A look at three sectors in lighting that could drive growth
Lighting touches all—offices, public works, hospitality, houses of worship, residences—and everything in between. Every so often, a perfect storm arrives when advances in technology or research nudge the industry in a certain direction.
We may be at that tipping point today.
Over the past few years, LD+A editors and contributing identified three developments in lighting that appear poised for a major breakthrough. They are “smart” lighting; light and health; and lighting for horticulture. In the report that follows, we offer market statistics on each sector, as well as commentary from product developers, researchers, consultants and others immersed in these markets. Their assessments, as you will see, reflect both optimism and caveat. Put another way, there is no growth without a few growing pains.
Where We Are
Michael Skurla, director of product strategy, BitBox USA, notes that “it only takes a trip to Light + Build in Frankfurt realize how vast the options have become to solve lighting’s three-pronged value proposition of art, science and safety. Lighting can offer more is the theme the industry is marching towards and it can be encapsulated into two paths—infrastructure growth and software data services enablement.”
Lighting is transitioning into a “platform for data infrastructure,” he says. “Though many examples of this exist, such as indoor position technologies, LiFi, and other emerging technologies that go beyond illumination, no better example is the simple streetlight pole, which is now becoming a vital data hub for cities. Streetlights are enabling a myriad of growing city services such as municipal WiFi services, enablement of 5G, security surveillance and traffic management, to name just a few.”
At the same time, software is bringing new players and decision makers into the lighting market. “Data software platforms have emerged from many manufacturers of lighting equipment; software, however, is a disruptive twist in our industry as we move in part to offer this data in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model. Though SaaS is very familiar to the IT industry, it is relatively foreign to the well established electrical distribution model we have followed in the lighting industry since its inception. Time will tell how this ultimately plays out. This software play has driven exciting players to enter the lighting space through acquisitions that just 10 years ago would have been seen as highly unconventional. Think companies like Verizon.”
IoT and smart cities consultant Rick Schuett also points to the pole. “There are ongoing pilots and some real city/municipality projects in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the Americas where wireless street lighting control is being utilized as a communications and data analytics platform to measure air quality, count cars and pedestrians, locate and communicate open parking spaces, and communicate whether trash cans are full.”
Gary Meshberg, director of industry & market engagement/business development, OSRAM Digital Systems, agrees that “big data” applications could supplant the more basic application of tracking of a building’s energy use. “In general, smart/connected lighting demand is fueled by local and statewide energy codes and influencers such as the WELL Building Standard, which foster greater adoption of more advanced methods of smart lighting/control.” But as the connected lighting load continues to drop due to ever more efficient LED lighting, “this has spurred development in other aspects of connected lighting, such as data mining, which has the potential to gain more value from the same hardware deployed.”
The possibilities for connected lighting are endless, he adds. “Repurposing data obtained from a smart lighting system can provide compelling business intelligence and proof points which may assist decision makers in real estate planning, asset management, as well as the comfort and performance of their work force.”
Matt Ochs, product management director, Lutron Electronics, contends that “smart lighting” should be viewed holistically. “Smart building solutions aren’t just about controlling sensors and electric lights; they are about dynamic systems that incorporate lighting and energy management, automated shade solutions and actionable data.” And there’s a higher purpose to smart lighting beyond things like energy management and asset tracking. “We’ve seen evidence that increased access to daylight and views can improve productivity at work. Moreover, employees prize access to daylight and views—in fact, access can be an important factor in employee attraction and retention.”
Ochs adds that the increasing growth of the IoT also means more acceptance of wireless technology, which is driving smart lighting control systems. “These wireless systems offer a huge opportunity for the mass commercial market, as they’re perfect for retrofits—which often don’t have lighting controls—and new buildings.”
Skurla acknowledges that proprietary systems could hinder adoption. “Integration transparency has been carefully guarded historically in lighting systems in the name of proprietary protection. Though the lighting industry has well-established standards for lighting control, our interoperability capabilities have remained in many respects private to manufacturers, or at best tied to the concept of building management.”
