Hire Purpose: A book review by Bob Morris

Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills Gap
Deanna Mulligan with Greg Shaw
Columbia Business School Press (October 2020)

“The illiterate of the 21st century will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I was again reminded of Alvin Toffler’s assertion, in Future Shock (1984), as I began to read Hire Purpose, a book written with Greg Shaw, in which Deanna Mulligan shares her own thoughts about how all organizations — whatever their size and nature may be — can improve how they prepare their workers to develop newer and better ways to “adapt with the changing demands of their roles.” That would include so-called “soft” skills such as empathy, mindfulness, and resilience as well as the skills needed to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Business leaders need to change HOW they accelerate the personal growth and professional development of their direct reports, especially in a business world that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous today than it was at any prior time that I can recall.

In this context, I am again reminded of an observation by Charles Darwin many years ago: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” In other words, adapt or fail.

Insurance industry offers an excellent example of an incumbent industry in which change is constant as well as more frequent. I also occurs faster with greater impact. “Having spent my career in the insurance industry, I’ve learned enough about risk and reward to know how impirtant it is to face an unknown future together, not alone. Having seen the immediate effect of automation in the financial sector and beyond, I know we cannot afford to do nothing. Our future depends on our ability and willingness to act — and to act with purpose.” [Page XVII]

I commend Deanna Mulligan on the abundance if information. insights, and counsel she provides in Hire Purpose as she examines (a) the specific skills that will be needed in months and years to come, (b) the ways in which current training programs can be modified to meet those needs, (c) how to “bring the classroom into the workplace” and “bring the workplace into the classroom,” (d) “reimagine the diploma,” (e) and how to increase stakeholders’ trust in an organization’s commitment to a higher purpose. “If we act with purpose [to serve a higher purpose], we can profoundly change our economy and our world for the better.”

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