Developing a dynamic skills strategy

To address the shifting business landscape Flemming Goldbach advocates a strong focus on skills, involving leaders and employees alike.

As Covid-19 continues to accelerate digitisation and shift business models, business leaders must ensure employees are equipped with the required skills to do their job as conditions change quickly. In fact, Gartner recently found that the number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year on year. On top of that, over 30% of the skills needed three years ago are quickly losing relevancy.

Developing new skill sets, in areas such as AI, SaaS and remote collaboration is essential to maintaining productivity and competitive edge for businesses today. But for human resources and business leaders, it can be a challenge to know which skills and competencies to prioritise.

At the same time, the leaders tasked with overseeing training and learning don’t always have the knowledge they need to adequately determine which skills their organisation needs more of. But this is critical knowledge to have, and leaders can partner with employees to find out.

Creating a learning culture that combines identifying the most relevant skills with involving employees in the skills development process will boost engagement, increase skills and overall contribute to the company’s success

Change is speeding up and skills must keep pace

The pace of innovation and technology change across industries has expanded the breadth of skills and knowledge required for productivity in the modern workplace. Not only are more skills needed, but training must be continuous and dynamic, because those skills are changing rapidly. 

The half-life of professional skills was once 10-15 years; today, the half-life of a learned skill is five years, and it’s even shorter for technical skills.

The economic impact of the pandemic has only accelerated this challenge. In the face of new circumstances and constraints, organisations must rapidly innovate to effectively operate and maintain a competitive edge, finding new ways to work smarter and adopt new solutions.

This increases the need for reskilling, scaling and changing skills to strengthen organisations now and in the time following the pandemic.

Organisations must build a system of employee empowerment and engagement

In today’s increasingly specialised and empowered organisations, HR, learning/development and business leaders often don’t have and should not have the detailed understanding of the work being done in specific parts of the organisation – and that means they don’t necessarily know exactly what skills are needed.

The half-life of professional skills was once 10-15 years; today, the half-life of a learned skill is five years, and it’s even shorter for technical skills.

Tackling this problem involves a couple of elements. The first is having specialists on the team who work well together and have the knowledge to actually to find out which skills are most relevant. This is an approach many organisations are developing, bringing on agile leadership that are more involved and investigative as opposed to just trying to predict everything.

The second is bringing employees into the process. Who knows better what skills are needed than the employees who are actually doing these jobs?

Engaging employees and empowering them to identify the relevant skills – and then develop and build the needed skills – can go a long way. Not only does it help with overall productivity, but it increases employee engagement, and the value of employee engagement can’t be overestimated.

What a dynamic skills strategy and culture offer

By creating a collaborative process of skills acquisition, you stand to gain multiple benefits. These include: increased productivity, stronger competitive advantage, improved talent retention and attraction, and increased engagement.

  • Increased productivity. Your workforce is the backbone of your organisation; well-trained employees positively impact the productivity and success of your company.
  • Stronger competitive edge. When your employees possess the skills needed for success now, it creates a competitive advantage over organizations that don’t. This is one of the hallmarks of long-term survival.
  • Improved talent retention and attraction. A report by the Work Institute found that 77% of employee turnover could be prevented by employers. It also found that employers could expect to pay $680bn in employee turnover costs in 2020. Employees are fully aware of their career options and have little hesitation going elsewhere to get their needs and aspirations met. Organisations that don’t do all in their power to upskill employees and promote from within are asking to contribute to that $680 billion sinkhole.
  • Increased employee engagement. When you have a disconnect between what skills are available in the employee population and what skills are needed to effectively succeed in their work, it is be extremely frustrating and stressful to employees. Employee engagement will suffer and ultimately employee burnout in the organisation can follow. So, changing this scenario is very important.

The most common metric for engagement is a level of enthusiasm or focused attention towards a particular task. Engagement is also measured by an employee’s willingness and commitment towards the goals and missions of the company they work for. When employees are engaged, it has been shown to have significant benefits in terms of their attitudes, health and work performance.

Collaborative skills building

2020 has been a whirlwind of transition for organisations, demanding a sudden shift to remote work and a watershed of new digital skills requirements for many employees. That’s in addition to the fact that ongoing and rapid changes in technology require a constant updating of skills in order for organisations to remain competitive.

As the skills landscape evolves, HR leaders have struggled to prioritise which skills to assign and who to assign them to. The answer to this dilemma lies in establishing a system to collaboratively working with employees to discover skills gaps in their daily roles.

It’s a dynamic skills strategy to continually identify, build and re-build critical skills needed at the time of need.


About the author

Flemming Goldbach is vice president of product, LMS365.



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