Data and Digital Transformation Accelerated by Invaluable Human Skills

Data and Digital Transformation Accelerated by Invaluable Human Skills

The transition to a data and digital era workforce is a workforce transformation issue that's on the minds of HRDs, COOs, CTOs, CEOs, and boards around the world. It’s also a massive opportunity. In fact, PwC recently announced a $3 billion investment over four years to upskill their workforce to support this transition. 

PwC's research found that 61% of the workforce is really positive about the impact of technology on their jobs. However, only 33% are being given opportunities outside of their normal duties to develop digitally savvy skills.

There is every reason to believe this gap will close, particularly with large organisations beginning to upskill and develop their workforce of the future at scale.

At a leadership level, DDI's research has found that organizations with digitally savvy leaders financially outperform those without by 50% - and those with digitally naive employees by 78%.

The gap is clear and the business case is strong.

Organisations will continue to make big investments to develop people at scale and upskill them to become a data and digital era workforce. It is critical that data and digital skills, and uniquely human skills, are prioritised equally.

Uniquely human skills give data and digital skills the commercial edge they need. They also make the transition much smoother for the workforce. Human skills give data skills and digital tools greater connection with people and therefore influence the business.

Three Emerging Jobs in the Digital Transformation

In their 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte found there to be three distinct types of jobs emerging – and of major note is the significant role of uniquely human skills, or soft skills.

  • Standard jobs: Roles that perform work using a specified and narrow skill set. Generally organized around repeatable tasks and standard processes. (Deloitte, 2019)

  • Hybrid jobs: Roles that perform work using a combination of skill sets drawing on both technical and soft skills. Historically, these types of skills have not been combined in the same job. (Deloitte, 2019)

  • Super jobs: Roles that combine work and responsibilities from multiple traditional jobs, using technology to both augment and broaden the scope of the work performed and involve a more complex set of domain, technical, and human skills. (Deloitte, 2019)

As these and other jobs emerge, there will continue to be skills gaps. Even the younger generations don't necessarily have the data and digital skills one might expect, let alone the soft, human skills to go with them. In an article last year Deloitte also found that only 12% of leaders believe UK school leavers and graduates have the right digital skills, down from 20% who said the same in 2017.

Critical Human Skills

When upskilling a workforce, reskilling a division, or training an early career talent cohort, here are three examples where human skills are invaluable in a data and digital era workforce. People need the skills and knowledge to:

  • Be curious and think critically when using data - e.g. Curiosity Mindset, Critical Thinking

  • Participate in eco-systems of agile, innovative working practices - e.g. Hyper-Collaboration

  • Give gravitas and meaning to data visualisations, insights and recommendations - e.g. Story Telling

This is a very small sample. It is these skills and many other uniquely human skills that will give data and digital skills greater connection with people, influence on the business – and make the transition and transformation to a data and digital era workforce a smooth one.  

Top Tips from Behavioural Exchange Conference 2019 (BX2019)

Behavioural Science for the Workplace

To say I was excited about BX2019 which exploded in London on the 5th & 6th of September is something of an understatement. Hosted by The Behavioural Insights Team, 1,200 delegates from 65 countries convened at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in Westminster, and the 2019 line up was eye-watering; David Halpern & the great and the good from BIT, Cass Sunstein, Dan Ariely, Robert Shiller, Katy Milkman, Tali Sharot, Nick Chater, Laszlo Bock… the list went on.

In addition to unparalleled networking, there was a never-ending stream of spellbinding sessions, on topics as diverse as ’Have we learnt the lessons of the replication crisis’, ‘Can sustainable diets ever be palatable’ and ‘Beyond unconscious bias training’.

It’s impossible to synthesise all the themes from these powerful two days into a single article, so I have taken the lens of the work I do at Development Beyond Learning, and have picked out 4 insights for applying behavioural science in the workplace. I hope you enjoy:

  1. The power of social norms

  2. Changing behaviour to change minds

  3. Add fuel, remove friction

  4. The importance of evaluation

@betsylevyp on stage @BXconference #bx2019

1. The Power of Social Norms

From Betsy Paluck speaking about reducing violence in schools through social norms, to Cass Sunstein on the role of social interdependencies in driving change, the idea that leveraging social norms is a powerful way to influence behaviour, was everywhere.

Sunstein made the particularly striking observation that even nascent, emerging social norms have the power to change behaviour. If you tell people that a norm is emerging, they want to be on the ‘right side of history’ and they get behind it.

The implication for practitioners using behavioural science in businesses is to pay attention to established and emerging social norms if we wish to influence organisational change. At DBL, we see this all the time with our early career development programmes. Whatever behaviour new hires see (e.g. tardiness or prompt time-keeping), they emulate.

In a very real sense, actions speak louder than words, and whether your people are seen to be supporting or eschewing a new initiative, matters far more than what your carefully crafted employee engagement messaging says.


2. Changing Behaviour to Change Minds

It is a core tenant of the behavioural science movement that small changes in the environment can profoundly drive behavioural change. At this conference, I heard more about the role of cognitive dissonance in this. From adjusted HR processes leading to fairer, more inclusive practices to using incentives to nudge people to be more environmentally conscious when travelling, our desire to avoid inconsistencies between our behaviour & our beliefs is a very powerful way to nudge our behaviours, and subsequently beliefs in a desired direction.

The implication for organisational behavioural scientists is that we need wherever possible to take a holistic approach to driving change, rather than taking a piecemeal approach. Specifically, we cannot expect to create lasting behavioural shifts through development programmes or change initiatives without considering the day to day context in which our employees are operating. 

