Positioning Students for Workplace Success with an Open Mind: Behavior

(From the Editor: This article is the second in a three part series of excerpts from a speech Kevin Warren delivered at the Council of Independent Colleges’ 2017 Presidents Institute on Jan. 4, 2017. Kevin is Chief Commercial Officer of Xerox).

By Kevin Warren

“The more you can create those comfort-challenging experiences outside the classroom, the more you allow students to practice and perfect the behaviors we’re looking for in the workplace.” – Kevin Warren, chief commercial officer, Xerox

In yesterday’s blog post, I discussed the “Success Triangle” – key factors for success in today’s workplace – performance, behavior and competency development and how educators can better position students for workplace success by nurturing these factors.

In business, the behavior part of the triangle is about the skills that aren’t written on your resume: critical thinking, clear communication, and having an open mind – to different personalities, cultures and ideas. For college students, this is about what life looks like outside the classroom – and the experience of building those interpersonal skills.

According to the PayScale 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report,

  • 60% of managers said new graduates do not have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for the job
  • 46% said they lack the necessary communication skills, and
  • 36% reported inadequate interpersonal and teamwork skills

To have a lasting impact – one that will come with them when they enter the work force – the experience outside the classroom has to be one that perpetuates the notion that the world is bigger than they think it is.

Students often need a catalyst – or some intentional structure – to help facilitate the needed awareness and sensitivity that translates into the ability to incorporate different and even conflicting ideas into daily life, and exert greater emotional confidence in complex situations.

When I attended Harvard’s Advanced Management Program there were 150 of us from around the world. We were assigned to diverse living groups with 9 other people, each from a distinctly different background, culture, country, etc. And while we went to class together every day, I’d estimate that 70% of our learning was experiential – based on the spirited debates, exchanges and ideas we encountered as a result.

For many of us, the whole experience was a step out of our comfort zone…but it was a step toward the expanded view, and the open mind needed to succeed in today’s global workplace. And the more you can create those comfort-challenging experiences outside the classroom, the more you allow students to practice and perfect the behaviors we’re looking for in the workplace.

Thanks to the diversity of the college campus today, students have a golden opportunity to learn this behavior experientially – if you help direct it. More on learning tomorrow when I tackle the competency development part of the triangle.

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One Comment

  1. David C. Archer May 15, 2017 - Reply

    For many (most) recent grads, the workforce is the first time they have experienced an atmosphere that requires teamwork and interpersonal skills. Relative to critical thinking, that could be subjective to the individual manager. There has always been a trend to “being quick to label a young college grad as, green and wet behind the ears!” Perhaps we expect to much from these young people!

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