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Education beyond skills

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Education beyond skills

WE are living in a time where the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) through its rapid advancement in technologies have brought about major disruptions in many industries. With this, technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and communication platforms have also massively impacted the way we work and collaborate in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Many an educational institution would want to produce ‘future leaders’, but what does that mean? Will graduates’ degrees matter if they, or their future colleagues, are struggling to cope with life, mentally and emotionally?

Human-centered skills such as the ability to collaborate and work well in teams will be in demand as more task-based roles are being replaced by AI and automation.

These now allow for people to give more focus to aspects which technology can never replace, such as leading and motivating people in maximising their potential in the workplace, requiring a demonstration of empathy and kindness.

Empathy and kindness are needed more than ever during this time especially for employers and leaders to ensure that our people are supported with care. The 2020 State of Workplace Empathy Study conducted in the United States reveals that 90% of all employees believe empathy is important in the workplace, and eight in 10 are willing to leave an employer who isn’t empathetic.

We may have heard this statement before: “Leave personal matters at home or best, not to bring personal matters to work”.

But the fact is that it is impossible to separate personal struggles from professional settings because we are a whole person consisting of body, soul and spirit.

At any point, we are bound to struggle in professional settings due to personal challenges we are facing.

Empathy helps us to be aware of how others are feeling, allowing us to see things from their lenses.

Empathetic communication, which includes active listening, verbal and non-verbal communications, are important in strengthening social interactions and improving relationships especially during difficult times.

Kindness speaks of our ability to be considerate to those around us. Both of these values are needed in a leader.

We’re all looking for someone to follow, and many graduates hope to be leaders themselves. So here is the good news for universities and students – research shows that empathy and kindness can be taught and learnt.

An effective leader will need to have these traits; have the skills in coaching and counselling and at least have some knowledge of psychology and emotional well-being.

It does not mean that one must be a qualified professional in these areas. Having a related-degree is a bonus but there are also short term courses or training and development programmes that provide these skills.

Micro credentials offered by universities are worth investing in. These allow bite size learning of specific skills where individuals can learn at their own pace and complete the course according to their own schedule.

Why not consider a micro credential in empathy?

Students should consider an education that is able to give them a broad-based learning experience, allowing them to take modules beyond core disciplines to explore and develop the human potential. Psychology modules have been a popular elective for undergraduates – and for a very good reason.

One of the best places to learn emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness is in higher learning institutions.

Imagine young graduates entering the marketplace with these as their values. What a difference it would make, not just in the company but in their communities as well.

I am excited for their future! IR4.0 will continue to drive rapid changes in the workspace and we can expect more challenges beyond Covid-19 but leading with emotional intelligence, kindness and empathy will be the key for us to rise above the storm.

The goal is not to make people happy during challenging times, because happiness is a choice.

The aim is to equip future leaders with the tools and mechanisms which can help them navigate emotionally-driven conversations during difficult times, in a safe and non-judgmental space, making trust and empathy the ultimate driving factor in performance and organisational excellence.

And just as universities aim to produce graduates who are a right fit for the industry skill-wise, it is time we think about producing the right leaders, who are emotionally and mentally fit to lead organisations and communities.

Janaronson Nagarajah is the Director of Student Development at the Taylor’s University Centre for Future Learning. He is responsible for pioneering the integration of emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness into the varsity’s curriculum. The Life Skills Modules won the Education Minister’s Special Award for Curriculum Design and Innovative Delivery. It is taken as a core module for 14 weeks by first-year students who go on to the Project M.O.V.E (Moving Ordinary Volunteers Extraordinarily) where they demonstrate acts of kindness in underserved communities through team projects. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

Source: The Star

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