The explosion in data-mining opportunities for building owners, however, could loosen the proprietary hold. “Lighting infrastructure is positioned to offer massive analytics opportunities when used in conjunction with software tools from other systems. No lighting company is the end-all analytics engine for the needs of every stakeholder in every vertical. The information we can provide to these software analytics tools is immensely valuable and monetizable. Still, we must allow as an industry the capability to access that data quickly and affordably.”
Meshberg seconds Skurla’s thoughts on interoperability, system integration and data sharing, adding that “configuration complexity must also be addressed. The ability to specify a system that is easy to install, commission and use, may lead luminaire manufacturers to offer centralized connected solutions with software.”
Not surprisingly, cybersecurity also remains a concern. “How well will lighting integrate with other networks without introducing vulnerabilities?” Meshberg also wonders about how great the “demand for data” will be from building operators. “How well [will] users leverage data for substantial operational savings and improvements?”
Ochs points out that a number of states don’t have building energy codes that require lighting control, and there are concerns with the future of energy rebates for lighting, which can influence adoption. “But the focus on smart, energy-efficient and human-centric technology should mean continued progress in the coming decade.”
Robert F. Karlicek, Jr., professor, electrical, computer and systems engineering, and director at RPI’s Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications, says the smart lighting market may not meet the early rosy forecasts. “I don’t see smart connected lighting driving the revenues or customer value that lighting companies thought they’d realize, and to a degree, that market is now increasingly owned by building systems companies in certain markets.”
Along those same lines, Schuett says something as basic as knowing (or not knowing) who to market to could affect to what degree lighting companies are successful: “The people that the lighting industry traditionally works with are not the people making decisions on the problems that IoT lighting solves. The head of street lighting for most cities has nothing to do with traffic management or waste management. A merchandising manager cares about color temperature beam distribution, contrast ratios and aesthetics, but isn’t used to talking to lighting people about shopper paths, number of shoppers, conversion rate effectivity and shopper dwell time.”
Much like with any new business endeavor, nothing beats a “win,” says Schuett. “There is one final hurdle—the need for at least one winner to emerge within the IoT lighting sector that people can point to and say, ‘Look at those guys, they are hitting it out of the park.’ ”
• Interoperability among systems is critical
• Lighting customers will change
• Think beyond building operations to human-centric benefits
LIGHT & HEALTH
Where We Are
Don Peifer, creative director, lighting sector at Legrand, characterizes the state of the light and health market as “well-primed.” He adds, “First, the research findings have crossed the chasm from compelling to rock solid. The ability of light to not only positively affect sleep, mood and productivity but to improve quality of life is no longer debatable. Second, the introduction of what I’ll call the blue light is bad conversation to the public discourse is encouraging. Not only are people talking about light in the context of health, but we’re dipping a toe into the esoteric by referencing spectrum, as well. I wouldn’t call it a 3-ft putt, but all the parts are in place for a public conversion.”
Sandra Stashik, specification sales director, Acuity Brands Lighting, zeroes in on the rise of tunable lighting over the past year across several space types. “Healthcare facilities, hospitals in particular, are starting to do pilot projects with tunable white lighting using time-clock functions for circadian entrainment of patients and staff. There is also increased interest in university projects, especially in classrooms and lab spaces. Acuity Brands has also been involved in K-6 grade classroom projects where the teacher has the ability to tune the lighting for specific tasks throughout the day, and students have responded very positively to this variation.”
Jay Goodman, VP, strategy, Healthē, Inc. argues that the timeline for what he calls “true” circadian technology adoption will be shorter than for other innovations the industry has witnessed over the years. “I’ve been around this industry longer than I care to admit, and I see this technology adoption following the same cycle as the others (i.e., electronic ballasts, controls, LED, etc.), but in a more compressed timeline. We’re past the ‘wow that’s amazing’ stage and we’ve been in the ‘lots of industry chatter’ stage now for a year or more. I see us now moving into the next stage—the early adopters executing on marquee types of projects etc.—and ultimately moving into the ‘wave of adoption’ 12 to 18 months after. I have no doubt about if it’s coming; it’s just a matter of when.”
