Changing needs and expanded skill sets
Both employees and businesses are having to adapt to changes in working patterns, new technologies, and of course, disruption. The effect of all of these factors has been to expand the set of skills that the average employee needs.
Research in the USA by Gartner shows that in 2018, job postings in the areas of IT, finance and sales required 17 different skills, whilst today in 2021, this has risen to 21. Of these eight were not on the 2018 list at all. There are other changes anticipated too, with just under 30% of the skills needed in 2018 not being expected to be required in 2022, something that shows just how fast things are changing in the business world.
This is causing big problems for businesses, especially today when the pool of talent seems so limited. Some companies have tried to fill this gap by hiring their way out of the problem, but the number of potential employees is limited.
This has led to organisations taking steps to develop the skills needed in house, by improving and extending their training programmes. One of these changes is to use business simulations instead of the conventional "sit and listen" techniques.
Currently, most firms are approaching the problem of ensuring that their employees have the right skill sets in two different ways, by being 'Reactive' or 'Predictive'.
Reactive v Predictive
In the scramble to maintain the required skill set, many firms build them as and when the need arises. The problem of this approach is that by the time the necessary training has been set up, the needs have changed. The result of this is that only about half of these new skills are ever used.
Whilst seeming to be a better idea, predicting what training needs will be required in the future, has also been shown by experience to be ineffective, less than 40% of these new skills actually being taken up.
There is a better way
Rather than trying to simply keep up with the training needs of staff or by guessing what will be needed, a system known as the 'Dynamic method' seems to work the best.
Dynamic is best - but how is this done?
This method uses a totally different system, one that requires managers, HR staff and employees to work together in a spirit where imperfection and ambiguity are allowed to coexist. This method has been shown to be able to cope with the fast moving business environment that exists today, the key being that the employees are able to drive the system from within, rather than having it imposed on them from above. Armed with the extra information that comes with this approach, employees seem to be able to make better choices, ones that results in three quarters of the skills being used, far more than the alternatives.
The first stage is to identify the skills
The old system relies on managers identifying the skills needed, with the HR department implementing the required training. This system is far from fool proof, the wrong skills often being identified.
The Dynamic approach gets around this problem by involving a network of stakeholders, including employees, leaders and customers, each being able to report on the specific skills needed in their particular area.
Just about good enough
The other advantage to the Dynamic approach is that it allows organisations to employ what is known as the 'Skills accelerator' solution. Here, leverage is applied to existing resources and expertise to provide the necessary level of 'upskilling' in a fast and timely manner. Even though everyone accepts that this solution is not the best that could be deployed, it is better than waiting for a perfect solution that will inevitably arrive too late.
There are three ways this process is used
Identify skills that are similar and are currently being used, then adapt them as needed
Use a number of 'skills disseminators'. These carefully selected members of staff help and coach their peers so that new skills can be developed on an 'as needed' basis
Timed learning delivery. This sub-method requires organisations to use data to identify what and when new skills are going to be needed, these being delivered in a just in time manner.
Fostering transparency between employees and the organisation
If an organisation decides to use the 'dynamic' route, they first have to ensure that both parties are 'moving in the same direction'. To do this successfully, it is essential for the leaders to share the ways skills are evolving, even when things are uncertain. Leaders also have to make sure that staff are aware of how these changes affect the roles in the organisation. It is a two way street however, employees needing to share their skills and career goals with the leadership.
Ensuring that a business is providing its employees with the right skills is not an easy task, and one that has many pitfalls awaiting the unwary.