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The C-suite’s new focus: skills

Tanya E. Moore

Technology, and the world at large, is changing so fast that traditional methods of hiring and training are no longer enough. One person, or one group, can’t shoulder the responsibility for the skill set of the organization. Managing talent and skills has become a collaborative effort with both Board and C-suite giving it priority focus.

When the entire people management system of a company is based on skills, leaders come together to build a culture of continuous learning and growth. The employee experience is a priority—and, as a result, employee engagement increases, attrition decreases and business results rise.

As the C-suite aligns the entire org around skill development, there are three critical best practices to follow: make it personal, be transparent and select the right partners.

Make it personal

Your employees can get nearly every experience in their life personalized—from what they stream on their TVs to how they order dinner. They now expect the same thing from their jobs. The historical one-size-fits-all approach to skills no longer works. No one wants to be told they need to complete 10 courses by a specific date, especially if they already have expertise in those concepts. They want to know that what they’re being asked to do is worth their time.

Companies must understand the needs of the market and their business to create deeply personalized skilling experiences that are served up in the flow of work. While creating personalized skill development experiences for thousands of people may seem overwhelming, it is critical—and easier than ever with the use of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

It’s time to stop operating in the dark.

Incorporate the following:

  • Use AI to infer the skills and skill depth of your workforce, going past what skills employees say they have in their resumes and social profiles.
  • Don’t wait for employees to ask—alert them to an internal role, learning program, or growth experience that may be of interest to them.
  • Make everyone part of the solution, leveraging peer-to-peer coaching.

Making skill development personal can be a huge time-saver for managers who are juggling people management with their other day-to-day responsibilities. Analytics that provide cognitive nudges allow managers to proactively take action. By personalizing the skill-building and career experience for employees, managers can shift their focus from people management to meaningful interactions with their team members.

Turn up the transparency

It’s time to stop operating in the dark. Organizations need to place skills at the center of their people strategy, and aim for deep, real-time visibility of the skills position across the enterprise.

We’re getting better at telling employees they need to grow their skills. Where many companies still need to improve is understanding which skills employees need to grow, and then transparently sharing this with their employees. This seems basic, but it’s true. Many organizations aren’t clear about the skills they need to meet their business objectives or the top skill domains they need to point people towards. Even when they do know, that knowledge is not filtering down to the workforce.

Move to a new way of thinking. Based on your business objectives, what are the skills that you need now, and in the future? What skills do you need to buy (recruit), and what skills do you need to build (develop/train)? How do you signal to employees the skills your business and the market require? And then how do you communicate to employees whether the skills they have now are growing, maintaining or declining?

If you think it’s counter-productive to tell employees they’re in a role that’s declining in demand, you’re not the only one. Many companies worry that it will harm engagement or that people will quit. What we found at IBM was exactly the opposite. Providing employees real-time transparency into how their skills compare to market and business demand allows employees to know where they stand and gives them the power to do something about it. Reinforce this with a robust ecosystem of personalized skill- and career-building opportunities and a positive culture of continual growth, and you have the magic formula for building a workforce that is ready for the future.

Partner internally and externally

Gone are the days when any one company had all the answers. Gone, too, is the ability to solve the skills challenge without broader internal and external partnerships. To remain competitive, companies must adopt new ways of working, which includes partnering across the organization. How many companies still have a talent acquisition organization, a talent development organization, a learning organization, and a compensation organization—all of which operate in silos? With skills at the center of your people strategy, these organizations must work together, sharing data, resources, and expertise.

In addition, organizations must look externally for partnerships. Need to get your role and skill taxonomy in order? Don’t try to create a solution yourself; buy it from the experts. Need to provide learning content on a topic that is not in your area of expertise? Buy it, too! Speed is essential. For the areas where you are an expert, do it yourself. For the areas where you are not, find a partner who can do it better, faster and probably cheaper than you can.

Building robust partnerships, both outside and inside your company, is vital. To get the most from your partnerships, adopt an open, cloud-based technology architecture that can plug and play together, giving you the ecosystem you need to meet the challenges of today—and tomorrow.

Gone are the days when any one company had all the answers.

There’s no going back

The C-suite knows the status quo is no longer an option. Now is the time to ensure your company understands the skills you have and the skills you need, and has a plan for closing the gaps and continually coaching employees toward the future. Creating this path for skill development will keep your employees building the talent you need to be successful in our ever-changing world.

Business execs shaking hands

Tanya Moore has over 20 years of consulting and HR experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors, specializing in complex talent transformation, strategic workforce management, skill transformation, reskilling, employee experience, employee engagement, organizational change management, culture change, digital change, and workforce and leadership development.

Most recently, Ms. Moore was the Global Director of IBM Career & Skills, with responsibility for envisioning and executing a new career and skill acceleration experience for the IBM workforce, which included the vision, strategy and execution of corporate-wide career and skill programs.  In this role, Ms. Moore developed several award-winning programs that have become industry standards. Ms. Moore is currently a Partner in IBM’s Talent & Transformation organization, bringing the best practices and lessons learned from her internal role with IBM to clients to support their workforce transformation.