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Bridging the Millennial Soft Skills Gap

(This article was adapted from the book Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent.)

A group of Peace Corps executives reported that program administrators receive emails on a regular basis from parents making suggestions and requests about the living accommodations and work conditions of their children stationed on missions around the world. One of the Peace Corps executives told me, “I just got an email from a parent saying the meals being provided don’t meet his kid’s dietary needs. Could we get this young man on a nondairy diet?” The funny thing is that generals in the Army have told me similar stories about the parents of soldiers.

Meanwhile, senior leaders in many federal agencies have been grappling with the impact of steadily rising zero- to five-year employee turnover rates among young intelligence professionals. One U.S. intelligence official told me, “No matter how hard we try to develop a profile to help us select for retention -- to predict who will be longer-term employees -- it just doesn’t work. We used to be able to do it. But it doesn’t work anymore. Maybe there is no ‘type’ anymore...

Dear Men: Wake Up and Smell the Inequality

In corporate America, 88 percent of men think women have at least as many opportunities to advance as men.

This is the finding of a major new study — almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies — by and McKinsey & Company.

Just 12 percent of men felt that women had fewer opportunities to advance in their organizations.

Yet when you look at the actual data, women’s odds of advancement are 15 percent lower than men’s.

It’s not because women are less capable: the evidence is strong that although men tend to be more confident leaders, on average women are more competent leaders.

And it’s not just a glass ceiling: women face bottlenecks in the middle and sticky floors. At every level, women are less likely to advance.

Why don’t men see it?

Hypothesis 1: Men are stupid.

There are more men than women with low intelligence. And for the past 20 years, 318 Darwin Awards have recognized people who removed themselves from the gene pool through “idiotic behaviors” — like the terrorist who mailed a letter bomb without enough postage, and when it was returned to sender, opened it.

It turns out that more than 88...

Is It Fairer to Remove Alma Maters From Job Applications?

Last week, I wrote about EY UK (formerly Ernst & Young) scrapping their requirement that new hires have to have college degrees and baseline grades. Now, Deloitte UK is moving to change its hiring standards as well—by hiding what institution a candidate graduated from in order to prevent bias against people from non-elite backgrounds. According to a statement, the British arm of the company is tackling “unconscious bias” that happen during interviews.

“Improving social mobility is one of the UK’s biggest challenges,” says David Sproul, the senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte UK. “For us, there is also a clear business imperative to get this right. In order to provide the best possible service and make an impact with our clients, we need to hire people who think and innovate differently, come from a variety of backgrounds, and bring a range of perspectives and experience into the firm.”

Many in both England and the U.S. are concerned about a lack of social mobility in their countries, meaning that those born poor or working-class have little likelihood of moving up economically. A study by the British government last year reported that of those who held the 4,000...

Are Agencies Using Performance Info to Make Decisions?

Washington breathed a collective sigh of relief when a government shutdown was averted on Sept. 30. But that news overshadowed the quiet release of a Government Accountability Office report on the government’s progress on using performance information to make better decisions.

GAO is mandated by law to track the progress of agencies’ implementation of the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. Its summary highlights mixed progress, but the report’s details show a great deal of progress. The report covers a range of issues, summing up a series of related reports over the course of the past year. But the core issue is: Are agencies using performance data to make decisions?

The track record hasn’t been promising. GAO notes that surveys of federal managers it conducted between 2003 and 2013 found that a majority of them were not using performance information and that “agencies continue to struggle to do so.” But that was before corrective provisions in the new law kicked in. While there is no new survey data, the actions by agencies are hopeful.

What are federal agencies doing? The 2010 update to the Government Performance and Results Act mandates a series of administrative processes, ostensibly...

How Hillary Clinton Helped Her Employees Manage Work-Life Balance

With every new release of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Americans have gotten a better sense of what working in the U.S. State Department is actually like. The center of our national diplomacy is a place where people lose sunglasses, get stuck on the tarmac, and struggle with official phone trees.

The State Department has been revealed, in other words, to be a professional American workplace, though, of course, an unusually powerful one. And like other offices, it’s one where employees struggle to balance their work and home life.  

In early December 2009, Anne-Marie Slaughter, then the State Department’s director of policy planning, emailed Huma Abedin, a long-time aide to Clinton.She asked that Abedin take off some of the days before Christmas, to set an example so that other employees would know it was okay to be home for celebrations. The email said:

This is probably entirely inappropriate, but I had gathered you were thinking possibly of taking off on Dec 21. I would urge you to — for your own sake. The pace is absolutely killing and you deserve it. But it would also mean that a lot of folks who would like to take some time...