So how to change organisational context effectively? Well that brings me onto:

3. Add Fuel, Remove Friction.

My favourite behavioural science principle is that if you want someone to do something, make it easy. Dan Ariely’s suggestion that to drive change, we need to add fuel and remove friction is perhaps one of the simplest and most powerful takeaways from the conference. From complex competency frameworks to arduous performance management processes, organisations are littered with well-intended systems that make it very hard for people to do what we want and need them to do.

There are a plethora of ways in which organisations can seek to add fuel and remove friction. And the uptick for doing so can be enormous. For instance, Ariely found that companies that treat their employees well outperform the S&P 500 by fully 12%. Which brings me nicely onto my final point:

4. The Importance of Evaluation

Three insights emerged on the importance of evaluation regarding L&D interventions

  • We need more of it

The global training industry is big business. Large organisations spend approximately $372 billion on training globally each year. Astonishingly, that represents half the sum companies spend on marketing worldwide with, according to Laszlo Bock, very little evidence that this training works. In discussion with Katy Milkman, Bock emphasised the need for scientific experimentation demonstrating that these programmes have long term behavioural impact, rather than leaving their efficacy in question. 

  • We need more than self-report

In ‘How well do we really know ourselves and each other – and what does this mean for practitioners’, Nick Chater & Seth Stephens-Davidowitz suggested that caution is required when extrapolating from self-reported data. Chater, speaking about his book ‘The mind is flat’, suggests that the level of self-deception can be quite astonishing (e.g. half the people who say they are going to vote, do not) pointing to the fact that we simply don’t know ourselves that well due to perceptual limitations. Stephens-Davidowitz’s research in ‘Everybody Lies’ demonstrates that what people tell us and what the data shows, are often two very different things.

Given that self-report data predominates evidence collected on training programmes efficacy, the recurrent theme through the conference that we need to take what people say to others and themselves about their motives and actions needs to be taken very seriously.

  • We need to expect failure

A recurrent message throughout the conference was the need to accept and welcome failure. The avoidance of negative or nil-results at the heart of the replication crisis, is equally the root-cause of the prolific measurement-avoidance that L&D practitioners experience and exhibit.

In discussion with Frank Douglas, he made the opposite observation that when L&D and HR practitioners evaluate their programmes they are in effect ‘marking their own homework’. The incentive to reveal that their work isn’t working, simply isn’t there. We need to re-align incentives and encourage organisations to welcome a test-and-learn approach, and to celebrate failure, if we are really to expect evaluation to be celebrated.

This becomes even more important when one considers how common failure is. According to David Halpern, we should only expect about ¼ projects to succeed, and in organisational context specifically, Frank Douglas, Laszlo Bock and Katy Milkman all pointed to the prevalence of false positives.


Screenshot 2019-10-15 at 13.55.43.png

If you want to learn more about the conference, you can read David Halpern’s summary here, where you can also sign up for the BIT newsletter which will announce when recordings from the conference are released for your personal viewing pleasure. And you can sign up for BX2020 Toronto here.

Hope to see you there.

Why Do Graduates Need Resilience?

I vividly remember finding the first 12 months of my graduate program being extremely difficult. It started the months following 9/11. Ambiguity, change, and uncertainty reigned.

Some graduate employers were canceling programs, postponing cohorts and in some cases making graduates redundant within weeks of starting them. Resilience skills, emotional resilience and resilience psychology were all things graduates needed.

My Graduate Experience Was Tough

Securing my graduate role pre-9/11, I was joining a consulting arm to help senior leaders solve complex, strategic client problems. It sounded great and I was super excited. It turned out, however, there now wasn’t a lot of that type of work around post 9/11.

Instead, when I turned up on day one, post 9/11, I found myself in audit.

 A marketing grad.

In audit!

Naturally, I found the work exhausting and hard. I hadn't studied accounting or technology and had zero interest in either. The hours were long and the manager’s expectations were high. I was incredibly frustrated. I felt very lonely and there were countless times I wanted to quit.

In hindsight, that difficult career transition gave me mentors and networks I still value and am in touch with today. And, a suite of business skills, mindsets and tools I would not have learnt otherwise and that  I use today leading a business. Resilience was key.


Fast-forward eighteen years and ambiguity, change and uncertainty are still here. And so is the need for graduates to develop resilience skills.

Graduates need help developing resilience

The latest QS Global Skills Gap Report has found resilience to be in the top three skills graduates lack – particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom. What’s more, graduates underestimate the extent to which they lack resilience.


There’s a bunch of reasons we could debate as to why this gap exists. A part of the problem may be today’s graduate’s historically low participation in part-time work during the university years. They miss out on learning things the hard way by dealing with a bad boss, a screaming customer or having to back up for an exam after a long night shift. But that’s a discussion for another time.


We need to work together as an industry to address this gap – employers, education and providers. Efforts are being made with 100% of graduate employers in Australia, for instance, assessing for resilience during the recruitment process, with 43% considering it as ‘very important’ (AAGE, 2019).  

Assessing during selection is not enough.

Early career development programs, graduate programs included, need to address the resilience gap through their content, tools, and opportunities to develop the necessary skills.


If performance in the job is not reason enough, let’s remember mental health is a massive problem with our young people, and our early career and graduate cohorts are not immune. A recent study reported 70% of graduates have experienced mental health issues. (CMHA, 2019)

Graduates have questions about resilience skills.

Given many graduates underestimate the extent to which they lack resilience, lots of questions get asked when the topic is raised. Here are five common questions:

What does career resilience mean?

How do you develop resilience at work?

Why is resilience important for early career growth?

Can you learn to be more resilient?

What makes someone more resilient?

