college with technical training in the necessary areas for which there is high demand within the economy. "The post-secondary degrees or diplomas also need to provide the right skills and it's important to choose the right field" (Hasham 2012). Employers expect employees to 'hit the ground running' with the necessary skills for the job and are less willing to invest in training than before, given a shortage of critical resources. "The problem is not that we are overeducating ourselves...Rather, it's that we are spending a fortune to undereducate ourselves...In an educational system where graduation from high school at a minimum level often means no grasp of mathematics beyond basic arithmetic, no training in basic personal finance, and no marketable professional skills, this is an obvious problem" (Hornig & Daley 2012).
There is now a 'glut' of soft-skilled, liberal arts majors without jobs. "When fewer students attended college and even fewer jobs required technical skills, private employers, and especially government, could soak up the overflow, putting people to work provided they had a degree, any degree... For a while. English literature, sociology, psychology, communications, fine arts, gender studies, and the like were majors that led, inadvertently, to nontechnical jobs -- the blue-collar work of an information economy, marketing, and business, and of course to teaching the increasing numbers of new college students" (Hornig & Daley 2012).
This is no longer the case. Technical skills are demanded in the new workforce. But liberal arts and generic business degrees are the most popular majors with young graduates, and these majors often have the highest unemployment rates. The "five college majors with the highest unemployment rates (crossed against popularity): clinical psychology, 19.5%; miscellaneous fine arts, 16.2%; United States history, 15.1%; library science, 15.0%; and military technologies and educational psychology are tied at 10.9%...Unemployment rates for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] subjects? Astrophysics/astronomy, just about 0%; geological and geophysics engineering, 0% as well; physical science, 2.5%; geosciences, 3.2%; and math/computer science, 3.5%" (Hornig & Daley 2012). Employers want and need workers with technical knowledge and expertise to serve vital functions in the economy, they no longer merely want workers who can testify that they have 'learned how to learn.' Now that "economic growth has slowed and unemployment rates have spiked, making employers much pickier about qualifications to hire" (Hornig & Daley 2012).
Even managers in the field of marketing, human resources, or advertising must have technical knowledge and expertise in a manner they did not have to in previous eras. A marketer must know how to reach consumers through online advertising which requires the manager to know how to use search engine optimization in an effective manner and to have familiarity with the tools to target different demographic groups and users online. Human resource staff must use software to track productivity, hiring trends, and to analyze what enables workers to be retained for a longer duration of time. Advertisers must use technology in a cutting-edge and arresting fashion to sell products. The more a worker can use technology with confidence, the greater his or her value to the organization.
Every manager, regardless of his or her field of expertise must continue to educate him or herself in science technology, or be left to obsolescence. The fear should not be of unemployment, but of a fundamental mismatch between one's skills in the form of structural unemployment. "Despite the fact that we have a very high unemployment rate, there seems to be a lot of jobs that businesses are trying to fill and have failed to fill, which raises issues that maybe there is a mismatch of skills in the job market... Without additional technical skills, many unemployed people are unqualified for the specialized positions that are currently available" (Kurtzleben 2012). At very minimum, managers "should be able to use the Internet for research and be proficient on desktop applications for word processing. Increasing skill levels with spreadsheet, database, and presentation applications are further enhancements that can help one get a higher-paying job. Extending technology knowledge further through networking, developer and programming skills" makes a manager's qualifications even more desirable (Carew 2012).
KSA2: Diversity and intercultural awareness
The modern workforce is global. Even workers who work for relatively small companies must do business with an eye on the larger economic environment. Furthermore, the availability of engaging in commerce via the World Wide Web means that managers must have a sense of tolerance of diverse cultures, possess intercultural knowledge, and know how to manage workers in a very diverse and pluralistic environment. The demographics of a company, given the increased mobility of workers, may include workers from different countries, regions, and socio-economic origins.
Tolerance does not just mean being EEOC compliant and hiring workers of diverse backgrounds; it also means that managers must know to foster an…