12 November 2018

What skills matter?

One of my colleagues in the Music Faculty recently pointed me to a column in the Washington Post, which looked at research done by technology giant Google on the skills that matter the most to its employees' success.

After founding their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology, Google sought and appointed mainly computer science graduates with top grades from elite science universities.

Having a decade and a half of data behind them, Google launched Project Oxygen to essentially determine what makes a great manager at the organisation. It grew from a hypothesis based on the early belief held by some of Google's leaders and engineers that managers are at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, a layer of bureaucracy. The science-based technologists were the only people important for the future success of the organisation.

Project Oxygen examined the data collected on the hiring, firing and promotion of employees. The results were contrary to the beliefs of those leaders and engineers and provided a stark contrast to the mantra consistently regurgitated by governments, sadly much of which continues to be repeated in the reflections articulated in many Australian households.

Google's Project Oxygen research came up with ten important qualities contributing to the success of their employees. Nine of the top ten qualities were what human resources departments refer to as soft skills, such as: being a good coach; empowering team; creating an inclusive environment with concern for success and well-being; being productive; being a good communicator who is able to listen and share information; having a clear vision and strategy for the team; being a strong decision maker. Only one of the top ten characteristics had any relation to expertise gained through the exclusive study of the oft touted STEM approach.

The post proffers that perhaps it is far past time that policymakers and business leaders stop telling our kids that if they don't get a STEM related degree they are better off not getting a four year degree at all. I would like to offer my conviction that it is high time that schools, counsellors and students considered including broadening their studies during compulsory schooling, to include courses that teach the skills that Google discovered were imperative.

The Creative and Performing Arts anyone?

Mr Scott Loveday
Head of Performing Arts