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The war for talent – Or how to make your employees future-ready

The war for talent

According to a recent article in the Financiële Dagblad the Dutch job market has turned into a true beauty contest for employers for bringing in new talent. As a result, lack of talent is increasingly seen as a serious threat to growth and success. And indeed, you can have great plans for the future, but you will not get far without the right people to bring those plans to life. While everyone fishes in the same pond to attract new talent, much too little attention is paid at developing the talent that you already have. But then, how do you make your employees ‘future-ready’? What are the main factors that influence the war for talent? And what can and should you do as an employer to develop vital talent and keep them on board?

Digital paradox

Weird, that war for talent. Since at the same time, there is a heated discussion about robots, which may or may not take over our jobs and companies massively dismiss what is called ‘redundant staff’. Apparently, they came to the conclusion they are employing the wrong people. According to Gartner, only 20% of employees currently have the right skills. After all, if you want to digitalize the production process, sales or marketing, to use data analyses in order to innovate, you will need the right competencies for that. Digitization changes the way organizations do business and requires new and different skills. Especially data analysts are popular. In short, digitization causes both, shortages and surplus of staff.

Five-legged sheep

Employers mainly seek the so-called STEM skills, which stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. But when routine tasks are increasingly automated, there is also more appreciation for human qualities, for example maintaining personal relationships with customers, empathy, critical thinking, solving complex problems. That is why the four C’s are also highly in demand: Collaboration, Communication, Critical thinking, Creativity. Rare is especially talent with both, the STEM and the four C’s skills: The creative data analyst. People who dare to think outside the box and examine data with an open mind to discover new connections.

Generations

Many times the hunt for talent is a means to make a rigid and old organization more dynamic and cool again: enterprising, creative and decisive. This quickly degenerates if you are not careful about a generational issue, because these characteristics are mainly attributed to young people. Young people are more aware that they will have to reinvent themselves several times. While the older generation often has grown up with the idea of a job for life. The young generation wants a challenge, is bored quickly, seeks freedom and a purpose of life. They are the ‘natives’ of the digital age. If you want to keep this generation on board, you should approach them in the right way and offer a challenging work environment, is the general idea.

Still, to me it seems too short-sighted expecting a refresh only of young people. There is also plenty of talent among the older generations, think of their broad experience and coaching skills. Certainly, there is a group of elderly people who are relatively difficult to motivate for a training. But that certainly does not apply to everyone. In my opinion, a future-ready organization should focus on generation diversity, Baby-boomers next to Millennials and Generation Z.

Permanent change

Predominantly jobs with repetitive tasks can easily be automated and will eventually cease to exist. The problem is that we are not sure which professions will be affected by that. What is still hot today may be out of date tomorrow. So, what can you do to prevent your talent from becoming redundant in 5 years’ time?

According to a Dell study, 85% of future jobs do now not yet exist. The pace of change will be so high that people will learn “in the moment”, for instance with the help of new technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. According to the study will the ability to gain new knowledge be more valuable than the knowledge itself. How can you prepare your organization for this future? The answer is through agility. In order to remain employable, employees will have to reinvent themselves over and over.

This brings us back to the question of what concrete steps employers can take now to make their employees more future-ready:

1. Create trust

Every organization does something about professional development. But what employees find particularly important is that they can entrust their employer with their future: That they are facilitated in building relevant competencies for the future and their career planning. According the Edelman Trustbarometer 2019 trust the cement in the relationship between employer and employee. Dutch employees, who state that they trust their employer, reward them with a greater dedication (80%), involvement (66%), loyalty (70%) and the willingness to speak publicly for the company (74%). The increased importance of trust indicates a fundamental shift in the relationship between employee and employer: Policy frameworks shift from management by control to more self-management.

This again makes a more output-driven way of management-style necessarily. It also requires new skills and transforms the employee’s traditional linear career path. Only the employer, who actively supports employees in this, is credible and motivates them to stay.

2. Determine the competencies the organization needs

The development of competencies starts with a plan. Identify the gaps between the ambitions of the organization and the available competencies. Organizations are particularly good in training of the hard skills, such as computer programming or data analysis. However, personal competencies such as the aforementioned four C’s are just as important for a well-functioning organization. Only what you cannot develop yourself will have to be searched externally: via recruiting or hiring a temporary expert.

Once it is clear which skills the organization most urgently needs, you can make a plan to build these competencies. Research shows that organizations waste a lot of money through an ineffective training approach. According to Charles Jennings, only 10% of the knowledge comes from training, 20% from the network and 70% from ‘training-in-the-job’.

The trick is not only to motivate employees for lifelong learning and development. What matters most is that employees can immediately put into practice what they have learned. Otherwise they will quickly forget and the training was a waist of money.

3. Balance between individual and organizational interests

The development desires of the employees will not always be equal to the competency needs of the organization. By developing a personal career path for each employee, you as an employer can create a balance between the different interests. This is much more effective than a generic one-size-fits-all approach for everyone.

For each employee, it is determined which learning content is relevant and valuable at what point in their career. By linking career paths to competence development, you ensure that what they have learned can also be put into practice. And through data analysis of learning curves, which describe the speed of individual progress, you can determine when it will be time for the next step. In this way you prevent employees from feeling unchallenged, bored and therefore leaving the organization.

4. Keep it simple and accessible

Acceptance of competency models, training portals, reward systems or performance management, it stands or falls with an accessible and people-friendly design. Employees want recognisability, user-friendliness, simplicity in operation and convenience and, if necessary, help, e.g. when searching in the often gigantic range of possibilities. Figure out what little incentives are needed to make employees willing to take the appropriate training. The so-called nudging is a method to make a desired behaviour attractive, without restricting employees in their freedom.

Make sure learned skills have not become obsolete the moment the training is completed. Therefore, focus on shorter forms of talent development, such as online micro-courses. Besides being useful, learning should also be fun. To achieve this, make use of new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming.

5. Collaboration

The world has become too complex and the future too uncertain to depend solely on one specific skill or function. In many organizations, teams still worked within silos. Organizations often discover by adoption of the Agile method how they can breakdown silos in order to create cross-functional teams and synergy effects. Why shouldn’t an employee be active in several projects outside the present role to develop her / his talent? Talent exists in many forms and working together in multidisciplinary projects often leads to innovative outcomes. A simple example is multidisciplinary customer teams, in which not only sales, but also production, purchasing and the financial department work together to help the customer better.

Employees not only enjoy work more, they feel valued and are therefore more loyal to the organization. This will also make your organization more innovative and create opportunities for new cross-functional career paths.

In short, you win the war for talent by giving your employees a clear perspective on development and career growth. By giving space to bottom-up initiatives and communicating a clear, long-term business goal. Curious how Leapstrat can help your organization? Contact us: Irene.vanderKrol@leapstrat.com.

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