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Skills or resilience? You choose?

The 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report is out. I’ve dipped into the chapter on Beyond reskilling; Investing in resilience for uncertain futures. If you have an interest in how your organisation can thrive in a world of accelerating change, you should read it. It suggests that the increasing pace of change probably makes the strategy of training staff in skills flawed. “Reskilling alone may be a strategic dead end.” Deloitte argues, in summary,

  • We can’t meaningfully predict skills needed in the future
  • Even if we could, we’re unlikely to be able to resource adequately to close the gap

The process of change has accelerated to the point where we can’t expect simply to train people in skills in order for our organisations to adapt as they need to. Instead Deloitte proposes we train for resilience by:

  • Cultivating capabilities first, skills second
  • Leveraging workers’ “passion of the explorer”
  • Supporting learning in the flow of work
  • Rewarding based on capability development
  • Incorporating societal benefit in workforce development thinking

Many of the themes here are not new. They’re echoed for example in “Don’t worry about the robots” by David Glover and Jo Cribb. At the heart of it all is the idea that if organisations are going to cope with change, they need people who can cope with change. People who understand their own capabilities, personal strengths and passions. People who are courageous.

What I find really interesting is that all this presupposes that organisations are willing to relax their sense of control over their people. We live with the mantra that successful organisations have clear strategies, actions to achieve them, and tools to measure success. We grow up with “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, and “You get what you focus on.”.

Now it’s suggested we may not be able to predict and develop necessary skills effectively. We’re invited to accept that if we focus on developing underpinning capabilities such as risk-taking and innovation, our people will themselves take care of the skills. Truly, hiring and developing for attitude.

Where will it end? Careers advisors in schools letting go of the paternal assumption that they can identify the best job fit and advise the student on their best career choice? The new Workforce Development Councils for the VET sector recognising common capability development requirements that underpin all sectors of the economy – a truly NZ Inc. approach? A smorgasbord of credentialed microlearning opportunities for capability development that are completely unhooked from skills-based qualifications?

I certainly hope so.

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