Mike Thornton, CMO, Focal Point, counters that “there is still a great deal that’s unknown regarding the biological effects of lighting and its impact on human health. While circadian entrainment has been a topic of discussion for a few years and parameters defining its application have been included in global building standards, there is still no scientific consensus on the effects of light on the circadian system. It therefore seems futile to create a prescribed application method for a general office environment, where exposure to light cannot necessarily be tightly regulated throughout an extended 24-48-hour period.”
Thornton also acknowledges that the discussion of “light and wellness” takes lighting manufacturers out of their traditional comfort zone. “Most manufacturers, and Focal Point is part of this group, did not set as a company vision or mission to control the body or manipulate biological processes; rather, our ethos is based in enhancing architecture and creating comfortable environments. Using light to influence biological rhythms and functions could have unintended consequences and it entails a higher level of risk that, in the absence of definitive, reproduced, evidence-based studies and clear application methods, lighting manufacturers are loath to take on.”
Thornton calls for a broader approach to light and health, which would include all stakeholders in the built environment. The mission: to document evidence-based solutions in real-world applications. “Groups conducting research and publishing studies centered on health-related lighting are seeking the assistance of lighting manufacturers in the development of circadian lighting solutions; however, to develop evidence-based recommendations, academia should focus on building owners, lighting designers and architects who exercise greater influence in the decision-making process as it pertains to the built environment.”
One specific growth area, Thornton says, is lighting for human preference. Studies on this topic “deliver evidence-based outcomes of a light that’s preferred by humans, creates more comfortable environments and renders colors in a more vibrant manner.” he says. “These studies use IES TM-30-18 to provide a method for measuring the color rendition of a light source, and its parameters are used by the WELL Building Standard v2 in Feature L07 – Electric Light Quality. Additionally, similar studies continue to be reproduced by third parties, unrelated to previous studies, building scientific consensus around a light quality which supports the creation of more human-centric environments.”
Peifer notes that the sheer force of demographics could drive market growth over the next few years. “Baby Boomers are coming to retirement age, and a generation of self-sufficient people are going to want to stay in their homes as long as possible and avoid assisted living. And we want them to. The burden on healthcare—especially given the one-on-one care-giving needs associated with cognitive impairment—will be enormous.
“Messaging to the public is going to be essential with emphasis on ‘do no harm.’” The proof will be in the applications, Peifer adds, bolstered by a coordinated top-down effort. “Compelling light and health products in successful vignette applications such as Newborn Intensive Care Units and assisted living facilities—where the effects on well-being are dramatic—will be one step.” The other critical element, he says, “is backing these findings into well-crafted recommended practices. If WELL Building, LEED and other prestigious environmental programs then feather these specifications into their platform, we have created a fertile ground where the application of the science can bear fruit. What we don’t want is to leave the freemarket to dice the findings and mutilate the intent of the science. That will assure only one thing: that every booth at LightFair has their token light and health products with very little penetration and sadly very little positive effect.”
Goodman notes that educating clients about light and health benefits—“it’s complicated stuff”—will be critical moving forward, “As fear of technology risk wanes, specifiers and stakeholders are more inclined to adopt it. Most importantly, the message from the market has to be about simplifying not complicating,” he says. “No matter how incredible the technology, it has to be explained and sold in a manner that is simple and understandable if we want to see broad adoption. Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, ‘If you can’t explain it to a six-year old you don’t understand it yourself.’ ”
Echoing that sentiment, Stashik also advocates for easy-to-grasp messaging. “Cost of the lighting equipment and simplicity for end users is critical. Controls need to be able to respond to the unique needs of specific space types. Finding the best solution can be difficult.”
