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Aug 17, 2022

Call me out-fashioned, but I’m firmly of the school that you can’t always believe everything you hear from business consultants.

Which was why I was pleasantly surprised when I did recently read something great from one – when Deloitte wrote something extremely wise and insightful that we would all do well to remember:

“Current market conditions make it unrealistic to accept the business status quo, and [the] chances are whatever organizations did to become successful today won’t fuel their success tomorrow.” [emphasis added].

My grad school professors said similar things, but that was 20 years ago and during a period when the world seemed a lot less chaotic.

Whatever was going on back then, it didn’t compare to a worldwide pandemic, lockdown, and ongoing turmoil that has infected so much of our lives. But the wisdom of Deloitte should resonate with all of us because it’s absolutely Yoda-like in the way it cuts to an essential point: no matter how successful an organization seems today, it won’t continue unless the organization stops relying on what it did before and seriously focuses on what it will take to succeed tomorrow.

That’s easier said than done, and hard for most to do.

One of the few that have really done this well was Steve Jobs. In his second stint at Apple he moved the company beyond its original focus on high end computers and pushed it into other areas. The end result was a line of ever-more profitable creations — the iPod, the iPad, and of course, the now ubiquitous iPhone. In other words, Apple was incredibly successful because Steve Jobs forced it to constantly evolve. And that’s what Deloitte is advising organizations everywhere to do today.

How can businesses prepare for a difficult future?

So, how do we prepare our organizations for a future that is difficult to define?

Here’s Deloitte’s answer:

“To enable agility and maintain competitiveness, organizations must shift from understanding the unit of work in terms of fixed, static jobs to reimaging it in terms of a dynamic landscape of skills that can be agilely deployed to work as it continuously evolves.”

It adds:

“This new organizational form, what we call a “skills-based organization,” or SBO for short, places skills and human capabilities at the heart of talent strategies, creating a new operating model for work and the workforce. SBOs fuel a wide range of talent strategies and business decisions, creating continual adaptiveness and unlocking the full potential of the workforce.”

Deloitte clearly believes that a focus on skills is the key for organizations that want to grow and build on the success of today in the world of tomorrow.

Is skills the answer?

The trouble is, you hear a lot about skills today. Reskilling and upskilling are two terms that get used a lot — but is focusing on skills really the answer?

Well actually, recent research from Fuel50, an AI Talent Marketplace technology company, says that it is. Its Capability Trends Report examined how recent world events have impacted crucial employee and leadership capabilities required in the post-pandemic workplace, as well as how technology will be the key to many of the changes on the horizon.

Here’s what the Fuel50 report says:

“Moving away from rigid job architectures to an agile skills-based approach has many organizational and employee benefits. Companies that have clear visibility to all the different types of talent at their disposal, with a line of sight to how work is getting done, by whom, with what skills, performed where and at what value, will have an immediate and significant competitive advantage.”

What are the benefits of a skills-based organization?

Some of the key benefits to organizations include the following:

* Increased talent supply

By tapping into skills as opposed to job titles only, organizations can source talent from a broader, more diverse talent pool. They can also do it at scale. This allows them to address talent demand and supply more effectively. In turn, it presents a different way of solving talent shortages. Effective skills management strategies enable organizations to pivot in response to rapid dynamic and competitive environmental demands. And visibility to the skills pool makes it easier to transfer skills to other parts of the organization affected by chan

* Enhanced career opportunities & growth

An organization that adopts a transparent culture around skills can promote curiosity and creativity by enabling employees to think outside of the box about work experiences and, ultimately, their career trajectories. When organizations appreciate skill sets for their collective value of interdisciplinary and cross-functional knowledge, it opens up more growth opportunities for employees.

* Reduced bias in selection & promotion

Focusing on skills provides a more objective assessment of suitable talent in hiring and promotion processes and it may also reduce unconscious biases associated with these processes.

According to Deloitte, approximately 45% of organizations reward their staff for acquiring new skills and abilities. However, only 14% of businesses plan to deploy a strategy that pays for skills. Forbes makes the case that, “this disconnect is a concern because skills-based talent management provides a way of mitigating potential unconscious bias, thus increasing opportunity equity and protecting business continuity.”

Forbes also adds this important insight:

“You make better informed decisions about hiring, training and development, and coaching your employees when you know what skills you need in your organization. Hiring and reskilling for the necessary skills to thrive in today’s business environment means that employers need to adapt to the changing job landscape and plan for the future.”

A new focus on skills, and success

Here’s my take: Earlier this year, I came across an article in a journal called Education Next, published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. It was the title that grabbed me: “Big Quit” May Force a New Focus on Soft Skills and Success.”

The point of the article is that the disruption of the last few years that has been driving The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, or whatever you want to call it, has an upside. And that upside is that it is “forcing America’s outdated education and training regime — from K–12 to post-secondary and including corporate approaches — to reconsider how to prepare individuals for jobs and careers or reconnect those who have been displaced, so that all can be on a pathway to opportunity.”

This isn’t just going on in America, but also in other nations where workforce training and development has been a back burner issue for several years.

The sad thing is that it took a global pandemic and lockdown to get organizations to wake up about it. But now that they have, reskilling, upskilling, and a greater focus on giving people the agility and skills it takes to build a solid career path, organizations are finally back.

The rise of Skills-Based Organizations, where employees are valued for their skills rather than their job title, level, or educational qualifications, can help organizations optimize their existing talent pool. That’s the key to better retention, and better retention, and it should be the focus of every organization that has even a little taste of The Great Resignation.

In other words, this is a good thing to come out of all the Covid-driven turmoil. The more organizations that embrace it, the better life will be for workers and employers everywhere.

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