The accelerating technological innovation, digital disruption, and a groundswell of alternative workforce models have changed workforce very fast. In response, organisations are searching for new ways to define the work required to execute strategies and generate value as well as, subsequently, to develop workers and evaluate their contributions.
Deloitte studied that organisations will start to manage and execute work by defining the outcomes of work along with the human capabilities that workers must possess to realize those outcomes. Organisations will create workforce experiences around those capabilities to reinforce ongoing development efforts and attain a more meaningful approach to skilling and reskilling their workforce.
Performing work requires the possession of multiple skills. Skills are the tactical collections of knowledge, expertise, and patterns of activity needed to accomplish tasks and achieve work outcomes within a specific context. In other words, skills help us get work done in a specific situation, for example, writing code in Python to build a mobile app, designing a menu for a dinner party, or drawing blood from a patient. Skills can be learned through training, experience, and exposure.
Skills needed by the workforce might have evolved, changed, or developed. Due to this changing skill, human capabilities need an upgrade too. Yet, different from skills, human capabilities, such as creativity, resilience, empathy, and so on, are something we are born with. Like muscles, they need exercise to grow stronger. When leveraged, they multiply our ability to perform activities and create outcomes that deliver value.
We all possess these human capabilities, so there is tremendous promise for organisations to assess their current workforce’s capabilities and leverage them to meet the needs of a disruptive future. Some human capabilities traditionally have been left untapped in the workplace and present opportunities for companies to open the aperture and help employees be more “human” at work. And while these untapped capabilities can be nurtured, it is a different process than teaching a skill.
Organisations that focus on identifying and developing human capabilities retain a belief that all talent can be nurtured. These organisations thrive on a growth mindset, which is why they can see the malleability and potential of their workforce’s most basic qualities. The related business benefit is not just talent retention, organisations with a strong growth-oriented culture are approximately twice as likely to report being able to effectively anticipate change and respond efficiently, Deloitte reported.
Therefore, organisations need to help workers recognize, employ, and further develop their capabilities. And in this case, putting learning into the flow of work could help them do so. While decidedly not human, technology can play a role in generating these experiences. For example, virtual reality is providing ways for workers to practice honing their empathy, communication, and collaboration as they navigate mock scenarios that require human capabilities. Practice can also happen through stretch assignments, collaborative work, and peer experiences, depending on the capabilities to be nurtured and the actions of leaders to support these experiences.
Leaders are responsible for bringing these approaches to fruition, but not all leaders are necessarily prepared to do this effectively. This challenge calls for a different set of capabilities than, say, implementing a new sales technique or developing an action plan.
To connect with individuals and truly drive a meaningful work experience, leaders require a set of human capabilities that foster trust, open communication, and convey empathy. These capabilities are not simply taught. They’re lived out by leaders to improve workforce experience. Just recognizing the relevance of these capabilities challenges long-standing assumptions that high-performing individual contributors will also be high performing leaders.
In sum, by making shifts toward capabilities, organisations will be able to rely on their talent ecosystem to navigate a slew of changes, even those that are unpredictable. Considering work through the frame of capabilities, not just skills, will help transform paths to desired outcomes and new ways of working, ultimately connecting business needs with talent’s potential.
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