Critical Thinking: An Essential Soft Skill in the Age of Apps and Automation

At the 2018 World Economic Forum, Jack Ma, founder of global e-commerce sensation Alibaba, said, “We cannot teach our kids to compete with the machines who are smarter – we have to teach our kids something unique.”

Indeed, an increasing concern for employers and employees alike is the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of apps and automation in a wide variety of fields from accounting to manufacturing to retail. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that soon an average of 15% of work activities across the globe could be displaced by automation.

What is critical thinking and why does it matter?

So what is this “something unique” we should be teaching our children – and employees? Many experts believe it’s critical thinking.

Problem-solving in the workplace can be complex, and decisions may have serious consequences. The foundation of effective problem solving is critical thinking: the ability to analyze information objectively, assess different perspectives, and reach a logical conclusion uninfluenced by emotion or personal bias. Essentially, workers need to be able to think creatively, solve problems in new and unexpected ways, communicate and collaborate effectively, and understand how to apply data to real-world situations.

The McKinsey study predicts, “Demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision-making, and complex information processing will grow through 2030, at cumulative double-digit rates.”

According to Professor Joseph Aoun, author of the book Robot Proof, “When I talk to employers, they tell me that they would give their right arm for more systems thinkers – quarterbacks who can see across disciplines and analyze them in an integrated way….be culturally agile, able to communicate across boundaries, and to think ethically.”

The state of critical thinking in the workplace

Although critical thinking skills are more in demand than ever, the workforce as a whole is significantly underprepared to take on high-level cognitive challenges.

A global study by MCAT reveals that 84% of managers believe their company suffered a financial loss due to a lack of critical thinking among employees. Other research finds that the higher up the ladder an employee is, the more important critical thinking becomes. A minor mistake by a low-level employee is easily fixed, but a CEO’s error in judgment could lead to disaster. And yet, 62% of respondents said their organization does nothing to recruit, hire, and train critical thinkers.

And so…

One important takeaway is that critical thinking can be taught and existing skills sharpened. However, 80% of those surveyed in the MCAT study were never offered training to improve their critical thinking skills.

Companies who invest in critical thinking development have an opportunity to ahead of the curve. Isn’t it time to give your employees this higher-level skill to help themselves – and your organization?

Connecticut Enacts Law Barring Employers from Asking About Prior Compensation

Beginning on January 1, 2019 Connecticut employers of all sizes will no longer be allowed to inquire into prospective employees’ past compensation and compensation structures. On May 22, 2018 Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed into law the “Act Concerning Pay Equity,” a new law aimed at protecting prospective employee privacy with respect to past compensation.

On May 22, 2018, Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed into law the Act Concerning Pay Equity

Unlike some other similar laws around the country, Connecticut’s law will likely apply to any employee who files an application or interviews with a company in that state. In addition to inquiries about wage and salary history, the new law will prohibit employers from asking questions that may reveal the type and structure of compensation and the value of individual elements of how an employee was paid at his or her former jobs.

Important for employers to understand, violations of this new law will be serious, and can have financial implications if it is not followed. Indeed, the Act Concerning Pay Equity creates a private right of action for prospective employees to bring a claim against the employer. This claim will likely also be tied to discrimination or other employment law claims that could subject an employer to very costly litigation far into the future, as the claims carry a two-year statute of limitation.

Now may be a good time to review your company’s hiring policies

Now may be a good time to review your company’s hiring policies and/or application materials, and to re-train hiring managers to ensure they are no longer asking questions about salary history or compensation structure. It can be easy to fall into traps during an interview when employees begin asking questions about how they will be paid at their new job, if hired. Unless an employee offers up his prior pay unsolicited, your managers should never ask any questions that may even be probative of salary history or past compensation.

We strongly recommend consulting with our representatives to learn more about the training resources Syntrio offers to prevent wage and hour issues in the workplace. Syntrio’s subject matter experts are well in tune with changes to the law, and can help you and your company craft a plan of prevention that suits your business needs, no matter its size. We invite you to contact us today at 888-289-6670 or by filling out the online form available here.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


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