How to help grads become more resilient

So much can be done! Here is one tool, and one approach, almost any early-career or graduate development program can take to help close the gap.


One tool employers can include in their development programs to help graduates develop resilience skills is called ‘reframing’.  

Reframing is one of the most powerful tools behavioural science gives us.

Humans have an amazing ability to endure and thrive when we re-frame adverse or difficult situations in a more positive light. For example, a graduate not getting the rotation they want could be “the end of my career” or “a chance to learn new skills and build new networks”.


However, reframing can be difficult in the moment. The good news is there are ways to teach reframing to make it easier and practical to use day-to-day.


Reframing should be actively taught and practiced in development programs.

An approach employers can take to help graduates develop resilience, is to design their programs through the lens of Connectedness.


Research shows the more connected people feel while embracing new challenges, the more likely they are to persevere and succeed. Development programs, therefore, should be designed to enhance connectedness. For example, invest in engaging the managers of participants with the program in lots of different ways, so they can connect with graduates and offer support and guidance when things get tough.  As well, apply social learning techniques – where graduates learn through interaction and deliberate experience sharing.


There are so many ways development programs can help address the gap in resilience skills, and there are even more reasons why in 2019 it is so important that they do.

Josh Mackenzie is the Chairman, Founder of DBL. He is a purpose driven leader who is passionate about business as a force for good.

Behavioural Economics: Think Small. Act Small.

Think small. Act small.

This is my renewed mantra.

And it is completely counter to the approach I’ve taken to life and business for the past 22 years. Thinking big has always been my thing. I enjoy it and it energises me. Acting big, however, has not always been as easy.

I find taking big action quite hard. And so when big dreams, goals and ideas are left to me, I often get stuck. I can be overwhelmed by the enormity of some of the actions required. If I let this last too long I feel guilty for the inaction … and so on. It’s great fun.

Unless others get involved, this has nearly always stifled any progress, and made personal change or business change towards a dream, goal or vision much more difficult.

When others get involved however, magic happens. I’ve gotten better over many years at surrounding myself with teams of relentless, action-oriented executors. And in more recent times, leaders who build their own teams of such talent. I think this is only part of the solution.

The idea of forgoing “thinking big and acting big” for “thinking small and acting small’ seems to have merit.

How Behavioural Economics can help

Behavioural economics, and the science that is growing around it, suggests there are ways to make the actions and changes we desire, easier by creating small and simple changes in our environment to nudge us in the right direction - thinking small, and acting small. Sure, have big dreams and goals, but ‘think and act small’ to find ways to make the pathway towards them easier, and thus their attainment more likely.

Evidence is building in favour of such an idea. 


Nudge Theory in Practice

In 2010, UK Prime Minister David Cameron piloted a different approach to public policy to help achieve big things. Cameron was partly convinced that behavioural economics had the potential to unlock some of the big changes he was hoping to achieve whilst in government.  

This was based on the emerging field of behavioural economics, which lists Nobel prize winners such as Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler as it’s founders. A field brought to prominence with Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness based on the idea of nudge theory.  

A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

Cameron gave David Halpern the green light to establish the Behavioural Insights Team – or what famously became known as the Nudge Unit. Behind closed doors, deep inside 10 Downing St and with two years to prove that a team of people using behavioural insights could achieve dramatic change towards big goals in a minimum of two government departments.

‘Would you like anything else?’ - Nudge theory in action

‘Would you like anything else?’ - Nudge theory in action

Examples of Nudges

At the Behavioural Exchange conference this year, Halpern shared several examples of nudges that have, in the years since, achieved significant social or economic impact in the UK.

One nudge resulted in people paying their taxes quicker! HMRC tested various social norm messages in their direct mail campaign to Self Assessment tax debtors. Some people received letters pointing out that the majority of people in their local area had paid on time, and that most people with a debt like theirs had already paid. Others had no such messages in their letters.

Payment rates from the first group increased by 5% leading to £1.2m more being paid in the first month.

Nudge Theory in Learning & Development 

At an organisational level, we use behavioural science, and nudge theory, in the design of our learning and development programs for our clients around the world – and have been for as long as 10 Downing St.

Action Learning Periods were an idea we first tested and then pioneered in the Australian and SE Asian graduate development industry around 2009. An ALP is a set of simple, carefully curated behavioural nudges provided to a learner over a period of time – often in between workshops – to make behavioural change and learning transfer, easier.

Look out for an article shortly on how Behavioural Science can be used to make learning and development programs more effective in creating change by our Chief Behavioural Officer Alice Scott (MSc, Behavioural Science). As an aside, I’m sure Alice will appreciate that very public use of a ‘commitment device’ - which in itself is a behavioural nudge!

Nudge Theory for Personal Growth

So what about on a more personal level? What nudges can we use in our day-to-day lives to help us take action and make change, easier? I can only share from my own experience and I am curious to hear if you have some of your own.

Here are two really simple examples of nudges I have adopted over the years simply by ‘thinking small and acting small’.   

Wallet sized goals

I have found having my vision, goals and affirmations on a credit card size piece of card in my wallet incredibly useful. Our thoughts become our actions, then our habits, and our results. I realized I had on average, over an hour of time each day where my thinking had little focus or value. There was always plenty on my mind but I wasn’t using it effectively. Think waiting for the train to arrive, waiting in a foyer for an appointment, waiting for the barista to make your coffee, etc.  

Opening my wallet, pulling out my vision, goals and affirmations for a quick 3-5 minute read a few times a day, helped ensure what was most important to me was always top of mind, bringing me energy and focus in the noise of day-to-day life.

Running gear ready to go

I’ve spent the past 10 years building a business, beginning and developing our marriage, starting a life on the other side of the world, traveling fairly excessively, and most importantly becoming a father to three children and experiencing everything that three children five years old and under brings to ones life. 

