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Editorial Team
11 Jun 2020



Why Unlocking Workforce Skills is Future of Work Success

The future of business requires unlocking employee skills so that they perform to their potential. This is what makes good skill development programs essential.

That business as we know it is being disrupted – in fact, has been – is no secret. What leaders should do in such a scenario is a matter of discussion, with multiple, often contrasting, views. It is true, though, that the effective leader understands that disruption to stability is sometimes necessary for growth, or even for survival.

Keeping employees engaged is an important element of handling such disruption, as this will help them give forth more creativity and energy. However, it is not uncommon for their skills to not get the deserved recognition or to be put to the best possible use, leaving them a mere wasted resource.

The problem is that leading companies toward the future of business requires people to develop certain skills and organizations to become more agile, neither of which were happening. There is no shortage of employees desiring opportunities for learning and growth and, if denied, they do pack up and leave, as they feel their skills were not being sufficiently utilized or added to.

And companies can scarcely afford to lose talented employees. These are a great source of competitive advantage, talent, and agility keeping the company ahead of the market. What stops, or derails, any effort in this direction is the misguided belief in this being possible only from newly hired talent, outside of the current pool.

There are several reasons for employees not wanting to be restrained in their growth pursuits:

  • Willingness to push the envelope and explore their potential
  • Desire to stimulate creativity and find new solutions
  • Lowered interest in work from repetitiveness over an extended period
  • Quest for developing own skills

Skill development programs are in place in many organizations, but their managers perceive them as a loss of productive on-the-job time and a reason to put more workload on others. The shortsightedness of this approach further exacerbates good performance management and employee retention.

This is why the workforce must be optimized. The workplace environment must recognize employee potential and create optimal conditions for it to be realized. The search for meaning and fulfillment in professional lives is a big driving force, and enough cash to cover expenses is not the only goal. A structured mechanism to unlock skills is the key to higher growth and better employee retention. Of course, the employee must want to reimagine himself or herself, if success is desired, and the organization needs to arrange the requisite resources and tools.

The following steps are a good way to unlock skills:

  • Assess team skills and potential. Employees might not always step forward to take on more or different responsibilities, and an outside perspective and nudge could do the trick.
  • Seek inputs across levels, not just from top executives. Great new ideas can come from anywhere in the chain, and this also boosts employee motivation.
  • Push the limits. Employees could be put on jobs for which they might not be fully up to pace, possessing maybe less than half the requisite skills but having skills that are transferable to the role. This slight unsettlement and stretching could bring forth a lot of creativity and innovation. Be there to guide them when they need help.
  • Be aware of wants and needs. Post-work pursuits of employees are a great pointer to good role fits, and accounting for their needs even if they fall somewhat outside the structure could keep a skilled employee within the fold.
  • Reward good performance. This is an incentive to perform even better than what is currently being done, and often encourages others to seek such reward through better work.
  • Share the bigger context. When an employee realizes his or her role as an important cog in the organizational machinery, he or she could feel more proud of the work done and the contribution toward a bigger purpose.

An important part of this effort is a redefinition of career progression. Moving a step or two up the ladder is not the only measure of progress, and employees need to understand, realize, and believe that developing their competencies, taking on cross-functional responsibilities, becoming part of quality circles, and other initiatives are as important.

Business success is not solely dependent on getting the right people in. It also requires looking at employee jobs and how they need to be changed, as optimizing the knowledge and commitment of the workforce is essential to unlocking their skills and their full potential to succeed and grow, taking the organization up with them.

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