Tech Talk - Amar Dhaliwal

PwC recently published its 20th Annual CEO Survey. For the past 20 years, global CEOs have been asked what they consider to be the greatest risks facing their business. And year after year, they have identified the availability of key skills in the top three risks.

In fact, other than macro risks, such as economic uncertainty and government regulation, the availability of key skills has been identified as the number one risk inside their businesses. This comes at a time when significant investment has been made in learning management platforms, performance improvement initiatives and competency modelling.

I think there are two main factors that can explain this disconnect.

Not Asking the Right Questions

Our profession has the tendency of reverting to an order-taking mentality. When approached by our colleagues looking for a training program, we will often respond by simply asking how many people do you want to train, what is the topic, when do you need it by, and what budget do you have?

Instead, we should be asking questions like, what do we need to accomplish as a business? What products or services are we launching and what skills will be needed? Where are we growing and do we have people with the right skills there? What skills are strategic and needed to have in-house? What skills are more tactical and could be possibly outsourced?

Asking these questions changes your role and impact. They give you a strategic view of the organizational and development priorities.

The Failure of Competency Models

How many of you have worked on creating a competency model or skills framework for your organization? How many of those initiatives would you say were successful?

While initiated with good intentions, most competency modeling projects have failed to deliver the expected returns. The fact is, establishing a complete picture of the job roles in an organization, the associated competencies and skills, and the required proficiency levels is a large, manual and daunting process. Mapping these competency models to training or learning objects is even more manual and daunting.

If an organization has the fortitude to complete this work, they often fail to keep the competency model up-to-date with the changing requirements of their business. As a result, the models can become irrelevant very quickly and not applicable for the strategic reasons behind the original investment.

To be clear, I am not saying that the objective of competency modeling is not valuable. It is, provided that the we agree that the objective is to identify what skills we need, what skills we have, and where we need to develop or acquire skills – and to update these in real-time.

How to Address This Problem

I urge you to shift out of the order-taking mentality and, instead, work on proactively setting the skills agenda for your respective organizations. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Ask your leadership and business partners the essential question: What are the most important skills we need to be successful over the next 12 months?
  • Establish a near real-time and dynamic skills map of your organization. There is an exciting set of emerging technologies that can help you with this.
  • Use your skills graph to identify the important skills you already have and where they are based. Do you have enough of these skills?
  • Ask which of these important skills do you need to develop, acquire or outsource?
  • Build a real-time understanding of all the learning resources you have at your disposal. Emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning-based solutions can help you map these resources to the people who need them.

Use the answers to these questions to inform your planning, investments and initiatives, which should help you and your CEO fill the critical skills gap.