It’s fair to say I haven't always found early morning starts, easy. And it's even more fair to say exercise over the past decade went out the window. At times where I have decided to run quite a lot, early in the morning, I will always put my running gear out the night before, and right next to my bed. This has made it easy to put the feet on the floor and straight into running gear. A shift in physiology that has made it a lot easier to get out the door and trotting off down the street.  

Think small. Act small. Big Changes.

Thinking small and acting small can have a profound effect on our ability to achieve behavioural change with others, and with ourselves.  

What nudges have you seen that have had a great impact on your own life, your industry or the world around you?

Will AI Takeover Humans? How The Human Workforce Can Develop Alongside AI

At recent focus groups held by Development Beyond Learning (DBL) in Sydney, London and Singapore this was the hot topic of conversation.

DBL invited business, talent, people and culture, and learning and development leaders, from diverse industries, to roundtable events on the future of work. The discussions focussed on three areas:

  • the future of work

  • future skills

  • future skills development

The burning question everyone left was;

What would be the true impact of the future on the workplace and how could we start to embrace AI?


Whether you believe it’s science fiction or not artificial intelligence is on the rise and smart machines will transform how we live and work.

It is happening now.

The World Economic Forum recently released a video listing the top 10 countries adopting AI and robotics in the workplace. In the number one spot was South Korea with the surprising statistic that 1 in every 631 workers was a robot.

At Netflix machine learning is integral to its video recommendation engine, so much so that it has valued the ROI at 1 billion GBP a year, due to its impact on customer retention.

AI is also creating new 'talent' requirements in organisations, and is likely to impact the early career talent organisations recruit more and more in coming years. Increased adoption of AI is also creating new training and development needs for organisations, as discussed in this recent article in the Australian Financial Review.

The future of business, and the future of work, is changing. The fourth industrial revolution has arrived.

Thankfully the long history of human kind suggests that we have always adapted to new ways of working from the first industrial revolution using water and steam power, to the second using electric power, and the third using electronics and information technology. Now we are at the fourth industrial revolution, the digital revolution, a fusing of physical, digital, and biological technologies.

New tools to do work have always been emerging and new jobs have always followed. AI is no different.

There are two categories of AI, weak and strong. Weak AI, also known as narrow AI is artificial intelligence that is focused on one narrow task. Strong AI, in contrast, is described as a machine with a consciousness, sentience and mind. A machine with the ability to apply intelligence to any problem, rather than just one specific problem. The AI systems that many of us have encountered up to now are mostly considered weak AI.

Weak AI will no doubt continue to innovate and replace jobs that were once performed by people. Despite this negative view of AI there are many benefits and opportunities that it can bring for organisations, their people and their customers. There is not only opportunity for new jobs to emerge with AI but also for current jobs to evolve and become more rewarding.

Across our roundtable events there was consensus that people will not be made redundant, instead roles will evolve, productivity will increase and life will never be quite the same.

Productivity office building

The OECD predicts that the level of attrition from AI entering the workplace will be less than 10%. This is because each individual job requires the completion of multiple tasks.

A recent article in The Harvard Business Review states that companies should look at AI through the lens of business capabilities rather than technologies. Taking a broad view of how AI can support business in three areas: automating processes, gaining insight through data analysis, and engaging with customers and employees.

In London, representatives from a leading financial services institute shared how graduate analysts worked long hours completing administrative tasks, leaving them little time for the more interesting and challenging parts of their role. They were considering how AI could aid in performing some of the more menial tasks, such as scheduling and handling data, freeing up the analysts to focus on interpreting and presenting the data for meaningful business outcomes.

It may seem that asking a workforce to positively embrace machines taking over their work is ambitious (especially for generations and cultures who hold strong to the notion of a career for life). Therefore preparing individuals for the possibility of a new career and to learn or retrain for a new job is just as important as the training or upskilling itself.

This is where the skill of growth mindset will be key. Growth mindset is the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.


In Singapore, we heard from talent managers in South East Asia that recruiting for the ‘right’ mindset has become a priority. Curiosity, an ability to learn and self-awareness are the capabilities and attributes they will be screening candidates for in the future. We also discovered how Singapore has been championing lifelong learning and upskilling since 2015, when the government launched the SkillsFuture scheme.

The Head of Education at a leading software company stated that there is a need for governments and schools globally to look to enable a stronger transformation of core work competencies.

Development Beyond Learning have researched, identified and shared a set of core future skills that include growth mindset as the underpinning skill for all future skills. They view future skills as the development of uniquely human, transferrable skills to help people future proof their careers and equip themselves for the future of work.

In Sydney it was interesting to see the conversations align to and validate this research. Identifying the need to focus on skills and capabilities that artificial intelligence has trouble replicating such as creativity and collaboration, presenting, influencing and interacting authentically with others. As David Autor, Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes it, they will be the skills required to perform, non-routine work that require cognitive ability.

A smart machine may be able to diagnose problems and recommend actions for improvement. It will however take human beings, to communicate and lead change, spurring others into action.

In this capacity social intelligence (SI) will be a highly regarded cognitive skill of the future. Social intelligence is the ability to get along well with others, and to get them to cooperate. It includes an awareness of situations and the social dynamics that govern them, and a knowledge of interaction styles and strategies that can help a person achieve his or her objectives in dealing with others. It also involves a certain amount of self-insight and a consciousness of one's own perceptions and reaction patterns. An ability that strong AI may master but from all reports this is a long way off.

The one thing AI can’t do is tell itself how it should be used.

