What is skillability - and why is it so important for future-minded organizations?

Skillability: Will It Solve the Talent Crunch?

The current talent market poses numerous challenges for leaders and employees, alike. Perhaps the most disruptive force redefining the post-pandemic business landscape is persistently high employee turnover. This Great Reshuffle” demonstrates just how quickly teams can change—even beyond the pandemic shift to remote work.

A New Business Necessity: Skillability

This fluid employment environment brings good news and bad. Employees are welcoming it as an opportunity to advance their careers. But among employers, it has given rise to the practice of talent poaching. Global companies are proactively pursuing candidates from all over the world, culling the best talent away from other, smaller businesses.

And on top of this highly competitive talent market, employers are now struggling with the effects of inflation. As the cost of living continues to increase, so do demands for higher wages. And candidates are willing to hold out when employers don’t meet their salary expectations. These dynamics can make it tough to fill openings, even for high-paying, highly-skilled roles.

At the same time, employees face a volatile economic landscape that is sending conflicting messages about how to weigh the stability of an existing job against other attractive options. Today’s sky-high inflation hasn’t done employees any favors, either. Even though individuals have more bargaining power, inflation quickly eats into any wage increases gained from a job switch. As a result, economics plays a much more active role in career choices these days.

But despite all of these issues, both employers and employees can rely on one shared secret weapon. It’s something I call skillability.

The Power of Skillability

A skill is an individual’s capacity to perform a job task or function, based on existing knowledge, ability and competence. Skillability, in contrast, is an individual’s capacity to develop proficiency in an unfamiliar skill.

The faster and more efficiently someone can develop a skill, the better. So, skillability can be measured by determining the time an employee needs to develop new skills, along with the investment needed to build those skills.

Training, alone, is not enough to improve skillability. It also requires a supportive, learning-forward work environment. Together, they can nurture professional growth and create a win-win for individuals and their employers.

It’s essential for leaders to develop key workforce skills internally. This gives them new ways to support employees in their current roles, while helping them prepare for future growth within the organization. At the same time, by proactively encouraging team skillability, leaders can uncover new growth opportunities for themselves.

For example, consider technology advancements. While new technologies may promise greater operational efficiency and profitability, they also require specific skills that existing employees may lack. Employees with a high level of skillability can help companies hedge against the uncertainty of changing technology by being adaptable and agile in the face of change.

Building Skillability Within Your Organization

Skillability may sound like a trait, but the ability to develop new skills can actually be learned. It’s all in your approach to training, development, and talent acquisition. Here are just a few ideas to help your organization move forward with this strategy:

1) Consider Candidates Who May Not Fit the Mold

Candidates who lack one or more “required” proficiencies can bring a background or experience that enables them to quickly pick up new skills, duties, and responsibilities. Don’t screen out these individuals.

This approach offers several advantages. First, it opens your organization to new, often untapped talent pools. Also, it encourages the development of existing internal talent, which can drive retention and avoid the consequences of unwanted turnover.

Think about it. If you hire new employees for skillability and their desire to learn, you’re not just investing in their future, but in your organization’s future competitiveness, as well.

2) Build Achievable Benchmarks Into Training

Benchmarking is nothing new. Business leaders use it to determine the highest standards of performance. However, it can also be used for training and onboarding. Benchmarks and timelines can spur self-driven learning over a defined period.

Industrial technology provider, Emerson, relies on a powerful version of this model. It instills lifelong learning “DNA” in new employees to ensure that they will be skillable throughout their employee journey. This kind of approach indicates early on whether employees are likely to grow continually and take on new challenges as they arise. It also encourages the most enterprising employees to quickly distinguish themselves and demonstrate their skillability.

3) Break Employees Out of Their Comfort Zones

Sometimes, the most effective way to cultivate skillability is to nudge employees toward learning opportunities that push their existing boundaries and routines. This strategy is inspired by the fact that people learn more effectively when they’re somewhat uncomfortable as they explore new ways of thinking and doing things. 

Effective learning disrupts the status quo, so to speak. And overcoming these challenges has a way of encouraging people to continue pursuing learning opportunities for themselves. This means you’ll want to put employees in new situations that force them to challenge their thinking, expand their knowledge, test their abilities, and ignite their desire to grow and evolve in their careers. 

4) Establish a Supportive Environment

The climate you establish for new and existing employees is paramount to skillability’s success. It’s important to create a setting where fear is seen as an invitation to grow, rather than a signal to hold back.

