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Beyond The Comfort Zone: Building A Model Workforce The secret to business success? Create a curious workplace.

By Ghassan Talhouk

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Is curiosity engrained in the culture of your company? What is the response that managers give to employees who ask questions and seek to learn more about the business?

Much like other soft skills, this trait is seemingly elusive and hard to measure. According to LinkedIn's Global Recruiting Trends Report 2019, 92% of talent professionals say that soft skills matter as much -or more- than hard skills when they hire, and 80% say they're important to company success. But most hirers struggle to assess them accurately.

In the UAE, where the workforce is culturally diverse, we recognize the importance of embracing different skillsets, attitudes, and best practices, and we are positioned well to utilize our differences to generate and answer questions. The exposure to myriad different influences in itself encourages curiosity and being open-minded. We are on the right track, but companies need to take the lead in driving an organizational culture that asks questions and constantly evolves.

Dr. Diana Hamilton, author of Cracking the Curiosity Code, wrote: "To remain competitive in a global marketplace that is changing rapidly and continually, employers need the innovation that individuals who display high levels of curiosity can bring." In another example, the 2018 fall cover story of Harvard Business Review celebrated curiosity, pointing to research that indicated that it reduced group conflict and promoted more open communication and better team performance. Here are three measures you can introduce in your company to help bolster curiosity:

1. HIRING PRACTICES You're looking for employees who have a strong desire to learn and a fascination with the world. But how can you identify this trait in a potential candidate? Start by probing candidates about the most recent thing they read that was interesting, or about their learning process- for example, do they learn best via visual tools, or by simply reading? As you listen to a candidate's answers, make sure to notice if they ask questions. Does your candidate have questions about you and your role? About other parts of your company? About why your company does things certain ways, and not others? There is also an array of online tools that use predictive assessment to measure behavioral attributes such as curiosity.

2. LEADING BY EXAMPLE Part of running a business is leading by example- the way you behave is likely to be the way your organization behaves. LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner told CNBC in an interview that reading at a young age developed an intellectual curiosity that was instrumental to developing his leadership style. Books offered answers –pre-Google days– which drove him to read more to quench his curiosity. Another way to instill curiosity is to work on your engagement as a listener. This requires humility. By actively listening to your employees and asking them questions where you are genuinely wondering about something, you send a clear signal that you alone don't have all the answers, perspectives, and insights your company needs.

3. EMPHASIZE LEARNING At organizations, employers often have the unfortunate tendency of focusing on the short-term over the long-term. This can result in us neglecting the learning objectives for our teams, fixating instead on performance goals and results. As business leaders, we need to focus on reskilling our existing workforce to meet current skills gaps, so learning goals have many advantages. By framing work around learning outcomes rather than performance goals, employees are likely to be more motivated. Drafting potential learning targets also leads employees to carve out their career path, and become personally invested in their growth.

Curiosity is what predominantly defines the early formative years of any person, and can be confused with interference, and consequently be dissuaded, hence cultivating an organization-wide culture of curiosity is imperative. A diverse, driven and curious workforce can have organizations reach heights of success, but more importantly, sustain this success, and boost it.

Related: How Curiosity And Passion Fuels Entrepreneurship And Innovation

Ghassan Talhouk

Head of Talent Solutions, LinkedIn UAE

Ghassan Talhouk is the Head of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn UAE. He is a senior executive with over 20 years of experience, of which 14 years were spent in business development and sales management across Middle East and Africa. With a multi-industry experience with specialty in financial services and telcos, Ghassan has worked in a number of multinational companies in leadership roles including Libanpost, Oracle, Microsoft, and now, LinkedIn.. In addition to his corporate experience, Ghassan is the co-founder of Addresscope, a Dubai based startup aiming at revolutionizing addresses.

Ghassan has a BS in Computer Science from the Lebanese American University (Lebanon) and an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK).

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