There is a huge need to develop leaders of the future to be creative, critical thinkers and complex problem solvers who are able to make moral, ethical and socially conscious decisions about when, where and for what AI is to be used.

The long term consequences of AI in the workplace is highly nebulous but it is important that it is not ignored.

We have the ability to prepare, plan and implement strategies that will enable humans to transform and succeed in their careers. Organisations can do this by:

  • Recruiting for mindset as much as technical ability

  • Challenging and redefining traditional talent and leadership pipelines

  • Assessing workforce skills and capability gaps against those required for the future

  • Preparing people for learning, retraining and upskilling prior to rolling out training Implementing strategies and programs that develop future skills and mindsets

Organisations must look to enable and create a balance between artificial and social intelligence in the workplace, to enable both together to transform businesses, products and services, engage with and solve problems that allow us all to not only survive but thrive in the digital age.

By Saskia Spaan, Development Beyond Learning
DBL would like to thank all the leaders who participated in and contributed to the Future Skills roundtables in Sydney, London and Singapore held in May 2018. A special thankyou to SEAAGE, Gemstar and the Australian Institute of Company Directors for hosting DBL.

Reorientation: the early career talent industry skill that organisations need to master

Every year, the early career talent industry reorients millions of students and graduates from education to the professional world with stunning speed and efficiency.

Young people are inducted to the organisation through orientation programs, re-orienting them from education to work. Many are reoriented several times more as they move between different roles and environments on rotations throughout their first one to two years.

From 13 years helping the industry to achieve this in multiple sectors across 16 countries, our recent and on-going research in to the future of work – not to mention that this millennial audience will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020 – it is very clear to me the industry has mastered a skill organisations now need for the future of work: The reorientation of people.

reorientation NOUN

  1. The development of behaviours and mind-sets that help people achieve smooth transition in to new, or back in to roles, environments, occupations or organisations, quickly, more often.

A recent PwC survey reported that 60% of respondents believed that few people would have stable, long-term employment in the future. According to McKinsey, in several of the world’s largest economies, up to 50% of the workforce may need to switch occupations by 2030 due to rapid automation.

Research is showing that there is a growing shift is underway in our thinking about skills and knowledge – from a qualification lasting a lifetime, to needing to retrain for new skills every few years, move roles and occupations, and continually update soft skills in areas like collaboration, critical thinking and complex problem solving.

Quickly adapting to new roles, environments and contexts is not a new thing. However the need for more people to do so, and more regularly, is. Equipping sections of the workforce to understand the art of ‘Reorientation’ and then navigate their own reorientation with the behavioural science and skills necessary to do so, regularly, is now key.

The Reorientation of people is the development of behaviours and mind-sets that help people achieve smooth transition into new, or back in to roles, environments, occupations or organisations, quickly, more often.

More and more people want and need to reorient and move between roles, jobs and businesses, more often.

Three lenses from which to view the reorientation of people are:

  • Moving in (or back into) - people beginning or recommencing a career

  • Moving around - people developing within their career

  • Moving on - people leaving to evolve their career

When organisations become more comfortable with this new reality of career movement there will be a stronger strategic focus on assisting workforces to re-orientate – transitioning into, adapting to or find new career opportunities.

Moving in (or back into)

Moving in could include at least five different workforce audiences:

  • Students and graduates transitioning from school or higher education to the workplace

  • New employees being inducted and on boarded into organisations

  • Parents returning to work from maternity or paternity leave

  • Retirees coming back into the workforce

  • People returning from career breaks or sabbaticals

It is crucial to get this transition phase right. For experienced professionals coming back to the workplace after a period of absence, the ability to reorientate is just as important. Roles and environments they return to are often very different from when they left. They must adjust to new teams, structures, systems and processes, typically with little or no support or retraining. And particularly without training and support in the future skills needed to really succeed.

Moving around

Moving around could include (at least!) two different categories or audiences: 

  • Early career talent

  • Tenured staff

Both audiences are seen to have an increased need to continuously and proactively look for new challenges and roles in new environments. Particularly those that provide opportunities to learn new things and up skill in new areas, growing in line with organisational transformation driven by the future of work.

Moving on

Moving on is possibly where the biggest need for reorientation exists as a result of the future of work. And historically it has not been well explored in terms of development. Moving on could be viewed in terms of:

  • Individuals – where many people are not forward thinking enough and may only consider developing for their next role once their current role has almost expired.

  • Organisations – where the value of spending time and resources developing people who are going to leave has not been understood nor realised.

As the average tenure of permanent employee shortens and flexible, mobile workforces increase, more switched on individuals and progressive organisations are taking a new stance on these issues.  

If you acknowledge that most people you hire will only stay for a couple of years, then the level of ‘moving on’ development support you provide becomes a powerful talent attraction and retention strategy. And a powerful tool to future proof the business, and careers of people.  

Once people have ‘moved on’ they begin the cycle of reorientation again arriving back at the moving in (or back into) stage. Here they are once again faced with the challenges and opportunities this presents.

There is no doubt that more and more people, more often, will want and need to move in (or back into), around and move on from roles and organisations. As organisations become more comfortable with this, a higher level of acceptance, willingness and investment to help people to reorient will follow.

We believe organisations can help people move through all three stages with training and development – particularly by equipping them with relevant future skills, identifying strengths and coaching them through the change process.

We also believe that for organisations, thriving in the future of work and winning the war on talent is about reinventing recruitment, orientation, and development to future proof their business and the careers of their people.

How to truly build a diverse and inclusive workplace


That’s the extraordinary figure business is said to have spent on Unconscious Bias training. And research shows that it has had little effect on diversity, let alone inclusion, and in some instances does more harm than good.

