Benefits of a strategic approach to employee skill development
In my previous article on Organizational Development, I ended with the question of how it relates to employee skill development. I’m sure you realize that there is an obvious connection between the skills and knowledge of employees, and competencies of the organization. After all, organizations are a collection of individuals. The key is to have all components of the organization aligned and moving in the same direction!
But as I started to answer that question, I realized it’s a complex issue and going to take some time to explain! So I will be breaking this third article into two parts. In this first part, I will focus on getting a deeper understanding of how we define the essential skills and knowledge at an organization wide level. I will then follow up with the second part – getting into the specifics of individual skill development, and being proactive with training & development plans.
The gap between current and future state
Hopefully, you considered the current competencies of your organization in the development of your strategic plan! This is essential to ensure that 1) we build on our strengths 2) we don’t accidentally diminish our true core competency.
I discussed in my last article about how organizational development in the process of changing your organization to achieve your strategic vision and goals. In some cases, it might require some minor changes to the structure and operations of your company. In other cases – the changes are much greater in scope. So I am also hoping that your organizations capacity for change has been considered in your strategy!
Defining your target organization
As I mentioned, organizational development can have many facets, including (but not limited to):
- Physical design and structure
- Products and services
- Markets served
- Internal processes/efficiency
But underlying it all are the organizational competencies that you will use to compete and succeed. In my previous article How to ensure results from professional development of managers, I provided some examples of how competencies align with strategy. If you haven’t already read it, I think it would help with your understanding of how skills and competencies need to align with strategy.
Before attempting to plan for individual skill development, leaders need to have a clear understanding of the organization wide competencies that need to be developed, and the structure/functions required to implement your strategy. This is particularly important in complex cases such as mergers – where the component companies may have very different structures and competencies.
Mapping the current state
The first step in planning skill development and competencies is to have a clear understanding of your current state. And once again coming back to the strategic plan, I am hopeful that your organization did a good review of your organization wide competencies! So I will focus here on bringing that through different levels.
Business unit competencies:
This term can refer to different levels, such as division, section, department…. Essentially it is a group that is responsible for a particular aspect of your operations. Each business unit has specific duties and/or results that they are expected to achieve. So we might expect that each business unit would have different knowledge and competencies to achieve those goals.
Now in some cases, there might be just minor changes to what the business unit is expected to achieve. In other cases, there can be a dramatic change (again, think of mergers!). But once again, before planning for individual professional development, we need to consider the new competencies that need to be developed for the overall business unit.
For example, I was once involved in a major business transformation initiative that involved changing from clients contacting several different departments in the organization to a “one stop” approach. Rather than have staff in each department answering phone calls and working with a client, the client would now access one system to get their results. So the business unit competencies changed from one-to-one client relationships, to ones of managing a robust, integrated information system.
Consider the skills to manage the transition:
So as you might imagine from my example above, these changes can have quite an impact on both employees and customers. It can also have unexpected impacts to broader stakeholders. The process of moving from your current state (where everyone is comfortable) to something very different can be uncomfortable. It brings up a lot of uncertainty and often fear.
As I have mentioned before, it is critical to have Change Leadership skills to guide employees, customers and stakeholders through the process, which is often confusing and sometimes chaotic. How do we ensure that we continue to do generate results while also learning new things? How do we change the “identity” of an organization or business unit?
Additionally, you need people that are skilled in performance management, to plan and monitor the change process. How do you transition from your current state to the future state? We need to break it down into manageable pieces and ensure we stay on track.
And how will we know when we have fully realized our organizational development goals? This may seem obvious, but it’s often one of the most challenging aspects of change. Again, this takes Change Leadership skills – not just at the most senior position, but throughout the organization. And we need to make sure there is effective communication through all levels, and with other stakeholders.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article
I will finish off with advice for developing and implementing learning plans, including individual employee skill development.
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