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Charter: Why workers should focus on “durable skills” over “perishable skills”

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Featured in today's newsletter

  • The value of “durable skills” over “perishable skills.”

  • How AI is changing entry-level work on Wall Street.

  • The workers getting the most and least sleep.

 

AI and Work Radar

  • Just 9% of organizations currently have an executive primarily dedicated to heading up AI initiatives. In a recent survey from the leadership consulting firm Pearl Meyer, some 32% of respondents said responsibility for AI will be spread across multiple functions, while 30% of respondents said it’s been folded into an existing leadership role. 
  • Large language models make questionable tax accountants. The startup Vals.ai— which is developing a standardized evaluation to assess the quality of LLMs across domains—found in its testing that GPT-4’s tax advice was accurate just over half the time, and other models fared even worse. 
  • Wall Street firms are looking to cut back on early-career hires as AI takes on more entry-level work. The grunt work that comprises a typical investment-banking analyst role, including data entry and creating slide decks, is increasingly being automated by AI programs. That is leading some banks to investigate “how deep they can cut their incoming analyst classes,” as well as the compensation of those they do hire, The New York Times reported
  • Around 5.4% of US firms are now using AI, up 3.7% from this past September, according to data from the Census Bureau’s latest Business Trends and Outlook Survey. The authors of the report predicted that use will tick up to 6.6% by this coming fall.
 

Focus on Balancing ‘Durable’ and ‘Perishable’ Skills

The skills required to do your job will change by the time you finish reading this sentence. 

Kidding. But they are changing fast, and the rate is expected to increase. Since 2015, the skills needed for many jobs have shifted by 25%, according to data from LinkedIn. That number is expected to hit 65% by 2030, largely driven by technologies like AI. 

How are we supposed to keep up? Kian Katanforoosh, CEO of skills intelligence platform Workera, says that people need a strong foundation of “durable skills,” like communication and statistics, that allow them to quickly and continually acquire new “perishable skills,” abilities that are less evergreen but that keep them at the cutting edge. 

We spoke with Katanforoosh about this distinction between durable and perishable skills. Here are highlights from that conversation, edited for length and clarity:

Art: Charter

Can you explain the distinction between durable skills and perishable skills?

A skill is durable if its half-life is above five years. That's my mark. Communication, for example, is above five years. AI is moving so fast that if you are lacking durable skills, you will not be able to learn the next perishable skill that is going to appear. If I want to learn the new version of Python, what's going to help me the most is not that I know the previous version of Python only. It's that I understand how software is built, I understand how algorithms work, I understand how data is processed. Those are skills that have a longer half-life. 

One of the topics that CEOs were talking about at [the World Economic Forum annual meeting in] Davos was, ‘We need to move from prototyping to production. Since ChatGPT launched, we have put together so many prototypes of [generative] AI.’ You see your teams giving you demos, but for some reason it doesn't get to production. One of the reasons you're observing that is because to get to production, you need another level of skills that comes from some foundational areas. Oftentimes the new generation that has been learning AI has skipped them just because the trend is at the latest language model. So it’s hard to expect a team to do proper AI production when they don't have the foundations of linear algebra, of mathematics, of algorithmic coding, of software engineering, of cloud computing, et cetera. 

What about for less technical roles?

It's the same thing. It's just that durable skills are defined differently. Algorithmic coding is a good durable skill for a technical person. For a non-technical person, I would say having a good grasp of the ethics of AI is a durable skill for a business practitioner. You're going to reach a point where you have to make a complex decision, and being able to go back to the ethics of the technology will allow you to sprint faster to make the decision faster and better. 

I’ve made this distinction between sprinting and marathon—they’re learning styles. I think everybody needs to have both mindsets. My marathon is developing as an executive. I want to continue to become a better people manager. I want to become more mindful in my communication. I want to also master a broad set of technologies between data, cloud, AI, so that whenever something comes up, I can sprint. The sprinting mindset is more like, if I have a problem that arises—let's say there's a new technology that appears in the market—I want to be able to sprint toward it. When ChatGPT was released, I wanted to be able to know everything about it. When RAG [retrieval-augmented generation] became popular earlier last year, I wanted to sprint and understand it very deeply.