Often, leaders inadvertently discourage growth in others because they fear negative consequences or they’re anxious about their own ability to grow. This can intimidate others and put a damper on skillability. One way to avoid this is for senior leaders to consistently and openly encourage all team members to develop skillability, and for the organization to reward people at all levels who step up to the challenge.

Final Thoughts

Employers can become so invested in hiring for a specific skill set that they fail to consider a candidate’s skillability. When you hire people, you’re already planning to involve them in training. So, why not broaden your talent options to include those with a stronger likelihood to learn much-needed skills in the future?

Even if you look within your ranks for employees with motivation and a commitment to continuous learning, you’re likely to find viable job candidates you might not have otherwise considered. It may only take a gentle push in the right direction and an environment that gives them the support they need to grow and succeed.

make change

Want to Make Change Stick? Rethink Work Meetings

Change. For better or worse, it’s a constant in today’s workplace. And in an uncertain future, it will remain a strategic priority for organizational success. But encouraging people to change is also one of the biggest challenges leaders face.

How can we leverage internal communications to make change initiatives work? Could we find the answer in something as simple as everyday meetings? Join me as I explore this question in depth on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Lindsey Caplan

Today, I’m excited to speak with Lindsey Caplan, organizational psychologist, communication strategist and founder of The Gathering Effect. By blending her experience in education, entertainment and business, Lindsey offers practical tools to help drive lasting workplace change. Here are highlights from our conversation:

Keyword: Gathering

Welcome, Lindsey! I’m looking forward to talking with you about how organizations can drive more lasting change today. Let’s start with the concept of “gathering.” Tell us, what does this term mean to you?

I define gathering as bringing people together to match a message with a moment for a specific effect. Those of us in HR are very familiar with gatherings. They’re happening all the time, whether they’re virtual or in-person or hybrid.

They come in many forms: town halls, all-hands meetings, off-sites, retreats, conferences, classes, and new hire orientations. These are all tools we can use to communicate about change and help employees do things differently.

Connecting People with Change

Why do gatherings play such a central role in the change process?

Just like a hammer, we can use gatherings for different purposes. There are four different effects that gatherings can produce, depending on the choices we make. The key is to start with the effect you want, rather than the content you want to share.

Know Your Objective

So you’re saying we should begin at the end? Interesting…

That approach may feel a little different, but it really is a significant strategic difference that determines how gatherings can make change stick. So I teach people to diagnose and define the effect they want to achieve, and then adjust their gatherings to align with the effect they want.

What Matters When We Gather

What should we consider as we plan gatherings designed to drive lasting change?

We need to look at multiple factors. Do we know the needs of people that will attend? Do we know what they care about? What’s at stake for them? Often, as leaders, we probably know. But maybe we don’t have a sense of what employees really care about.

How Culture Fits In

You say gatherings are “culture on display.” I think that’s so powerful, Lindsey. But can you explain what you mean by that?

Especially in a remote or hybrid environment, logging into a company-wide meeting, town hall or training class is rare. Right? These are high stakes moments. Often they’re important points in an employee’s journey when everyone is  together. People are listening. They’re paying attention to what leaders say and how they’re saying it. So these are excellent moments to reinforce and build your culture.

What’s Ahead

As we look ahead to the post-pandemic era, what do you see next for work gatherings, communication, and change?

I hope the pandemic workplace has given us awareness about the opportunity to do better. And I think it has revealed what we’re really gathering for—which is not information, it’s connection.

Brilliant! Yes, it’s about becoming more human, collectively. It’s about simplifying. And it’s about being mindful of what’s at stake when we make choices about when, where, how, and why we show up and communicate with others.

 


I love Lindsey’s perspective and her practical how-to advice, don’t you? I hope you’ll find this #WorkTrends episode useful as you plan change-related communications in your organization. It’s always here as a resource if you want to replay it again in the future.

In addition, you can learn more about how to leverage gatherings to drive lasting change by visiting Lindsey’s website, TheGatheringEffect.com.

For more advice from other world-of-work experts, don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, to continue this conversation anytime on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Learning

8 Learning and Talent Development Topics for Better Employee Retention

impact awardInvestment in learning and talent development is an essential ingredient of every company’s engagement and retention plans. What is one crucial topic to include in employee L&D that will lead to better employee engagement and retention?

To help you create an effective L&D program, we asked L&D professionals and business leaders this question for their best insights. From including interviewer training to developing individual talents, there are several essential topics that may help you deliver a robust employee L&D for better engagement and retention.

