How to win a race where the finish line is constantly moving?

A contribution of Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens, Founder of Huapii

Many of us are confronted with the so-called “war for talent” and research stating that around 50% of the workforce needs to be reskilled or upskilled in the coming years. When I hear it again and again, I feel an inner tension and I finally realise why. It is - to me at least - a quite paternalistic and top down statement. It assumes higher forces are seeing people as pieces of the puzzle in a bigger ‘game’. I do agree, the discussion around the “skills debate” is a very pertinent one.

I invite you to see it through the lens of a wonderful opportunity for each of us to “drive our skills”.


Challenge

Many organizations tackle the skills problem too top-down, too reactive and make it more complex than it is. It leads to lower engagement and apathy instead of real empowerment and drive to continuously grow your skills, acquire new skills and unleash your potential. Research has proven the unfortunate link with burn-outs, absenteeism and more terminations. I feel we have a big responsibility to shift this trend.


Therefore, how can organizations unleash a movement for each of us to “drive our skills”? In my opinion it needs to start from within and I will share three key actions with you that could inspire you.

If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Key actions

  1. Communicate clearly and put skills central rather than job titles and a pure talent approach. You can see the combination of all the skills within an organization as the mayonnaise that make other ingredients stick together to unleash human and organizational potential. At Solvay for example, with a clear and energizing message I have seen people take full ownership to grow their skills, learn new skills and take their career to the next level. I have seen the majority of managers move from the more traditional supervisory role to becoming real coaches and helping people discover their strengths and skills. By just doing that, I witnessed employee engagement going up drastically.

  2. It is important to ensure a safe space and platform where people can share their strengths and skills with everyone in the organization, network, community. Like some of us do on LinkedIn, this should be possible within our respective organizations. This allows people to find and collaborate with colleagues instantly based on skills rather than job title and name. By just doing that, I have witnessed the speed of collaboration and innovation going up 2-3x at a global company.

  3. Be consistent and put skills central in all your people/ HR processes. I.e.

  • An authentic feedback culture: Asking and giving feedback (and feedforward) helps you gain awareness and grow your skills. It also means we need to give and receive feedback in the right way which is not straightforward as it triggers emotional reactions, certainly in a workplace that has become more physically distant.

  • Mentorship and coaching: Everyone can be a mentor to others for a specific strength and skill. Anyone can be a mentee to learn and develop skills from a mentor. HR Technology these days help you to find immediate mentor-mentee matches within the safe space of your organization, your network and beyond.

  • Objective setting: SMART or FAST objectives, OKRs, etc. are helpful, but traditionally lack an important component: GROWTH. Asking for 360° feedback on the way you have been leveraging your skillset to achieve an objective and more importantly if you have been able to unleash your full potential and develop & acquire new skills.

  • Reward: Some companies reward and incentive their people based on the skills they have grown and acquired instead of traditional performance KPIs. I find it at least intriguing to take this experiment to the next level.

  • ...

Technology

In today’s world we can’t speak about skills without touching on the role of technology and AI in the skills debate. Indeed, there are wonderful AI players that help you detect skills, predict which skills you will need for future jobs, etc. We should use those tools if we have the opportunity - especially as complement and positive nudge to further implement your skills strategy.

However, it is important to first give a voice and listen to your employees. The reason why is that otherwise we take away inner drive, reflection and the thinking process. A combination works best.

For example you let employees first share their skills, strengths and career- and learning wishes. Then you provide suggested additional skills, along with personalized learning and job recommendations. By doing so I have witnessed people taking 2x more ownership in driving their skills, learning and career development; increase internal mobility with over 10%. Ultimately contributing to increase happiness, engagement and reduce burn-outs and absenteeism.


For closure

The skills debate is a fascinating one and I am curious to see the evolution - especially in today’s constant changing world.


Very curious to hear your thoughts and feedback on the 3 actions written above or other actions you have seen work. We can all learn and benefit from each other’s views.

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