On Friday Nick and I were in London visiting Focus E15 – A Foyer for young people in the London Borough of Newham. They provide support in either a residential or non-residential basis with issues around housing, training, employment and personal development with 90 self contained units it is a busy, vibrant centre
I’ve been working with them to deliver a social media surgery package to support them to use online tools that will improve their communication skills and the website is an opportunity for the residents to connect with each other and to showcase their hidden talents to the world.
Jon Harris and Alisia Myran arranged Fridays launch and are two of the residents who have been involved with the project from the beginning.
This was the question Beatrice asked me. She wasn’t sure if she could help as a surgeon at one of these events designed to support local community and voluntary organisations in a relaxed one to one format:
I would like to make myself useful helping other people and I would like to know what skills I would need to be a good social media surgeon.
I am not a technical person by background. I have, however, spent a fair amount of time on the internet and it would be good to know what skills would be in demand at such an event.
It seems I have a bit of time to mug up on skills before the event but I’d be grateful for any advice on where to focus. Twitter is my platform of choice. I have just splashed out on a camcorder and digital recorder but I doubt I will feel confident with these tools before the event. Can I still be a useful person if I stick to Twitter/Facebook/general internet skills?
Oh yes – very. The fact that Beatrice wants to help is really the most important skill/thing she needs – but I also replied with:
Ability to ask simple questions like “what are you trying to achieve” or perhaps “how do you use the web at the moment”
Willingness to listen to the answers
Enough knowledge/experience of say twitter or blogging or facebook to be a couple of steps ahead of the person you’re helping.
Patience, willingness to ask for help from another surgeon if they ask you something you can’t answer (including ability to google to answer questions you can’t answer)
Ideally a laptop or similar so you can show people how the social web works in your experience.
That’s about it really! A sense of fun helps too (see the pic above of “surgeon” and “patient” in Dudley).
Later this month the Birmingham and Solihull LEP will start making some decisions about skills and work – asking themselves what skills do employers need and how to make them available.
I know this because of a set of “skills” that are hard to measure or teach.
One is being networked.
Peter Latchford (who’s doing some initial work for the LEP on skills) approached me to see what I thought businesses like Podnosh will need. On 30th January he’ll report back and tell the LEP what small business is asking for. So this is what I’d like them to hear:
Podnosh recruits for?
We are driven by making things better: improving public services, helping active citizens have a greater impact, allowing individual civil servants more freedom to improve lives, supporting good third sector organisations to help more people. We don’t work with anyone – if potential clients don’t share a good chunk of our passions or values we’d rather they found someone else to help them.
So for this we employ or work with people who:
believe in what we do
care about it
In turn they often know what they want and believe in and are leaders in their own worlds.
On top of that they are flexible and committed. All seem to have an unstoppable ability to make things work, see things through and to learn everything and anything they need to make that happen.
So we also want to find people who start things themselves (not the same as self starters), can’t help but learn on their own, aware of their strengths and happy to be open about what they want to strengthen.
It may sound like a halcyon world of small enterprise. But these are the people who work at, or with, Podnosh and they all have remarkable qualities (and if it sounds like I’m expecting them to be superhuman I’m not, I could never keep up).
One thing I haven’t mentioned? A certificate in anything.
Certainly there are technical skills and we are looking for more folk who are good at Ruby on Rails, but in our world many technical skills get outdated very quickly. So at it’s simplest we recruit the person, get that right and the knowledge later.
What do you recruit for – what does the LEP need to understand are the skills or qualities we need to help Birmingham’s small businesses thrive?
Karl Binder at Adhere added these thoughts to the discussion in his post “Total Business”:
So I look for:
Aptitude, a readiness and quickness in learning
Love what they do, have a passion for their job
Desire to continually try something new
Recognition that their job role can and will change
Existing skill set
If I had to sum up my employment strategy in a catchy little sound bite I would say I always looked to ’employ people, rather than skills’. This effectively means if the person’s attitude is right, they have a willingness to learn and an ability to do so, don’t get disheartened and give up quickly and realise that their role is one that is constantly evolving, I would employ them over someone who was the finished product in one particular area of expertise.
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