Stashik also warns that the lack of consensus within the research community could hamstring adoption. “Everyone is interested in increased research in all areas where tunable lighting for improved productivity, health and recovery from illness is being considered. This is evident in the number of presentations on research at lighting conferences. Opinions from researchers vary, as do recommendations and standards such as WELL and the draft UL document on Circadian Practice and Design Guidelines. This is confusing to lighting designers and users and will probably not be resolved in the near future.”
• Evidence-based recommendations are key
• Demographics could boost demand
• Manufacturers still hesitant
Where We Are
For horticulture lighting, “growth” isn’t just the market forecast—it’s the basis for the market itself. Light has always been integral to plant cultivation, but LED technology has helped lighting secure a new foothold in the evolving field.
“While the demand for LED horticulture lighting isn’t growing exponentially like everyone thought a few years ago, LEDs have clearly established their value in the horticulture industry,” says Paul Scheidt, leader of the product marketing team for the LED Components division of Cree. “LEDs can boost yields, save energy and last longer than any other technology available on the market.”
Ron de Kok, director of North American Horticulture LED Solutions at Signify, agrees these are just a few of the reasons “growers are looking for an easy way to step into LED lighting,” while David Cohen, CEO of Fluence by OSRAM, notes that many growers have already made the switch. “Global cultivators are no longer evaluating the efficacy of LED lighting solutions. They are demanding it,” Cohen says. “For commercial crop growers operating under tight margins, LEDs produce sought-after products that command increased revenues. For commercial cannabis growers, our research indicates that cultivators are ranking energy efficiency and light intensity as critical factors when making lighting purchases—factors in which LED lights excel.”
Researchers, however, are still studying up on LEDs. “The horticultural lighting market is still experimenting with different spectral power distributions, including far red, UV, white LEDs and integration of sensing modalities,” explains Dr. Ziggy Majumdar, director of development for the Lighting Research Center at RPI. “A significant element appears to be algorithms to control the lighting systems, since there are many different crops and properties growers seek to optimize. This could be maximizing yield with the least amount of energy, or other crop characteristics, such as color, shape, flavor or medicinal compounds.”
A less talked-about factor is using light to ward off crop disease. “Our surveys also suggest that disease is an important factor, which includes pathogens such as downy mildew and powdery mildew,” Majumdar adds. “Using lighting strategies to prevent disease and reduce severity has been of interest to our industry partners and within the LRC. Horticultural lighting of the future may look very different and vary greatly across crops, so there are many interesting research questions and design strategies to explore.”
Chris Bishop, president of Illumenedge Lighting Agency, an Ontario-based designer and specifier of horticultural lighting solutions, says big-picture questions posed by researchers such as Majumdar have made interest in horticulture lighting higher than ever. “With issues like the inevitable food shortage crisis of the near future in mind, horticulture lighting helps us acknowledge issues, identify solutions and present innovative options like vertical indoor vegetable factories or insect-protein farming. We are just beginning to understand and explore the possibilities that horticulture lighting can provide.”
The future of the market depends on a range of evolving factors. “Cost of fixture production and profits of the growers are obvious factors that affect market growth, and competition may increase with more companies getting into the market,” Majumdar explains. “Consumer preferences for local, sustainable and ‘chemical free’ will be a growth driver. Climate change may favor more indoor production of specialty crops. I think what will hurt novel products are advertising claims without good evidence. This creates confusion and when results do not meet expectations, growers veer away from premium products, which can create a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of cost.”
For LED manufacturers, creating premium products comes with challenges. “The LEDs need to be very efficient, very bright and last a very long time under harsh conditions to make the business case for more expensive LED products that work for the growers,” Scheidt says. “Not every LED is up to the challenge.”
However, Scheidt and other manufacturers see potential. “We know from how LEDs were adopted in general lighting that carrots (LED luminaire rebates) and sticks (regulation updates) are both effective tools until the prices of LED-based products are able to come down. Once the LED products get less expensive, then they will just become the default choice moving forward. I don’t see anything that would disrupt this process; however, I think this is all a very narrow view of the potential of LEDs for horticulture.