How do you gauge a job candidate’s learning style? 

At the end of an interview, I ask, ‘What are three things that you learned in the last 90 days?’ Then I dig into it to see if it's just anecdotal or if they've actually learned it. I may ask a few targeted questions to verify that they learned it. Second, I ask an open-ended question, which is, ‘What is your learning strategy?’ or ‘What is your learning architecture?’ That question usually triggers self-reflection from the candidate: What are the resources that I put around myself to make sure I'm continuously learning? 

I can clearly see candidates who have put together an actual framework around them. ‘I have contracted with a coach who I talk to every two months, and these are the things I cover with them.’ ‘I have a subscription on Audible, and I set myself the goal of reading one audio book every month.’ Or, ‘I have this research reading group that I participate in on a weekly basis that I initiated.’ People would have one, two, three, sometimes more of these learning strateg[ies] around them, that allow them to continuously learn. That question triggers some of that.

 

Read this next

Steal this idea: How we used AI and timeboxing to level up performance reviews

  • Learn how we, at Charter, held a Performance Review Super Day to write assessments in just one day, and used ChatGPT to analyze our performance ratings and mitigate bias.

Read full article →

 

What Else You Need to Know

Anxiety now tops the list of US workers’ mental-health issues. An analysis from the workplace mental-health benefits provider ComPsych, examining a representative sample of 300,000 cases, found that roughly a quarter of people who sought mental-health help last year did so for anxiety.

  • The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that just under 20% of US adults have suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year, and that 31% will do so over the course of their lives. 
  • A recent Boston University study found a significant link between flexible work and mental health. Workers with more flexible jobs were 25% less likely than their peers to suffer from serious psychological issues, as well as 13% less likely to have anxiety on a daily basis. 
  • The same study found that job security was another predictor of mental health, linked to 26% lower likelihood of psychological issues and 27% lower likelihood of anxiety.
 

Future of Work Speed Round

  • The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index predicts job growth ahead. The figure, which uses eight different employment indicators to measure labor-market outlook, rose in March from February. Typically, a rise in the index is followed by an increase in employment. 
  • After encountering employee pushback, H&R Block overhauled its RTO mandate. In 2021, the tax services company announced that it would begin requiring all 2,000 corporate employees to begin working onsite Tuesday through Thursday, a decision that triggered employee backlash. In response, the organization redesigned the policy to allow individual teams to set their own office attendance requirements, a change that allowed it to maintain employee and team autonomy while retaining high-performing talent that prized flexible work policies.
  • Remote work has reshaped urban transportation patterns. A new analysis from MIT researchers found that for every 1% decrease in onsite workers relative to pre-pandemic norms, automobile vehicle miles driven decreased by roughly 1%, but mass transit ridership decreased by 2.3%. 
  • Google is making changes to an internal message board following heated exchanges about the war in Gaza. After posts about Palestine and Israel stoked tension on the Memegen online employee forum, Google said it would remove the down-vote feature and hide some metrics about post popularity, according to The New York Times. 
  • New research suggests that companies with centralized human resources operations are less likely to engage in hiring discrimination. A working paper details nearly 100 organizations’ responses to 80,000 fake resumes meant to reveal hiring disparities based on race and gender. Overall, employers contacted applicants with typically white names 9.5% more often than applicants with typically Black names, but the size of the gap varied across organizations. The paper’s authors found that having a centralized HR operation, rather than giving hiring managers sole discretion, was correlated with the highest level of parity between callbacks for Black and white applicants.
 

Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team

  • Train managers to field challenges to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Some 54% of professionals say that frontline managers are unprepared to address pushback against DEI initiatives, according to a survey from HR research firm i4cp. The report’s authors recommend training managers to have conversations about company DEI policies. One approach is to use “contingent rhetoric.” “You want to emphasize first that diversity is valuable, but then just add, ‘But we need to work through the challenges to get that value,’” NYU professor Lisa Leslie told us in an interview.
  • Alternate boring and meaningful tasks. Chronic boredom at work can make you less productive. Avoid its worst effects by mixing up dull tasks with more interesting ones on your to-do list either manually or with an AI time-blocking tool, rather than lumping boring tasks together. 
  • Disclose your AI use with a four-part framework. Organizations can build trust by voluntarily disclosing the use of generative AI in published documents. Kester Brewin, author of God-Like, recently shared the components of the AI transparency statement he used in the preface of his own book: indicating whether text has been generated, improved, suggested, or corrected by AI. For organizations, an AI transparency statement might appear in a disclaimer within a blog post, article, report, or other published text.
 

Coda

American couples’ working hours have remained largely unchanged over the past century and a half. The average married couple in the US puts in roughly 67 hours of paid labor each week, roughly the same as in the late 19th century, even as the average individual workload has declined.

  • The reason for this discrepancy: Women’s paid working hours have increased over the decades as more women entered the formal labor force, while men’s hours have decreased. 

Only a select few workers are getting enough sleep. In a recent UK survey, 77% of people who held the title of CEO said they were happy with their amount of sleep, compared to 40% of managers, and 38% of individual contributors.
 

Read this next

The 15 charts you need to see about how work is changing

  • We’re constantly scouring research for new breakthroughs and insights about the best ways to manage teams and organizations.
  • We're now highlighting the charts that point most clearly to major changes around AI, productivity, flexible working, middle management, compensation, caregiving, and more. 

Read full briefing →

This briefing was written by Kevin Delaney, Jacob Clemente, Michelle Peng, and Cari Romm Nazeer. Best wishes for a great week!

Was this newsletter useful to you? Reply to this email to let us know why or why not.

Was this newsletter forwarded to you?
Your guide to the future of work.

 

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Text-only version of this email

