"What got you here won’t get you there.” When management thinker and writer Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book by this title, he put succinctly one of the biggest business challenges the world faces today.
Underscoring the importance of re-tooling, he said that the capabilities that got a professional so far will not be good enough for success in the future. Today, this is a maxim that holds good for every professional as new technologies disrupt the way we work, rendering many skills redundant and making new skills critical for success. Look around and I am sure you have heard/read about robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, digital and other trends changing jobs forever.
Therefore, up-skilling or re-skilling talent to align organizational capabilities to business requirements has become a top priority for people managers across industries. They need to identify the skills that employees currently possess, map those to the company’s business requirements and design programs to bridge any existing skill gaps. It means creating a talent framework that continuously assesses an organization’s skill readiness and corrects any misalignment with new talent acquisition or by providing the required training to internal resources.
What is the ‘Gift of Staying Relevant’?
A few years ago an employee’s definition of a good workplace was one that provided a clear career roadmap, a fair and transparent work environment, and equitable compensation. Today, they must ask another question: Is the organization creating opportunities for me to advance my skills so that I can progress in my career?
There is no better gift that organizations can give their employees than by providing them the right skills training. I call it “the gift of staying relevant”.
Workplace practices should be tailored in a manner that employees are constantly re-skilled to stay relevant to current business environs.
At WNS, our talent development initiatives are focused on employees’ continuous skill development. We nurture potential, but more importantly, the latent potential that can be harnessed to further the company’s and individual’s objectives.
Our workplace talent practices are focused on developing “T-shaped” professionals – where we believe the center is the ‘I’, that stands for the individual and the three points of the “T” represent domain expertise, technology knowledge and sales orientation. We believe that the future belongs to specialists of every kind (across functions and industries).
So whether an employee has a client-facing role or not, a sales orientation will give him or her better understanding of the customer. Or someone with strong technology expertise will be able to create more relevant solutions if he or she understands the issues peculiar to a client’s industry domain.
Design Thinking, Data Analytics in Talent Development
We use design thinking for our skill development programs. Design thinking in HR is nothing but putting people at the center of a program so that we look at it from people’s point of view. It is about marrying insights from people and business, and incorporating those to build a program rather than going by our in-house HR learnings. With design thinking, HR managers can focus on the experience of training rather than a pre-defined process with set goals. In this methodology, the outcome is measured not only by the goals set at the beginning of training but also by the experience that employees who received training underwent – thereby making employees a part of the learning journey and tweaking the program for better results as we go.
Design thinking in skill development is becoming important also because the employee base is a heterogeneous mix with five generations of people often working in one organization. The traditional way of developing one set of training programs for the entire talent base will not work. Skills training must address the aspirations and concerns of a millennial as much as that of a baby boomer. We can now develop trainee personas and segment the trainee base accordingly to meet the unique requirements and interests of each segment. For example, millennials like to have better control of their learning journey and so we have created do-it-yourself modules that they can choose at a pace they want. Our domain university, The Gateway, is a perfect example of this mode of learning.
People managers must also use design thinking for an iterative approach to learning. They can now test solutions before launching them, and use data to either confirm or refine their program. This has given rise to HR analytics in talent development. WNS is using HR analytics for a program called Aspire in which we use data to identify and train senior managers in the organization who have the right skills, aptitude and aspiration to become functional leaders in the future.
People managers have the job cut out for them – they need to create a work culture that distinguishes itself for the opportunities it provides employees to stay relevant; they need to develop frameworks that allow improvisation and customization; and they need to make use of data for better outcomes of their efforts.