Sometimes little things can make a big difference.
In the sports world we see it all the time. Three weeks ago, Alabama was driving for the winning field goal to beat Auburn and propel them on the path to a third consecutive national championship. As the game neared its end, Alabama coach Nick Saban challenged the officials to put one second back on the clock so his team could kick the game-winning field goal. One second. Officials added the second back, the kicker missed, and Auburn returned the ball for a once in a generation score that propelled them to a surprising national title game appearance. Now, only three weeks later, Alabama coach Nick Saban is openly flirting with a coaching job at the University of Texas instead of preparing for a title game. That one second was a small amount of time, but it has made a big difference.
In real life, we see this all the time as well. We see it at the holiday season, where a small gift can make a big difference in someone’s attitude and self-confidence. Our small and large business owners do little things all throughout the year – whether it’s their charitable efforts to support the local team, or school, or stepping up in times of emergency. They help to make a big difference in their respective communities and in the lives of their employees. The point is that little things can make a big difference and often go unnoticed at the time we need them most.
The same is true in how we as a state will meet the growing workforce demand we face. We all know the statistics; between $60-90 billion in announced new projects will demand more than 250,000 trained, skilled workers. We are also told that by 2018 we will need 69,000 STEM workers that are proficient in math, science, and critical thinking. Those are enormous challenges that will require large-scale focus on the technical training, recruitment, and job placement skills of our state. Additionally, as our economy continues to diversify with non-traditional and emerging industries, this challenge will become even more large-scale and all encompassing.
However, we can’t forget to focus on the small things that can make a big difference. Our workers need soft skills to be effective in today’s economy. Soft skills can mean different things to different people, but it includes showing up to work on time, being able to pass a drug test, dressing in an appropriate manner for the workplace in which you work and being able to work cooperatively and effectively with co-workers, supervisors and customers. Sounds like a small issue to mention, but it is amazing how often employers ready to hire mention it to me as a growing challenge.
Having good soft skills also requires proficiency in the necessary computer and technology capabilities needed in the workplace, such as PowerPoint and other relevant programs used today. Additionally, our workers need to know how to lead a strategic discussion, collaborate on a joint project, and work within a specific agenda to meet clearly defined metrics. These skills are the ones the workplace of today demand. Our people need to master these soft skills in order to compete in the global economy.
Many of these things may sound small to you. They may appear too small to bring up in the grand scheme of things and in contrast to the larger challenges we face developing quality technical training, and then making the training available to a huge number of people. Nevertheless, the fact is that the little things matter in the new economy. Soft skills make a loud impact. Our people don’t have this mastered yet, but we can with appropriate focus and training. However, we have to get started now. As Nick Saban recently taught us, every second counts.