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? . Read more at charterworks.com, , or forward to a friend. charter briefing Charter Pro is the membership relied on by executives to understand the latest business applications of AI. Join today to save 50% and sharpen your AI expertise with unlimited access to our strategic insights, in-depth case studies, exclusive interviews, and actionable tools and use cases. FEATURED IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER * The value of “durable skills” over “perishable skills.” * How AI is changing entry-level work on Wall Street. * The workers getting the most and least sleep. AI AND WORK RADAR * Just 9% of organizations currently have an executive primarily dedicated to heading up AI initiatives. In a recent survey from the leadership consulting firm Pearl Meyer, some 32% of respondents said responsibility for AI will be spread across multiple functions, while 30% of respondents said it’s been folded into an existing leadership role.  * Large language models make questionable tax accountants. The startup Vals.ai— which is developing a standardized evaluation to assess the quality of LLMs across domains—found in its testing that GPT-4’s tax advice was accurate just over half the time, and other models fared even worse.  * Wall Street firms are looking to cut back on early-career hires as AI takes on more entry-level work. The grunt work that comprises a typical investment-banking analyst role, including data entry and creating slide decks, is increasingly being automated by AI programs. That is leading some banks to investigate “how deep they can cut their incoming analyst classes,” as well as the compensation of those they do hire, The New York Times reported.  * Around 5.4% of US firms are now using AI, up 3.7% from this past September, according to data from the Census Bureau’s latest Business Trends and Outlook Survey. The authors of the report predicted that use will tick up to 6.6% by this coming fall. FOCUS ON BALANCING ‘DURABLE’ AND ‘PERISHABLE’ SKILLS The skills required to do your job will change by the time you finish reading this sentence.  Kidding. But they are changing fast, and the rate is expected to increase. Since 2015, the skills needed for many jobs have shifted by 25%, according to data from LinkedIn. That number is expected to hit 65% by 2030, largely driven by technologies like AI.  How are we supposed to keep up? Kian Katanforoosh, CEO of skills intelligence platform Workera, says that people need a strong foundation of “durable skills,” like communication and statistics, that allow them to quickly and continually acquire new “perishable skills,” abilities that are less evergreen but that keep them at the cutting edge.  We spoke with Katanforoosh about this distinction between durable and perishable skills. Here are highlights from that conversation, edited for length and clarity: Art: Charter Can you explain the distinction between durable skills and perishable skills? A skill is durable if its half-life is above five years. That's my mark. Communication, for example, is above five years. AI is moving so fast that if you are lacking durable skills, you will not be able to learn the next perishable skill that is going to appear. If I want to learn the new version of Python, what's going to help me the most is not that I know the previous version of Python only. It's that I understand how software is built, I understand how algorithms work, I understand how data is processed. Those are skills that have a longer half-life.  One of the topics that CEOs were talking about at [the World Economic Forum annual meeting in] Davos was, ‘We need to move from prototyping to production. Since ChatGPT launched, we have put together so many prototypes of [generative] AI.’ You see your teams giving you demos, but for some reason it doesn't get to production. One of the reasons you're observing that is because to get to production, you need another level of skills that comes from some foundational areas. Oftentimes the new generation that has been learning AI has skipped them just because the trend is at the latest language model. So it’s hard to expect a team to do proper AI production when they don't have the foundations of linear algebra, of mathematics, of algorithmic coding, of software engineering, of cloud computing, et cetera.  What about for less technical roles? It's the same thing. It's just that durable skills are defined differently. Algorithmic coding is a good durable skill for a technical person. For a non-technical person, I would say having a good grasp of the ethics of AI is a durable skill for a business practitioner. You're going to reach a point where you have to make a complex decision, and being able to go back to the ethics of the technology will allow you to sprint faster to make the decision faster and better.  I’ve made this distinction between sprinting and marathon—they’re learning styles. I think everybody needs to have both mindsets. My marathon is developing as an executive. I want to continue to become a better people manager. I want to become more mindful in my communication. I want to also master a broad set of technologies between data, cloud, AI, so that whenever something comes up, I can sprint. The sprinting mindset is more like, if I have a problem that arises—let's say there's a new technology that appears in the market—I want to be able to sprint toward it. When ChatGPT was released, I wanted to be able to know everything about it. When RAG [retrieval-augmented generation] became popular earlier last year, I wanted to sprint and understand it very deeply. How do you gauge a job candidate’s learning style?  At the end of an interview, I ask, ‘What are three things that you learned in the last 90 days?’ Then I dig into it to see if it's just anecdotal or if they've actually learned it. I may ask a few targeted questions to verify that they learned it. Second, I ask an open-ended question, which is, ‘What is your learning strategy?’ or ‘What is your learning architecture?’ That question usually triggers self-reflection from the candidate: What are the resources that I put around myself to make sure I'm continuously learning?  I can clearly see candidates who have put together an actual framework around them. ‘I have contracted with a coach who I talk to every two months, and these are the things I cover with them.’ ‘I have a subscription on Audible, and I set myself the goal of reading one audio book every month.’ Or, ‘I have this research reading group that I participate in on a weekly basis that I initiated.’ People would have one, two, three, sometimes more of these learning strateg[ies] around them, that allow them to continuously learn. That question triggers some of that. READ THIS NEXT STEAL THIS IDEA: HOW WE USED AI AND TIMEBOXING TO LEVEL UP PERFORMANCE REVIEWS * Learn how we, at Charter, held a Performance Review Super Day to write assessments in just one day, and used ChatGPT to analyze our performance ratings and mitigate bias. Read full article → WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW Anxiety now tops the list of US workers’ mental-health issues. An analysis from the workplace mental-health benefits provider ComPsych, examining a representative sample of 300,000 cases, found that roughly a quarter of people who sought mental-health help last year did so for anxiety. * The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that just under 20% of US adults have suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year, and that 31% will do so over the course of their lives.  * A recent Boston University study found a significant link between flexible work and mental health. Workers with more flexible jobs were 25% less likely than their peers to suffer from serious psychological issues, as well as 13% less likely to have anxiety on a daily basis.  * The same study found that job security was another predictor of mental health, linked to 26% lower likelihood of psychological issues and 27% lower likelihood of anxiety. FUTURE OF WORK SPEED ROUND * The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index predicts job growth ahead. The figure, which uses eight different employment indicators to measure labor-market outlook, rose in March from February. Typically, a rise in the index is followed by an increase in employment.  * After encountering employee pushback, H&R Block overhauled its RTO mandate. In 2021, the tax services company announced that it would begin requiring all 2,000 corporate employees to begin working onsite Tuesday through Thursday, a decision that triggered employee backlash. In response, the organization redesigned the policy to allow individual teams to set their own office attendance requirements, a change that allowed it to maintain employee and team autonomy while retaining high-performing talent that prized flexible work policies. * Remote work has reshaped urban transportation patterns. A new analysis from MIT researchers found that for every 1% decrease in onsite workers relative to pre-pandemic norms, automobile vehicle miles driven decreased by roughly 1%, but mass transit ridership decreased by 2.3%.  * Google is making changes to an internal message board following heated exchanges about the war in Gaza. After posts about Palestine and Israel stoked tension on the Memegen online employee forum, Google said it would remove the down-vote feature and hide some metrics about post popularity, according to The New York Times.  * New research suggests that companies with centralized human resources operations are less likely to engage in hiring discrimination. A working paper details nearly 100 organizations’ responses to 80,000 fake resumes meant to reveal hiring disparities based on race and gender. Overall, employers contacted applicants with typically white names 9.5% more often than applicants with typically Black names, but the size of the gap varied across organizations. The paper’s authors found that having a centralized HR operation, rather than giving hiring managers sole discretion, was correlated with the highest level of parity between callbacks for Black and white applicants. HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST TIPS AND INSIGHTS FROM THE PAST WEEK FOR MANAGING YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAM * Train managers to field challenges to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Some 54% of professionals say that frontline managers are unprepared to address pushback against DEI initiatives, according to a survey from HR research firm i4cp. The report’s authors recommend training managers to have conversations about company DEI policies. One approach is to use “contingent rhetoric.” “You want to emphasize first that diversity is valuable, but then just add, ‘But we need to work through the challenges to get that value,’” NYU professor Lisa Leslie told us in an interview. * Alternate boring and meaningful tasks. Chronic boredom at work can make you less productive. Avoid its worst effects by mixing up dull tasks with more interesting ones on your to-do list either manually or with an AI time-blocking tool, rather than lumping boring tasks together.  * Disclose your AI use with a four-part framework. Organizations can build trust by voluntarily disclosing the use of generative AI in published documents. Kester Brewin, author of God-Like, recently shared the components of the AI transparency statement he used in the preface of his own book: indicating whether text has been generated, improved, suggested, or corrected by AI. For organizations, an AI transparency statement might appear in a disclaimer within a blog post, article, report, or other published text. CODA American couples’ working hours have remained largely unchanged over the past century and a half. The average married couple in the US puts in roughly 67 hours of paid labor each week, roughly the same as in the late 19th century, even as the average individual workload has declined. * The reason for this discrepancy: Women’s paid working hours have increased over the decades as more women entered the formal labor force, while men’s hours have decreased.  Only a select few workers are getting enough sleep. In a recent UK survey, 77% of people who held the title of CEO said they were happy with their amount of sleep, compared to 40% of managers, and 38% of individual contributors. READ THIS NEXT THE 15 CHARTS YOU NEED TO SEE ABOUT HOW WORK IS CHANGING * We’re constantly scouring research for new breakthroughs and insights about the best ways to manage teams and organizations. * We're now highlighting the charts that point most clearly to major changes around AI, productivity, flexible working, middle management, compensation, caregiving, and more.  Read full briefing → This briefing was written by Kevin Delaney, Jacob Clemente, Michelle Peng, and Cari Romm Nazeer. Best wishes for a great week! Was this newsletter useful to you? Reply to this email to let us know why or why not. Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Your guide to the future of work. MORE FROM CHARTER * Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. * Sign up for our Work Tech newsletter. * Explore our original stories, research, and interviews. * Elevate your strategy with a Charter Pro membership. * Learn about sponsorship opportunities by inquiring here or email us.
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