Here are 8 must-have topics for better employee retention:

  1. Interviewer Training
  2. Communication and its Impact on Business
  3. Feedback Delivery
  4. Celebrating Achievement
  5. Leadership Development
  6. Build Emotional Intelligence Skills
  7. Goal Setting and Performance Feedback
  8. Develop Individual Talents

Interviewer Training

A must-have learning opportunity for all employees is interviewer training. By focusing on a task and responsibility that most employees engage in throughout their careers, you simultaneously give your employees the skills to contribute to building a more successful company with the right talent. Additionally, you give them skills to carry with them wherever they go next. Interviewer training empowers everyone to become a brand ambassador. It also encourages a truly inclusive and diverse workplace and gives all employees a chance to be better.

Ubaldo Ciminieri, Co-Founder and CMO of interviewIA

Communication and its Impact on Business

Studies show that collaboration drives workplace performance. Learning the value of communication and how it impacts the business should be a priority for all employees to understand. Beginning with the “why” communication is crucial to show how it can affect and change the culture by building trust across the leadership team and staff.

In creating a high-performing, high-functioning organization, there needs to be collaboration on all levels. This means we need to communicate and over-communicate. Things change when people you work with understand what you are trying to do, the why, and how it affects them. The outcome is a high-performing team where work gets done with highly engaged staff, and the company exceeds expectations on all levels.

Denise Moxam, VP of HR and Engagement at Production Solutions

Feedback Delivery

There are countless learning topics that can positively impact employee engagement and retention. One of the areas that I believe to be crucial is feedback. To be able to skillfully provide regular, accurate, and timely feedback can improve performance, increase trust, and build relationships. All of which have a direct impact on both retention and engagement. Of course, the results are dependent upon individuals’ competency in this area. While some people may have the inherent ability to deliver feedback the right way, at the right time most of us need training and practice.

Greg Forte, Senior Director of L&D at Precision Medicine Group

Celebrating Achievement

Celebrating is a powerful skill that all leaders need to have in their toolkits to confidently & effectively lead now. When you celebrate a teammate, you are demonstrating that you see them, care about them, and value their contributions and how they show up in the world.

Celebrating is a skill, and it needs to be included in your L&D strategy. When you have leaders who properly and consistently celebrate their employees, you will see motivation, trust, connection, belonging, engagement, and retention skyrocket! Throw that confetti, leaders!

Leah Roe, Leadership Coach & Founder of The Perk

Leadership Development

While it’s not typically part of the category of employee learning, building a healthy leadership practice at all levels of the organization may be the strongest driver of employee retention and engagement. Employees need the opportunity to grow and thrive in their careers. This will rarely happen without leaders who recognize and encourage their development.

We know that most learning happens on the job and in conversation with others who already know the job. A learning function that equips front-line, mid-level, and senior leaders with the mindset, skill set, and tool set to effectively grow their employees will have an exponential impact on employee engagement and retention (not to mention business results).

Leaders who simply see employees as a means to the end of profitability, customer service, or meeting their operational metrics miss the key ingredient to meeting these business goals. They will see their employees walk away to another opportunity where they can grow.

Dave Adcox, Director, Learning & Organizational Development at Whitley Penn

Build Emotional Intelligence

By building emotional intelligence skills in our leaders and our teams, we support their ability to create an environment where employees are engaged and want to stay. Through our learning and development efforts, we can help our employees understand and manage their emotions, navigate relationships, and build trust. Additionally, we can help them show empathy, reduce stress, communicate better, and inspire others. In doing so, we create a place where our employees thrive and our business grows.

Mary Tettenhorst, Sr. Vice President, L&D of General Electric Credit Union

Goal Setting and Performance Feedback

Since studies show engagement often hinges on an employee’s first 90 days, providing new hires a supportive onboarding experience that includes context on company objectives, culture, and communication standards is critical. Supplementing this with assistance on goal setting will help level-set expectations and facilitate a growth path for the employee.

Always, make sure that your managers are equipped with the knowledge to articulate performance expectations, deliver feedback and coaching, and provide development opportunities for the employee along the way.

Glenn Smith, L&D Manager at Nextbite

Develop Individual Talents

The single most important L&D topic has to be how to effectively develop your people. Unlike a capital investment that has a fixed ROI, investing in human capital has almost unlimited ROI. Not only are you increasing the capacity and competence of your team to create value, development telegraphs that you believe in your people enough to invest in them. When people feel like valuable members of a winning team, they will provide higher levels of engagement and discretionary effort. Development creates a virtuous cycle that benefits both the organization and its people.

Thane Bellomo, Director of Talent Management and Organizational Development of MI Windows and Doors