It’s not often I find myself at the same event as Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI, but such was the case this morning at the launch of the Orange-sponsored Demos report, Working Progress, part of their Organisational Literacy programme. The research focuses on how young people and organisations (workplaces) can be reconnected, arguing that, currently, there is a significant and damaging disconnect between them.
While some of the findings might not seem revelatory to those working in learning and people development, there are some interesting findings and recommendations that are relevant to both the support and training for social entrepreneurs (who are often future employers and/or employees) and to the importance of values-led business in the 21st century.
– 88% of British employees think it is important that the organisation they work for is committed to living its values; only 45% believe that their employer does
– creativity and innovation are the skills that most business people think will be most important in 2010, followed by flexibility/multitasking, communication (of ideas), and problem-solving
– in 1983, 35% of people judged an organisation primarily by the quality of its products, while 15% judged it by its honesty and integrity; in 2006, the respective figures were 19% (quality product) and 21% (honesty/integrity) [NB – worth noting that profitability rose from 11% to 18% in the same period]
– organisations should recognise work-life balance as a skill (or set of skills) to be taught, and performance against that skill to be monitored as with other areas
– that peer-to-peer support and networks are increasingly important for current and future employees
– the Government should introduce a "skills portfolio" to help capture some of the learning, skills and aptitudes that are often not reflected in traditional qualifications
In social entrepreneurship terms, for example, we can point to our focus on making a practical project the focus/vehicle for learning (achieving those skills that employers want), on our emphasis on peer support and peer-learning networks, on our measurement of work-life balance as a skill that people need, and on the relevance and timeliness of values-led, more-than-profit organisations. The SSE, indeed, features as a case study in the research for its pioneering work with peer-led action learning and mentoring.
Demos/Orange were looking at this very much in terms of young people but, as was pointed out in the discussion, learning now takes place at all ages and in all areas, many of which are outside traditional educational institutions. So there are interesting lessons, perhaps, for learning providers considering how well we are supporting/training people not only to deliver on their own goals and establish their own initiatives, but also how well we are preparing them for the wider world at work.
Judging from this report, and our own experience, the answer would seem to be "pretty well". When one considers that employers will be seeking values-led, flexible, innovative, problem-solving, multitasking individuals, social entrepreneurs should have a rosy future, be they within or without larger organisations.
As for the event, Digby Jones inevitably caused a stir by banging on about numeracy and literacy, the need for efficiency in the public sector, and what the private sector can bring to the public and voluntary sector (without recognising the vice versa); his unanswered question was, with reference to work-life balance, "can we have it all?" The other speakers, including Kevin Steele, chief exec of Enterprise Insight [who had some big, hairy questions as well: What is education for? (discuss the elephant in the room!) and Does education take too long?] and Wes Streeting (VP of NUS), were inevitably somewhat overshadowed but the whole report made for valuable discussion and, at least on one table, pretty heated debate.