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ICYMI: Potential, Mindfulness and Communication at Convergence 2019

Cornerstone Editors

That's a wrap on another Cornerstone Convergence, our annual event that this year brought together over 2,000 attendees. From co-founder and CEO Adam Miller's energetic kickoff about the power of people potential, to a much-needed meditation session this morning, Convergence 2019 was centered around what makes us uniquely human—our curiosity, thoughtfulness and ability to communicate.

After all, as the skills gap becomes increasingly pervasive and the introduction of automation technology transforms the role of humans at work, it's these traits that will ensure the continued success of today's workforce and generations to come. Below, we gathered our biggest lessons about work from the keynote speakers and breakout presentations at the conference—we'll see you all next year!

1) Your Employees Have Potential—Unlock It

The fourth industrial revolution, also known as the cyber-physical revolution, is shaking up the way we work, Miller said in his opening keynote. Technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, leaving employers scrambling to find talent proficient in the latest tools and capable of adapting to new technologies as they manifest. Over 7 million jobs remain unfilled, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but employers are missing the talent opportunity right under their noses.

Internal talent is ripe with potential and often eager to grow and take on new responsibilities. These individuals already know the company they work for well, they have an interest in seeing it thrive, and they're willing to expand their own skills to remain valuable to their organization.

So how can companies unlock their potential? It comes down to effective talent management across things like onboarding and succession planning. It also requires a strong talent experience—one that empowers employees with learning and development, and allows them to craft their own journeys at the company.

2) Mindfulness is the Foundation of Learning and Leadership

In an era where we're plagued by constant distraction from our mobile devices, mindfulness is more difficult to come by. Our phones make it all too easy to get derailed by an ignorant Facebook comment or a silly meme. When we're not on our phones, many of us find ourselves preoccupied with the same fears and anxieties. As a result, says Joe Burton, founder and CEO of Whil, Cornerstone's new content partner for mindfulness training, we spend more and more of our time with our wandering brain activated—this includes thinking about the past, worrying about the future and yes, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.

But mindfulness is the foundation of learning and leadership because it enables us to focus on the tasks at hand instead of on distractions, Burton said. By forcing our brain to take a break from our stressors and distractions to focus on, say, meditative breathing, we can become better leaders and workers. According to a compilation of research cited by Burton, for 94% of people, mindfulness improves their overall well-being. More than 80% of people also improve their cardiovascular health by being more mindful, while 30% see a reduction of aging at the cellular level. How does this translate to work? It's simple—healthier people are more focused and productive employees.

3) Part of Optimizing Human Potential is Understanding the Bumps Along the Way

Today, Kat Cole is the chief operating officer and president of Focus Brands—but when she started as president of Cinnabon back in 2011, she had a challenge on her hands. In the midst of the recession and the Atkins revolution, customers couldn't afford to shop at malls where most Cinnabons were located and were becoming too health conscious to eat 800-calorie cinnamon buns.

Cole needed a solution. She knew there was little the company could do about the economic climate, but it could do something to make its sweet treats a little healthier. Though Cinnabon's employees were already working to address this challenge, they were working to reduce the calorie count with artificial sweeteners as part of Project 599, an effort to reduce calorie count to below 600.

Cole she saw the potential of the employees working on Project 599 and knew their hearts and minds were in the right place, but she also understood that health-conscious consumers weren't interested in artificial sweeteners. By challenging her employees to course correct, she was able to motivate them to get more creative about a solution to the problem: making the buns smaller and cheaper, which ultimately earned the company 2 percentage points of surplus during a difficult time—and unlocked the potential of a promising team of workers.

4) Unconscious Bias(es) Exist—Acknowledge Them

Unconscious bias is everywhere, said Kim Cassady, chief talent officer at Cornerstone OnDemand, and the first step to overcoming it is acknowledgement. Though gender discrimination has been at the forefront of bias discussions recently, there are many different kinds of biases that exist, including confirmation bias (where if you see a male and female hospital employee in a white coat, you assume the male is the doctor and the female is the nurse) and the horn/halo effect (which suggests that we often judge people based on their latest behaviors rather than evaluating them holistically) among others.

Once people are aware of their biases, however, it becomes easier to manage and even eliminate them. Cassady recommended training the brain to apply active focus and consideration to any decisions, rather than letting the subconscious rule. When it comes to hiring, for example, don't look for candidates you simply "click with" or the "cultural fit." Instead, calculate and evaluate why a candidate is right for the role based on their qualifications rather than the fact that you share common interests. Culture is important, but it's easy for subjectivity and bias to take over when evaluating a candidate.

5) To Build Leadership, Accept the Human Side of Work

As humans, it's virtually impossible for us to check our emotions and psychological needs at the door when we come to work. Effective leaders are well aware of this fact, said Jeff Miller, associate vice president of learning and organizational effectiveness at Cornerstone OnDemand. The way we communicate, for example, varies greatly. While some people thrive in "directive" environments where they're constantly told what to do, others do better in "requestive" environments, where managers ask questions to get employees thinking of the best solutions, instead of handing them the best path forward. His advice for managers? Open up lines of communication to understand the kind of environment that will enable employees to do their best work—then create it.

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