There is definitely a role for it – however no single intervention or strategy is the answer. It is time to think beyond Unconscious Bias training – there is more we can do.

The good news is that we’re in a corporate landscape becoming hungrier to do more, to take things to the next level.

The general consensus is that diversity coupled with inclusion is complex – and will take a lot more than what has been invested in and tried previously.

D&I has become a well-accepted priority at all levels in many organisations in many sectors. Long gone are the days where D&I are simply about gender targets at board level.

There is general consensus that having a workforce diverse in thought, and one that is more representative in gender, culture, generation, race, sexual orientation, academic background, social background, and more, leads to higher productivity, innovation and better engagement with customers and clients.

Increasingly, D&I are viewed as a moral imperatives, or strong business strategies, or both.

In their book the ‘Inclusion Dividend’, authors Donovan & Kaplan state that D&I is no longer just “the right thing to do,” it is a core leadership competency and central to the success of business. 

D&I and Early Career Talent

For those responsible for recruiting and developing early career talent in this current landscape – and for any of us leading and managing teams or a workforce with a growing or strong millennial or Gen Z base – leading on the D&I front is now key to attracting, developing, leading and managing our teams and future workforces.

Deloitte states that, “good pay and positive corporate cultures are most likely to attract both millennials and Gen Z, but the key to keeping them happy are diversityinclusion and flexibility.”

Forbes recently stated that “more than any other generation, millennials (who will represent 20% of the global workforce by 2020) are flocking to companies with better diversity and inclusion programs”.

Unfortunately, that same study by Deloitte found that millennials do not believe most organisations ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to D&I.

Many organisations, leaders and managers have the best intent to embrace diversity. However, translating that intent into action and decisions against their biases – to fulfil the moral imperative they feel, achieve the business benefits that exist, or both – is not always easy and could now benefit itself, from a more diverse approach. There are things we can do to make it easier.

Behavioural Science can help

Behavioural Science looks at how people really behave, versus how we think they ought to behave – and helps us to design context and tools to make the desired behaviours and decisions easier for people to chose. In D&I terms, by better designing context and tools we can help people take different, more diverse and more inclusive actions and decisions.

One of our own leaders, Alice Scott, recently earned her Executive MSc in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics. Alice is forever reminding me of one of her favourite, and simplest, Behavioural Science principles:

“If you want people to do something, make it easy”.

An example of a behavioural science strategy within recruitment would be removing information associated with inaccurate ‘representative models’ in the application process. Hiding demographic information on forms helps ensure that initial selection decisions will focus only on the data most relevant for the role.

An example of a behavioural science strategy within a development program would be to give participants a small handful of ways they can easily choose to put content (say, from a workshop or virtual class) in to action, and in the course of their normal day. Actions that are easy to choose and carefully designed in the specific context of their normal work and unique environment. In D&I terms, actions can be designed to make choosing inclusive behaviours easy, unlocking the benefits of diversity through your development program.

Increasing inclusion through Psychological Safety

Organisations may achieve diversity quotas and have an equal gender balance, and cultural, racial, generational and sexual orientation represented in their workforce; but without inclusive cultures the benefits are few.

A lack of inclusion can lead to poor retention and lower performance in people of difference. Evidence shows that the pain of being excluded affects similar parts of the brain to those that experience physical pain. Ouch!

It's true that people no longer just want to come to work; they want to be part of something. One catalyst for inclusion, and helping people feel they are part of something, is Psychological Safety.

In psychologically safe environments individuals feel ‘safe’ to express their authentic self without fear of repercussion. With this comes diversity of thought and thus the wonderful moral and commercial benefits of having a diverse team or workforce.

Behavioural science-based development and tools around Psychologically Safety is a strategy organisations can now deploy - particularly for people leaders, and early career talent.

For example this approach can empower people leaders to lead more inclusively by being equipped with the context and tools to create Psychological Safety in their teams. It can also empower Millennial and Gen Z early career talent to leverage their existing inclusive mind-sets and behaviours to drive cultural change from the bottom up, by building psychologically safe relationships with their peers and stakeholders.

In a snapshot

•    We need to think beyond Unconscious Bias training.

•    Behavioural Science can be applied to D&I to make it easier for people to chose more diverse and inclusive behaviours and decisions.

•    Development and tools for Psychological Safety are catalysts to create inclusive cultures.

*Article co-authored with Alice Scott (London) and Saskia Spaan (Sydney)

Three ways to use early career talent development to help create your workforce of the future

Executives are now thinking about the future of work and the need to develop a workforce for the future.

In the past, companies have largely relied on universities and graduate programs to source their future workforce and then develop them accordingly.

There’s only one problem with this: Traditional graduate programs alone are no longer seen to be enough.

Companies in Australia, SE Asia, UK and North America are heading in to 2019 with a more open mind about fresh approaches. They are embracing new ways to solve the significant workforce challenges, and exploit enormous opportunities created, by:

  • The future of work

  • Diversity and inclusion

  • Skills gaps between universities and the business world

Don't get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of universities and graduate programs. I’m a proud product of both and have since built a career and business in this very space. And they will both always have an important role to play. However these shifts in society, and in business, are driving enormous change in the traditionally single-focus graduate recruitment and development industry.

New, innovative early career talent development strategies are gaining traction. They represent a change towards more strategic, more relevant and more agile early career talent development – and it is the right way forward. Companies are recruiting and developing a spectrum of early career talent that provides them with greater diversity, opportunity to develop the skills their business requires and talent to fulfill a broader set of workforce needs.

