Farmers are now using drones to spray weed killer in places that are difficult to access. It is now possible to use a 3D printer to produce obsolete or spare parts for cars, appliances, and kitchen gadgets. Thousands of people study to gain qualifications by clicking their way through immersive online courses.
What does this mean for the world of work? It means that the work that used to be done by a farmer spraying weedkiller, the engineer who manufactured the spare part for the machine and the teacher who taught the course is now being done by a machine. The world of work is changing irreversibly. Add to that the migration of repetitive, simple jobs overseas to countries where labour is cheaper, and it’s not hard to work out that the work undertaken by those of us, at least in what we call developed countries relies more and more on a different set of skills. It calls on our interpersonal skills, our ability to adapt and innovate and our ability to persuade others.
We have become the ranks of persuaders. And this is not just the professional sales people.
Doctors persuade patients to live healthier lives, personal trainers persuade people to pursue their own fitness, parents persuade children to work hard at their schoolwork and be active, lawyers persuade juries to believe the case they are making, financial professionals persuade people to manage their finances responsibly and invest wisely and police officers persuade people to live safely and responsibly and to keep the laws of the land. Yet none of these people are categorised as salespeople.
As Daniel Pink, former White House staffer and now published author, puts it, ‘We are all in the moving business these days.’ – To Sell is Human, Canongate 2012
In research done with Qualtrics, a research and data analytics company, he discovered that 4!% of all the people surveyed counted convincing and persuading others as part of their job, and what is more they counted this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success.
We don’t just do it to meet some abstract and arbitrary sales figures, but because the work our organisations do strives to add value to the lives and businesses of those we serve, not just to take money from them but to leave them better off in the end.
Now some people are naturally better at these skills than others. We all know them, those of our friends who can get us to do things even when we feel least like it. But these skills can also be learned. And, believe it or not, it comes down to simple things that we can all do. For example, did you know that people are much more likely to listen to you and be prepared to co-operate with you if you are pleasant, if you smile at them, have a sense of humour and are encouraging and positive? Warmth and positivity disarms our automatic nervous system, helps us to relax and be prepare t consider alternatives, rather than retreat into resistance.
Did you know that people are much more likely to tell you what is important to them if you ask them? And then listen to what they have to say? Listen carefully and not just wait to speak your mind or give them your sales pitch. Did you know that people are much more likely to be persuaded if, rather than convince them that you are right or better informed, that you empathise with their point of view and as the late author and business guru, Stephen Covey, puts it ‘to seek first to understand and not to be understood’?
These are an invaluable set of skills, which can be categorised, which can be understood and which can be acquired through self-awareness, sustained effort and practice. Things like empathy, active listening, body language, the art of enquiry and trust building.
As the world of work evolves and continues to do so at ever increasing rates, these skills not only become more valuable and necessary, but they also transfer extremely well from job to job. These skills have become the new skillset of the person who stands out from the crowd, who makes a tangible difference in their workplace and who adds value to their organisation.