“Horticulture seems to be on the brink of a massive change in where and how food or medicine is produced,” Scheidt continues. “And LEDs seem to be an integral part of, or even the catalyst for, these new plant growth techniques. The potential health and environmental benefits are huge and very exciting, but getting there requires some major disruptions in industries that will be resistant to change. It’s anybody’s guess on how it will play out in the next 10 years or so, but I am confident that LED-based lighting will be an important component of any new technique.”
The cannabis industry is already grappling with questions about how supply can best meet demand. “The continued adoption of medical marijuana programs and legalization of cannabis across the globe has already and will continue to rapidly expand interest, innovation and investments across horticulture lighting as a whole,” Bishop says. However, both Bishop and Cohen acknowledge hurdles to overcome. “The cannabis market in particular is still young, and cultivators are still identifying and standardizing best practices across every area of cultivation, including supplemental lighting,” Cohen says. “How quickly they are able to establish those best practices will be a significant factor in how quickly cannabis markets grow around the world.
“Taking it one step further, there’s a fundamental need for more in-depth research around the efficacy of horticultural lighting systems like LEDs, and this is true across both cannabis as well as commercial food and crop-production verticals,” Cohen adds. “Now that LEDs are truly affordable for cultivators of all kinds, the next step is to usher in a new wave of research that explores the efficacy of LED systems on crop yields, uniformity, cost-efficiency and other metrics that will help cultivators expand their profit margins.”
Additional research will vary based on technology, as well as crop, Majumdar notes. “In some crops, the lighting can still be highly energy intensive and increased deployment of renewable sources of energy may increase demand for higher efficiency lighting. For high-value crops, LED solutions still need to prove they can reliably create quality products and gain trust from growers to unseat incumbent technologies. This requires thinking about how other environmental variables are affected by the lighting system and how that affects the crop. It may be a good time to consider UV-B and UV-C LEDs to reduce disease without chemicals in high value crops where this may be a capability gap, since their operations may be less cost sensitive.”
One opinion emerges as unanimous: Creating the “right” LED systems for horticulture is worth it, because it makes sustainable crop cultivation possible. “You can’t always depend on Mother Nature to provide the optimal light you need for growth,” de Kok emphasizes. “The right LED luminaires can complement natural light, with the spectrum and intensity that fruit and vegetables, for example, need, without adding extra heat. Or provide the finely tuned light recipes to stabilize and improve plant quality during winter months. LED lighting will make it possible to support increasing consumer demand for locally grown produce all year round.”
• Consumer preferences and climate change could boost demand
• Cost and reliability of LED systems is critical
• Cannabis market growth depends on establishing best practices
2020 JOBS OUTLOOK
By Paul Pompeo
The industry professionals in this seventh edition of LD+A’s Careers Outlook are all new faces—save one. Representing manufacturing, design and rep agencies, the group includes: Julie Blankenheim (managing principal/specification sales, Chicago Lightworks); Jason Chadwick (director of sales, ILP and Green Creative); Rick Earlywine (senior vice president/architectural and downlighting solutions, Acuity Brands Lighting); Nelson Jenkins (principal, LumenArch); Lesley Matt (senior vice president, TCP); and Tejal Thakur (founder and owner, LightSpek). We started off with our traditional opening question:
ILP and Green Creative
Acuity Brands Lighting
WHAT POSITIONS WILL BE MOST IN DEMAND IN 2020?
Matt: The lighting market is changing dramatically, and I see digital [product] positions in the highest demand for 2020. This is a very broad category, as I view it as anything from digital marketing and e-commerce jobs in the distribution channels, IT professionals working on code to make the order-to-customer process quicker and smoother, all the way to IoT sales professionals providing a value-added, custom-engineered solution for smart building applications. Demand for individuals with the technical knowledge of code will continue to grow in the lighting industry.
