Don’t overlook these 9 key strategic building blocks for organisational capability development

Charlie Wright By
Charlie Wright
Don’t overlook these 9 key strategic building blocks for organisational capability development

Does your organisation have the right skills for the future of work? 

Until the turn of the century, digital skills were the concern of IT departments and fledgling digital native businesses. The digital skills of the average employee were an afterthought. It didn't matter whether you were a frontline worker or a white-collar professional. Over the last two decades, organisations have gone from using a little tech to being digital businesses. 

Industries like mining and construction, public services, and banking are amid a generational transformation. Nothing remains untouched. Whether it is customer interactions, the transportation of goods, or back-office processes.  

To meet this transformation, workforces need to adapt. Alternative ways of working and new jobs are emerging. This presents some risks to employers and employees alike. For many employees work used to mean physical delivery of goods and services. Manual data entry, on paper or spreadsheets. This type of work is becoming redundant. Humans are being augmented and replaced by powerful technology.  Becoming a data-driven organisation is no longer a choice. 

The use of data by organisations and their employees is a prime example of the changing nature of work. Entire customer service functions are being reduced or eliminated by AI and chatbots. Reducing cost, increasing efficiency, and (sometimes) increasing customer satisfaction. The deployment of these technologies brings new jobs to the same organisations. But many are struggling to find the right people.  

There is a growing market for skilled workers in data science, data visualisation, and data analysis. These roles are the key to unlocking the commercial value of data in the enterprise. Organisations must harness the opportunity for data-driven decision-making. Ultimately, to accelerate the things boards and shareholders care about – revenue, return, profit, and risk.  

Forward-thinking organisations are upskilling and reskilling employees to meet this supply issue. Today's customer service reps are tomorrow's data analysts. Organisations like Suncorp are doing this retraining at scale. 

Finding and developing the right skills 

First, a taxonomy of skills is necessary to understand the shifting landscape. Leaders are looking at their Learning and Development (L&D) functions to create capabilities. The value of upskilling and reskilling existing staff is multi-faceted. This avoids redundancies, which are financial and a PR nightmare. Workforce training gets genuine investment, which increases employee value proposition (EVP). And, the organisation is fit-for-purpose, with the right skills to meet current and future business needs. 

However, enterprise capability-building projects are not without their challenges. Some include:  

  • Resistance to accepting these changes with open arms.  

  • Managers' scepticism about losing their current team to new roles.  

  • Manager bias to hire upskilled employees due to preconceived beliefs about their ability.  

  • Lack of clarity on which skills to map to each role. Stargazing future needs can be even harder.  

  • Champions of upskilling programs presenting rosy business cases that overestimate participation rates. 

  • Unmotivated employees already feel stretched by their current responsibilities. 

  • A lack of vision for future employment opportunities for upskilled staff. 

How can you ensure these upskilling and reskilling programs are a success?  

These projects fail when they are a half-baked initiative without a clear destination. They need a well-funded executive sponsor to corral cross-functional teams.  

They must be high-priority projects with significant investment. They must align with the business strategy. The outcome must show how the skills or capabilities sought are critical to the success of the organisation. Measure the executive team on the project's success. These are table stakes. At its heart, this is an enterprise change management project. Setting up a change management function alongside L&D will ensure project governance.  

Some of the key steps to consider include: 

  1. Understanding the supply and demand of skills through a skills taxonomy. 

  2. Mapping skills to roles, and having management aligned on this before a program kicks off. 

  3. Developing a clear set of enrolment criteria for employees so that there is a defined cohort(s) with a time horizon.  

  4. Address management resistance before kicking off the project. Evaluate Managers on their team's participation and flag talent hoarding behaviour where necessary. Invest in training managers on the role unconscious bias plays in selecting talent. 

  5. Design skill-building programs that fit with your organisational needs. The projects upskill employees in your ways of working, your systems, and your technologies. Otherwise, many employees will struggle to transfer generic learning into specific internal workflows.  

  6. Articulate program destinations in advance to capture employee attention. Provide a compelling narrative for career trajectory to boost participation rates. 

  7. Dedicate enough time in the working week to encourage compliance with training loads. The greater the extra burden on employees, the lower the participation without adjustment.  

  8. Integration and onboarding are critical to success. Train managers to onboard and coach upskilled employees.  

  9. Use reskilled employees to connect with future and current participants as internal mentors. Provide them with a platform to share their success and engage future cohorts. 

Getting the right support 

Organisations don't have to do this alone. Often, business units will sponsor a major capability development project. The HR or L&D team will manage the project. And an external subject matter expert will co-create the content.  

This ensures the content is fit for purpose and designed with learning principles in mind. Higher Education institutions are a great fit for this partnership. They can provide objectivity and peer-reviewed academic input. Combining this with pathways to certification from recognised universities is a big tick for EVP. 
The road to success requires planning, forethought, and intentional design. Click here to understand how Mentem by UNSW can help you.

Charlie Wright

Charlie Wright

Charlie is a commercial leader who delivers through communicating, understanding, teaching, and listening. He has negotiated large-scale revenue-generating partnerships within the public and private sectors. He has consulted on organisational strategy, leadership development, process optimization, and digital transformation. He has a particular interest in transparent government, effective public service, and sensible public policy. He is committed to supporting governments and industries to improve their capabilities, and believes in the ethos of life-long learning. He holds a dual honours degree in Social Policy and Criminology from a top UK university and has studied Law in Australia.

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