In many instances, HRDs, CFOs and CTOs in particular are asking or supporting their businesses to think outside the square in how they attract and develop a more diverse, skilled and future-oriented early career workforce through various types of early career talent:

  • Work experience students

  • School leavers

  • Higher or degree apprentices

  • Interns

  • Graduates

  • Emerging / post-program talent

Each of these talent pools is being provided a development program designed to meet their very different skills gaps and development preferences to increase their ‘speed to value’ on the job, where it counts … contributing early and strategic pools of young talent to the company’s workforce of the future.

We are exposed to these approaches through our early career expertise, clients and years in the UK and US where the market is more mature in some of these approaches.

We’re also seeing them start to gain traction in SE Asia and back in our home country of Australia where forward looking and early adopter employers are now rethinking where and how they invest in early career talent.

In the UK, research suggests that 65% of employers expect ‘school leaver’ recruitment to overtake ‘graduate recruitment’ in terms of volume in the next 3 years. Graduate recruitment is growing at (just!) 7% compared with degree apprenticeships at 55%.

While a big factor behind the 55% is, yes, the Apprentice Levy – a significant tax benefit – there are also many non-apprenticeship examples of a fresh and innovative early career talent development approaches in the UK.

In Australia, PwC has introduced their first intake of higher apprenticeships for students straight out of school. The first cohort graduated just recently. Our industry sometimes follows the practices of larger players in the following years – so expect to see this type of early career talent being prioritized more and more in markets like Australia.

Here are three simple ways to use ‘early career talent development’ to help create a workforce of the future.

1. Understand how various types of early career talent differ in skills gaps and development approaches

The volume of soft skill training for graduates is strong with an average of 11 days in the UK and between 6 and 10 days in Australia. This is becoming true of other types of early career talent too. But how should you approach the various groups of early career talent and what should be their focus? Think of it in three ways – the development of ‘life skills’ for school leavers; ‘work readiness skills’ for interns; and ‘behavioural skills’ for graduates. While each group will often benefit from elements of all three of these skill sets, we find this provides a simple frame to start from when undergoing training needs analysis and designing their development programs to create your workforce of the future.

2. Look for opportunities to blend technical data skills and soft skills together

There’s a growing view that the early career workforce of any business needs increased skills in processing and presenting data in their day-to-day roles – and that many are already required to have these skills. In helping create a workforce of the future, these are important skills given the rise and rise of data in every part of a business. They will often need technical skills such as data analytics and data visualisation, combined with soft skills such as critical thinking, presentation and influence. These skills can be developed in unison through purpose built development programs that address both the technical and soft skills, together, saving time and money in creating your workforce of the future.

3. Use development to attract, secure and keep future talent right through the early career talent journey

Rather than kicking off their development once they've accepted an official role role (like a grad role) or at their induction, the more forward looking employers are using development to attract, secure and keep early career talent all the way through from first touch, through to new employee. They're making it part of the DNA of their employer brand, and recruitment methodology. That's because young people want to develop. It’s in almost every research study you read. So give it it to them. There is enormous opportunity to use development through the many stages of an early career journey and relationship with your company to help create your workforce of the future.

We believe in the early career talent development and the enormous value it can bring to businesses – including helping executives and HR teams to solve the significant workforce challenges, and exploit enormous opportunities, created by the future of work, diversity and inclusion and the skills gaps between universities and the business world. Graduate schemes and programs are valuable – but they are no longer enough. It’s time to think outside the square.

Leading at Lightspeed – a call to action

leadership for people who chose to lead

Let me ask you a question. As a leader, do you consider yourself a catalyst for positive change in the world? Do you consider your work a significant contribution to society? What about that of your organisation?

Some of us do, and some of us don't, or we may move between. I’ve certainly been in both camps.

Whether a graduate just starting out, a middle manger dealing with the pressures of being in the middle, or a senior executive yearning for something more - every action we take as professionals and leaders has a domino effect on the world around us – what do you want that to be?

Our approach and decisions impact our people, our customers, our suppliers, our organisations and in the end, the world - for better or for worse. To some this as an inconvenient truth – something that has to be ‘dealt’ with and ‘managed’. Others see this as an enormous opportunity to make our work and our lives really count for something. What about you?

Look around us.

There are so many areas demanding positive change providing so much opportunity to make a difference in 2019 and beyond.

The number of displaced people in the world is at record levels, with 20 more people displaced every minute. (UNHCR) Climate change is impacting how we live, with global flooding – look at events in the US last week, Houston in particular – likely to triple by 2030. (WRI) Unprecedented political changes and shifts in the West have almost become the norm. Deadly attacks on some people’s way of life seem more regular, in more parts of the world, than in the past. How we use technology both challenges and inspires us in equal parts. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human, while I read in Time this week that 116 leading experts on Artificial Intelligence have called on the U.N. to ban the use of AI in weapons manufacturing. (TIME September 17)

And amongst all of this, we as leaders have vehicles for positive change at our fingertips – our organisations. Organisations are incredible communities of people and resources – so how are you using yours to make a difference in today’s world? We can channel the amazing combined power of our organisations’ people, supply chains and customers towards a positive impact and change - towards a chosen higher purpose. I believe it is leaders and organisations that harness this opportunity in 2017 and beyond that will acquire the strongest competitive advantage of all – an ethical advantage.

So what is an ethical advantage and is it worth it?

Leading people and building organisations since I was at university almost 20 years ago, including my own for more than 10 years (Development Beyond Learning) has helped me realise something. Leaders who see themselves and their organisations as catalysts for positive change, who pursue some sort of higher purpose, a bigger and more meaningful reason than profit – can and do change the world.