Earlywine: We are continuing to focus hiring in three areas—electronics and electrical engineering as our portfolio expands into networked and smart lighting systems; optical design; and field-facing technical sales [people] on networked systems. I also think that positions in IT and cybersecurity will continue to be high demand.
Thakur: I believe sales, marketing, business analytics, and having a growth mindset will always be in demand— year after year.
Chadwick: We’ve seen a tremendous amount of consolidation in the LED market in the last few years. Additionally, products are increasingly becoming more innovative and have integrated controls and dimming capabilities. I suspect the positions most in demand in 2020 will be regional sales managers, product line managers and application managers who have a solid background in a number of different areas in the LED industry. Hiring managers will be looking for candidates that have experience managing luminaire lines as well as controls and lamps.
Jenkins: As lighting becomes more technology driven, practitioners who can bridge the knowledge gaps between disciplines have become increasingly valuable and in demand.
Blankenheim: There is now, and will be in 2020, a high demand for people who understand controls. With code updates and the advent of wireless networked systems, our industry needs knowledgeable people designing, selling and programming control systems. Also, for sales agencies, inside sales staff that are true “lighting people” and speak the language of lighting are extremely hard to find and a real asset.
Chadwick: Another area for growth is in the energy sector. We have seen a lot of strength in the ESCO market and retrofit space. The candidates that have been involved in the energy and ESCO market have a distinct advantage over other candidates as larger agents and manufacturers seek to grow these departments.
WHAT POSITIONS WILL BE LESS IN DEMAND THIS YEAR?
Jenkins: Practitioners who want to “stay in their lane” are going to be passed by as roles in the industry continue to expand.
Chadwick: Now, more than ever, selling is less about who you know and more about what value you bring. This goes for agents as well as manufacturers. I see 2020 as the year in which the antiquated model of what I would call “writing orders” and relationship-based selling shifts to a culture of accountability on all fronts. The only positions that will not be in demand are the positions that do not bring value to customers. If an inside quoting person, for example, generates quotes but offers little in the way of enhancing value, reducing costs or speeding up delivery, the position likely will not last too long as this market accelerates.
Blankenheim: If I had to pinpoint one role that would not be growing, it would be lighting showrooms. The internet is taking over the retail lighting space.
Matt: I see a decrease in demand for traditional sales manager roles as the industry is becoming more specialized and requires a different, more technical skillset. Gone are the days of coffee and donut runs—electrical distribution to large national accounts all demand a higher level of sales individual from lighting manufacturers to provide quick and accurate information.
Thakur: I believe the internet has profoundly impacted our distribution channels. It undermines these traditional channels and will soon render them obsolete.
WHAT PRODUCT AREAS WILL LEAD TO THE MOST JOB CREATION?
Thakur: There’s a demand for “well buildings.” We’re experiencing a global shift in the way we design spaces from materials to mental health. IoT, LiFi, circadian, all encapsulate “well building” standards.
Earlywine: In the immediate future, the ability to create smart, networked total lighting solutions will have the most impact in the industry.
Matt: I see 2020 as the year where the horticulture lighting market really begins to transform. With that, it will need product managers, engineers, technical sales team members and lighting designers just to service this highly specialized market.
Jenkins: Dynamic lighting continues to expand, both on a fixture and controls front. The cost premium for these advanced technologies are becoming more affordable due to increased demand and attainability. In addition, lighting that can solve multiple requirements simultaneously have increased value, such as lighting and acoustics, lighting and security, and lighting and data.
Chadwick: I believe that IoT will see the most jobs creation in 2020. As technology in our industry advances, a natural progression is to integrate other technologies. A good example is luminaires and controls. As products are introduced to the market, it will demand people who have the knowledge to deliver the value that IoT can provide and end-user customers are demanding more and more.
Blankenheim: Anything having to do with implementing control systems.
WHAT CHANNELS WILL CREATE THE MOST JOBS IN 2020?
