Sitting on the bench: strengths, talents, soft and hard skills
1 January 2020
Before knowing what individual skills we have to sacrifice for the good of the company, we have to understand what skills we have in our organisation.
In HR circles we talk a lot about skills. Most of us have experienced university students entering work life with fresh knowledge that seemed obsolete before the internship ended. For this reason, companies that are committed to innovation understand the importance of an always learning approach to growth. If we create a learning culture, we can adapt to a changing world and win the battle to volatility.
Ok – great! Understood – we need new skills all the time. But which skills do we have to teach and how can HR departments identify them? This is one of the biggest difficulties that learning departments face today. But, fear not! Technology can come to the rescue. Just like Netflix knows what I'm interested in watching, thanks to AI, a complex algorithm and a huge database, skills can be identified and developed through the same processes. However, building what's called a skills taxonomy, like the one Cornerstone offers, from scratch would be just as insane as pretending to build my mobile phone myself from my desk at home. Let's leave that specialised work to those who have the time, the resources, and use their knowledge to our advantage.
Hard skills, soft skills or strengths.
We know that technical knowledge or hard skills can be acquired easily thanks to technology. This interconnected world with millions of online tutorials offers us a never-ending portfolio of knowledge and explanations that we can access anytime and anywhere. Soft skills, on the other hand, are not so easy to acquire and develop, yet are of greatest importance. How can this be possible? Do you remember the intern that started in your company and didn't understand the dynamics of the office, but could create some bad-ass Excel tables? When talent is brought in that has never been in work environments before, we realise that they may lack skills such as active listening, a feeling of responsibility or even motivation. These are skills that allow our graduates and new talents to solve problems, collaborate, and have critical and constructive thinking. This means that the skills taxonomy will not only help us understand what hard skills we will have to develop in individuals, but also which soft skills we must encourage in teams. But rather than focusing on the skills that we lack, what if we could focus on our strengths? What skill do I have, what am I particularly good at that is very necessary for my job? How can I improve on that skill and optimise it so that the whole team benefits from it? Let's think positively. Let's not focus only on everything we don't know and what we still have to learn, but on what we know we are good at and how we can elevate and multiply it.
Therefore, a successful strategy understands that as an employee I need to grow and learn new things - be it soft or hard skills - that take me out of my comfort zone, but at the same time also have access and be able to understand what my strengths are and how to improve them.
Individualism. Happiness. Sacrifice for the team.
The Playbook is a documentary on Netflix that interviews some of the best sports coaches in the world and you can see a trend in team sports: the role of the coach is to help the team work together, even if the individual player has to make a sacrifice. Change the word coach for manager, team for department and player for employee.
The role of a manager is to help the department work together, even if the employee has to make a sacrifice.
This concept confronts us with a dilemma: we live in an individualistic society. We all believe in the right to be in a search for happiness and purpose at work. We feel we have the right to be promoted and, at times, in this myopia we lose sight of the department or, even worse, the company needs. Without a company you don't need employees. If we want to build an innovative and resilient organisation, we have to hire talent that complements and makes the community stronger. A community that works as a whole and that has team members that can develop their skills – and their strengths too. For this reason, skill taxonomies have to focus not only on a micro level, but also on a macro level.
Trade failure for learning.
In this video by Paolo Gallo, asks the audience what the opposite of achievement is. People shout failure in unison to which Paolo responds "no, the opposite of achievement is learning." This concept is perhaps a bit utopian, but very necessary if we really want to generate a culture of learning in our companies or work groups. We all have to build a space in which to innovate and take risks as part of our day to day. Sharing the learning processes - failures - with the group provides us with transparency, empathy, creates understanding between people and provides us with a macro vision of the team we are part of. Thus, synergies and opportunities for collaboration will emerge and collaborative learning will naturally evolve. To accelerate these values, we can look for examples within our companies where learning or “failures” have led to great achievements. Also offering post-mortem meetings for large projects involving the entire department or even rewarding those who take the risk, even if they haven’t quite got it right.
In conclusion, it is our duty as an employer to educate and provide the transparency that our employees need to understand the needs of the whole team. This concept is closely linked to the idea of social responsibility, with initiatives that are committed to values such as diversity or the environment. As an employee, my responsibility is to be in a constant learning process, not to lose curiosity and to understand that my skills must be complemented with those of the rest of the team. Consequently, we will have an understanding of the macro and the micro that will help us understand and know when we have to wait and sit on the bench.