Not because they do some nice things for society on the side, or have a lovely sounding ‘CSR program’ on the website. Instead they realise in today’s world there is an emerging and very real economic benefit to businesses of having higher purpose and creating change. There is becoming a stronger connection between leaders and organisation behaving like change agents, with increases in customer engagement, employee engagement and profit.

Research suggests that those companies that practice business with aims of a higher purpose can grow as much as 755 times faster than those that are nonchalant. (Kotter and Heskett)

Why is this?

It gives them an ethical advantage. It gives them an elevated position in society that provides access to different types of ideas, engagement, resources and influence that were simply not apparent to them, and maybe not available, if they were otherwise only focussed on profit. It's the intangible advantage that comes from acting and orchestrating business in a moral way and higher way. It's the advantage that leaves both your employees and customers eager for more interaction, and so drives productivity and profit.

So, is it any surprise that research and results suggests that leaders who steer their employees, their ethos and their output in an ethical direction are benefiting from what has been coined as the ‘ethical advantage’?

Think about Tesla. A successful electric car and battery manufacturer with extremely high quality products, an engaged workforce, a strong brand – and strong financial performance too. Earlier this year, Tesla had a stock market of $15bn, valuing it higher than General Motors (Reuters). This is mind-blowing. Tesla is a company that didn't exist 15 years ago and is only now becoming a mainstream car brand. And it’s now worth more than the global household name car company founded 108 those years ago. Tesla has is one example of an organisation attaining an ethical advantage.

CEO and Founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, may be interested in electric cars and batteries however I would argue he is as, or more, interested in helping the world move to a more sustainable sources of energy and transport. As a leader he is tapping in to peoples shared and growing desire to live in more environmentally friendly ways. Leaders like Elon Musk are inspired by a higher purpose and are often able to motivate others to join the cause, spread awareness, and contribute a form of credibility that will encourage further action.

Higher purpose companies can lead companies to invest in projects that spur innovation when profit maximisation says they should not. An ethical advantage is about the intersection of a higher purpose with business goals, market share, shareholder value, employee values and engagement and supplier alignment – resulting in continuous change for a better in a world in area that matters to you and the community of people, suppliers and customers who follow you. Research shows that when the public picks up on the ethical values of a company, revenues increase by an average of 682% versus 166% for companies that were perceived to lack them. (Kotter)

But it’s not always easy to know where to start. When you’re fortunate enough to have a position in society where you can evoke change, often we don't know how. Here are three things we can all do as leaders to develop an ethical advantage and help drive positive change in the world.

1) It starts with you so lead by example. You must decide to be more responsive and take greater responsibility given the catalyst for change you have at your fingertips – your people and organisation.

2) Explore with your leaders and teams the role you together play in the world outside, the impact you have and would like to have. What are the areas demanding change you believe in?

3) Develop your managers and leaders to understand the macro-environment, and ensure there is a clear strategy or program to develop their skills in critical thinking, complex problem solving, ethical practice and social responsibility, managing successful and sustainable innovation, and creating a diverse & socially inclusive organisation – all skills needed to develop and execute your ethical advantage.

What difference do you want to make in the world?

The future of business is changing. The fourth industrial revolution has arrived.


The future of business, and the future of work, is changing. The fourth industrial revolution has arrived.

By Josh Mackenzie, CEO, Development Beyond Learning

In several of the world’s largest economies, up to 50% of the workforce may need to switch occupations by 2030 due to rapid automation, according to McKinsey.

There are many other forces at play as well. While much remains uncertain, many organisations are future-proofing their businesses and workforces by investing in the development of critical future skills for their people.

Across our Development Beyond Learning (DBL) global client network for example, we continue to see investment in development programmes for student, graduate and early career talent populations. Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020 so a continued investment in this population is a smart business strategy.

As the world of work changes, the types of skills that were once considered ‘soft’ skills are becoming the ‘hard’ skills of tomorrow - skills that are ‘uniquely human‘ and ‘transferable’. The skills AI can't do!

Last year, the team at DBL conducted considerable global research into the capability requirements for the future of work and identified 18 core future skills such as Social Intelligence, Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking.

This research informed the refresh of our leading book, The Graduate Edge, and all of our DBL programs and products including workshops and digital content. So it is with much excitement that I announce the release of The Graduate Edge – 2018 Edition.

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Conceived on my dining room table in 2011, The Graduate Edge was born with the simple idea to equip graduates and early career talent with the skills they needed to ‘hit the ground running’ and be ready for the professional world.

I am proud to say that The Graduate Edge has met that vision and been in the hands of tens of thousands of graduates and young professionals in more than 20 countries on every continent (bar Antarctica!) - in more locations, cultures, organisations and sectors than I ever dreamt possible.

The 2018 edition represents the most significant refresh of content since that first publication

- embracing the future of work, responding to feedback and ideas we have heard from its readers and employers, and addressing the challenges young people all over the world now face when starting a career.

The Graduate Edge helps graduates and early career professionals, in the short term, successfully transition into any new role or organisation, make an impact and build their profile. And, in the long term, helps those individuals remain highly employable throughout their career and well into the future.

Graduate Edge participants in a Development Beyond Learning session

Graduate Edge participants in a Development Beyond Learning session

Thank you to all the organisations in Australia who were the first in the world to provide this latest edition to their 2018 graduates during their recent Induction programs in February and March – many coupled with experiential workshops, digital content, business projects and facilitated sessions with their senior leaders about Graduate Edge topics.

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It's never too late to give your graduates the edge so please get in touch if you would like to order copy,

Finally, thank you to the DBL team for another incredible edition of The Graduate Edge – particularly Saskia Spaan our Head of Brand and Product and the incredible group of collaborators, DBL team members and clients – and of course my wife Lauren – who have supported The Graduate Edge over all of these years.