This is one article in a series on how the most important work skills are evolving. What do forward-thinking employers and employees need for maximum productivity and engagement? Learn more about preparing, recruiting, and integrating diverse workers in “Why Diversity Matters: A Conversation with Kimberly Bryant.“
There are a few subtle differences between a good employee and a great employee, but those differences make all the difference. The ability to excel in today’s — and tomorrow’s — fast-paced, diverse, and dynamic workplace is, I believe, based on three important skills anyone can cultivate. From my experience guiding our global talent team, here are basic employee essentials for success:
Instead of being a know-it-all, try to be a learn-it-all. At the rate content is created, consumed, and shared, you will never be at a loss for new information to absorb. As you keep a pulse on your industry, begin to apply new ideas to the work you do. Those who show intellectual curiosity and have a keen sense of market trends naturally build credibility within their organization.
But don’t stop there. Top employees also act quickly and have a maniacal focus on execution. Many ideas never see the light of day simply due to poor execution. The work environment — and our expectations of time and responsiveness — have shifted to a dramatically faster pace. In turn, managers are required to make mission-critical decisions in the moment with access to real-time data, and teams are expected to execute and deliver faster. Gone are the days of 18-month product life cycles and they have been replaced with continuous updates to cloud applications. Learning to act with context using real-time information and intuition will make you an asset to any employer.
2. Be Self-Aware.
Working in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment brings other challenges as well — there can be stress from competing priorities and conflicting direction. However, a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) will improve your ability to respond quickly and appropriately to any situation. I like to say that your IQ helps you get the job, but your EQ accelerates your performance, and in turn, your career. A high EQ also translates to having a strong sense of self-awareness — you know your strengths and weaknesses and you play to your strengths. You are receptive to feedback from others and able to separate the content from the context. Having “cope-ability” along with capability, and learning to maintain composure while self-regulating your own behavior, will make you a more effective leader.
3. Embrace Uniqueness.
Many students enter the workforce from homogenous backgrounds, having interacted only with people from their own majors who have similar interests, habits, and even vocabulary. Upon entering the corporate world, they quickly find themselves collaborating with and working side-by-side with colleagues who, although they have shared work goals, may be literally worlds apart in terms how they think.
Our team at Adobe operates in 50 offices across 15 time zones. In fact, about half of our employees and customers are outside of North America. Global awareness is much more than being sensitive enough to not schedule a call with a client at 2 a.m. her time. It is being aware of and understanding cultural differences when working with employees, partners, and customers, and can be vitally important when face-to-face interaction is limited. Some cultures talk fast, others talk slow. Some cultures give blunt feedback; others prefer to talk around the issues. Accepting and embracing these differences will help you identify their strengths and facilitate better collaboration. Respecting differences in disciplines, backgrounds, and beliefs will also help you develop empathy and new perspectives, which are important skills for relating to customers.
Invest in employees who model these skills and even work on developing them in yourself. Recruiting strategies and training programs should attract and shape talent that can act quickly, display self-awareness, and respect differences, quickly making your employees your company’s most important resource. Which skills do you believe are most important in your organization?