June 16, 2018 · Skill Management,
We live in a VUCA world- volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The rate of change is ever-increasing due to advances in technology and business concepts, and this is responsible for a highly dynamic business environment. Organizations which do not keep pace with these changing times are probable to perish soon. To keep pace, organizations must adopt new business models which are agile, responsive and disruptive. This business disruption is bringing on a disruption of skill sets. Employee performance leads to organizational performance and equipping employees with the right skills to navigate the business realities of today and tomorrow is a must. In fact, employee skills are seeing such a flux, that an entire new set of jobs will gain prominence in the near future. The shelf life of employees’ skills has shortened to a great extent, and employees must constantly upgrade their knowledge, skills and abilities to outperform.
On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today*
A Changing Skill Set Landscape
This means that organizations must understand where their strengths and weaknesses are in terms of current skills and embark on a continuous skill-building journey. Building an organizational skill repository that is up-to-date and future-relevant requires a disproportionate focus on understanding and analyzing the way the capability landscape is shaping up. HR must then devise the right learning mechanisms to imbibe these skills. This presents a two-fold advantage- the organization becomes future-ready, and employees become happy because they are able to realize their maximum potential. Combining skill development opportunities with other HR interventions like career pathing, career growth and employee engagement is the way to go about the agenda. The first step to achieve this is to understand what the critical skills of the future are.
The Net employment outlook by job family, 2015–2020 according to the “Future of Jobs” report by the World Economic Forum indicates that there will be an increase in roles in the fields of Business and Financial Operations, Management, Computer and Mathematical, Architecture and Engineering, and Sales and related fields, in this order.
In general, social skills will gain significant importance. This is because of factors like the changing nature of work, the opportunities in emerging markets, and geopolitical volatility. Some of the critical skills that organizations must work towards building in their employees, or hire new employees for are:
- Complex problem solving: Resolving problems proactively and with the right approach is an important employee skill. The complex business scenario poses sudden challenges, and will continue to do so in the future. Employees who are able to analyze these problems, and propose practically feasible and cost-effective solutions will gain an advantage in the talent race.
- Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action (National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking*). In the business sense on can think of it as attempting to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way, to solve problems.
- Creativity: Gone are the days when standard, conventional solutions were applied to routine problems. Today, mind-boggling challenges are thrown up anytime, and employees are required to think “out of the box” and come up with unique solutions. The future lies in bringing new, innovative and imaginative ideas and making them work for real in the workplace.
- People management: People are the most important organizational resources, and managing people for high performance is a must. This translates to developing managerial, coaching, mentoring capabilities at the supervisory and leadership levels to help employees realize their potential.
- Coordination: Doing business in modern times is a collaborative process, involving various stakeholders and workflows. Employees are expected to coordinate and communicate with diverse stakeholders to get the work done efficiently and effectively. Already, virtual collaboration is fast catching on and is a critical skill set that will define future success at both the individual and organizational level.
- Emotional Intelligence: The term first became popular in Daniel Goleman’s book in 1996, and since then has gained much importance as a must-have corporate skill. It is the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. Work pressure and complexity is set to increase in the future, hence it is important to manage one’s emotions, while understanding the other’s perspective.
- Judgement and Decision Making: The thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options will emerge as a key employee differentiator. The future is riddled with ambiguity, and decisions will need to be taken faster and with lesser available information at one’s disposal. This calls for adequate judgement and the decisiveness to lead the way and take a call.
- Service orientation: “The customer is king” is passé. Now the customer is the very reason for businesses to exist and hence the emperor. A service-mindset means that employees understand and empathize with the customer’s needs, and strive to supersede customers’ expectations. Employees who go all out to offer the best of services will be the stars of tomorrow.
- Negotiation: The ability to settle differences in a win-win manner is and will continue to be a hot skill, especially in core business areas like sales and business development. With greater complexity comes greater liasoning, and negotiation across levels- with government entities, industrial dispute bodies, potential customers, vendors and partners, etc. Employees must aim to achieve a “win-win” outcome by mastering the negotiation techniques.
- Cognitive flexibility: This is the ability to transition from thinking about one concept to another. Modern day employees’ roles are highly multi-dimensional, requiring employees to multi-task and prioritize. Employees who are able to seamlessly and productively switch between tasks and thoughts will gain an edge. Cognitive flexibility is the antithesis of rigid thought process, which is a big no-no in the future.
We can see that the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution is more about attitudinal and behavioral changes in the workforce.
The Role of HR in Critical Capability Building
HR must assess the skill gaps in the current workforce, in line with the business direction. For this, HR must define the skills and skill types relevant for the industry, sector, values and culture and assess the skill gaps. Thereafter, HR must design and develop the right interventions to bridge these gaps, whether it means delivering training, or hiring fresh talent, or linking it to performance management. Today a plethora of Skills Management Tools are available to make this job easier and effective. These help L&D professionals easily communicate with talent assessors, business stakeholders, and employees themselves. Technology is enabling HR to help employees help themselves in the upskilling game.