EventsRoundtableRoundtable ReportHRD Roundtable Report: Setting up For Success: How to Create a Strategy to Future-Proof Skills

HRD Roundtable Report: Setting up For Success: How to Create a Strategy to Future-Proof Skills

How well do you know the shape of your workforce? Are you clear on the capabilities your organisation needs to continue to maintain a competitive advantage?

Future-proofing skills has shot up the priority list of C-level executives over recent years and has taken new emphasis from the employee side – they need to see that organisations are invested in them long-term. What are the strategies to achieve this and how do we need to change our approach to upskilling and reskilling?

Led by Rachel Greenway, Director of Leadership, Talent & Diversity, BT Global and supported by further insights from Sarah-Jane Rostant, Senior Principal Product Strategist, Workday, this discussion with senior HR leaders was conducted under Chatham House Rules. This report will contain the key discussion areas and all participants will be anonymised.

 

Whats the current status quo?

Talent differentiates how your business performs and how we digitise work, and so skills has been growing as a strategic imperative. The right skills in the right locations as the right time, will be core to being successful against future challenges.

We need to move away from tactical type resourcing and just closing gaps, to being more strategic in how we find and develop the skills we need. Some of this will come from improving our use of data and analytics to better understand our workforces – where are the gaps, and what does our current capability readiness actually look like?

We also need to work to better signpost to our people that we are investing in them, and what their future careers could look like within the organisation. The digitisation of systems and processes can be copied from organisation to organisation, but the individual talent and skills they have developed cannot be.

In the long term, the reality of continuingly changing markets is that organisations need to start thinking on a more macro level as well. Will the core offerings of their businesses change? Who will they need then? We heard for example from a leader from a law firm – the way students are taught is evolving, qualifying exams are changing and so the entire shape of legal careers and pathways looks different. How do they support the people already in their business, trained in a different model, to be competitive?

 

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Where are the skills shifts happening?

So, what are the critical skills that are required, and how do we approach developing them?

There is a shared shift in ‘soft skill’ requirements, particularly of leadership, as being increasingly strategic. We have seen this in the concerns about losing connectedness with the shift to hybrid working for example – managers and leaders that can connect authentically with their teams despite distance are at a big advantage. One participant shared their view on soft skills as ‘power skills’ – the ones that give us the ability to collaborate, work and lead teams, to innovate and design new processes. Just as valuable as the technical skills that keep us ahead on a digital level, power skills keep us ahead on a creative level.

But there are also of course the technical skill shifts. Many organisations find themselves trying to attract the same people, even across very different industries. A question to ask ourselves here is are we truly identifying the ‘future skills?’ If we are hiring for them now, for job roles we have now, are we not still thinking in the present? Are we moving at the pace we need to disseminate the changing skills before they become obsolete again? And to stay ahead of the game? What skills are we not even aware of yet?

 

How do we tackle this?

The group discussed agility and the value in mindsets that allow for reinvention. If your organisation were redesigned from scratch today, it would be born digital, without many of the legacy systems and processes we have in place in our organisations today.

This challenge cannot be tackled in silo. Talent acquisition, management and L&D all need to change mindsets from looking ahead maybe 12/18 months, to looking at 5/7/10 years. External market data and trends will be able to help to a degree, but organisations will need to be comfortable taking some bets on where they invest now, to see an impact in several years time.

We can also look internally for data points – what does exit data say? We heard from one participant who has found value in sifting through to find the connections between why people say they are leaving/what they are looking for and the environments, systems, and opportunities they need to offer. Some of this may be about growth, some may be even more psychological, based in the changed way they feel about work and their careers coming out of the pandemic.

One participant shared their strategy to establish better data literacy, starting with a survey on both skills and appetite for skills. Using this, they were able to build scenarios across the business, and design several different interventions. They since found that this was kick starting wider conversations about what the future of the business could look like and highlighting the difficulty in articulating which skills they would need.

Organisations should also look at the level of rotation within their business. How static are employees? Do they need to leave in order to try something new or get a promotion? Shifting around the business enables people to better understand the needs of the business, the needs of the customers, and gives the experiential opportunity of trying something new.

It also opens other doors to creating more developed talent marketplaces. When we think more fluidly about roles and capabilities within our organisations, it allows for a different kind of mapping of how work gets done.

 

How do we measure impact?

As one participant put it, talent and L&D functions are really in the investment business. They are investing now, to see a return years down the line. But showing return on that investment has not always been well articulated.

It is easy to get too tactical in measuring and lose sight of the long-term goals and ambitions. There may be plenty of data points against short term initiatives (what was the engagement like, how did people rate it?), but really it is about the long-term performance of the business. Are we connecting those dots?

There can also be tension between parts of the business on these challenges. How do we deal with stakeholders looking for quick wins? It is possible to find people with the thirst to upskill (though this is another competitive trait!), but is it possible to actually speed up the process? And if not, how do we set these expectations?

 

 

Other resources shared

https://www.ft.com/content/3d7f546c-723c-4c95-baf7-6954c891dbce

https://www.unilever.com/news/press-and-media/press-releases/2019/unilever-launches-ai-powered-talent-marketplace/

https://www.zurich.co.uk/media-centre/zurich-sets-out-to-future-proof-3000-uk-workers

 

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