Jenkins: Consumers are becoming savvier about the impact of lighting both at home and in commercial spaces. This expectation is going to drive the market in all areas of the industry from healthcare to hospitality, retail to residential, adaptive re-use to historic preservation.
Earlywine: As we see plan-and-spec projects taking longer to build, we see more contractor design-build activity. As a channel partner with distribution, we see adding new product, service and technologies in this channel as a growth area.
Chadwick: National accounts will continue growing in 2020. For example, one of our largest customers in California only buys 5% of the products in California, while 95% of the business they do is all around the U.S. To capture that business and the growth opportunities, it was necessary to have a strong national accounts team in place. Our national accounts team has doubled in size in the last six months and I suspect it will double in size again in the next 12 months.
Thakur: I believe healthcare, artificial intelligence, well building, solar and wind technologies will lead job growth and tremendous innovation.
DO YOU ANTICIPATE HIRING MORE OR LESS CONTRACT EMPLOYEES THAN IN 2019?
Blankenheim: We anticipate hiring employees, however, we will bring on full-time, in-house talent, not contractors. We only employ the use of one outside contractor currently and for us, in-house staff is still the only way to grow our relationship-based business.
Chadwick: I anticipate bringing on more W2 employees than contract employees for two reasons. First, we have converted most of our contract employees to W2 because they have brought so much value to our team. As the labor market continues to be tight and the competition continues for top talent, we wanted to lock our best people into place. Another reason there will be fewer contract employees is due to a lot of the regulations surrounding what classifies as a contract employee.
Jenkins: We anticipate significant growth over the next year at all levels of experience.
Thakur: Yes, I believe our labor market is quite strong and there seem to be more jobs than seekers at the moment. I hope this demand continues to force more job creation.
Earlywine: We plan to hire less contract employees in the upcoming year as we continue to improve our processes and capabilities to leverage our internal employee base.
Matt: I anticipate having the same amount of contract employees in 2020 as in 2019.
A “GLOBAL TALENT TRENDS” REPORT SAYS CREATIVITY IS THE MOST IN-DEMAND SOFT SKILL. DO YOU AGREE?
Earlywine: If “creativity” is meant in this instance to cover more than just design and innovation, then yes. In an increasingly competitive industry, employees that are creative in providing winning products and services to customers, reducing the time and cost of doing business, and finding new ways to reach customers, will be equally important as those that use creativity for product design and innovation.
Thakur: I do believe creativity is important. However, critical thinking, complex problem-solving skills and emotional intelligence are even more important to succeed in the modern work environment.
Matt: I completely agree that creativity is the most sought-after soft skill. An individual’s ability to be creative shows a higher level of thinking. From a salesperson’s ability to think on their feet to solve a customer’s problem, to an engineer designing and developing new ways to light our world; it all stems from a person’s ability to think different and touches all roles throughout an organization.
Blankenheim: I would agree 100%. We can teach lighting—and we do for over 75% of the people we hire. However, to teach the personality, work ethic and communication side of the business slows us down tremendously. We engage our entire team monthly on topics such as emotional intelligence, trust, respect and empathy. To be successful we have to communicate with and treat the person sitting next to us as if they were our most important customer.
Chadwick: I do not agree. I think the most important soft skill that employees need to develop is emotional intelligence. Accountability, interacting with other employees, contributing to the team and self-awareness are all parts of emotional intelligence. Without it, success in almost any position is extremely limited and when this skill is lacking, we see the highest amount of turnover.
Jenkins: “Creativity” is often used interchangeably with “problem solving.” Finding people that look beyond the status quo is challenging. It often seems easier to do the same thing over and over because change is challenging and often difficult. Technology and technology upgrades are an example of this. We upgrade to new operating systems on our computers or phones—the beginning can be excruciating, but before we know it, we have adapted to a new paradigm. Surrounding ourselves with people who work collaboratively and can adapt to change makes evolution easier and less contentious.