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January 2021
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TD Magazine

Transform Your Work Environment

Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills Gap

By Deanna Mulligan with Greg Shaw
Columbia Business School Publishing, 280 pp., $24.95

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The workplace has evolved into a hot spot of automation where workers are met with technological upheavals and advances. To maintain the skill sets necessary to compete within those environments, individuals must adapt to rapid societal and technological change. Hire Purpose provides practical insights into how leaders can assist in the proactive transformation of work environments.

Mulligan begins by discussing the transformation she helped lead in the insurance industry. That provides the book's philosophical basis: Reorientation to traditional teams and tasks are necessary when technological advances occur. Without that, organizations can lose competitive and comparative advantage.

As Mulligan notes, transformation occurs when a company makes an intentional effort to implement five strategies across the organization: Take time to fully understand problems and not dismiss them, plan for workers' future needs now, support theories of change to effectively deal with the enormous challenges everyone is facing, involve policymakers in support of the transformational change, and take steps to assess progress or lack thereof.

A large part of organizational transformation is dependent on the ability to provide ongoing education and training systemwide. That creates opportunities to not only focus on current needs but also future potential.

Ultimately, the author notes that groups and companies must take the time to understand the ways they can support mutual interests through training, internships, program developments, and coordinated assessments of effectiveness. Training becomes real when it is moved from the classroom to the performance arena, and all members can assist in the transformation of effective programming. That will bring about a change in the way credentials are created, identified, and conferred, with less emphasis placed on traditional diplomas and more placed on acquired skills.

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Finally, Mulligan emphasizes that employers should support individuals by putting people first.

Hire Purpose takes readers through a succinct and cogent journey, allowing them the luxury of addressing these important issues in a timely and thoughtful fashion. It is a supportive book for teams of change agents within companies as they consider the current workforce and the competitive needs they will have in the future.

About the Author

Mark Deschaine is an associate professor in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Leadership and Counselor Education.

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