The topic is likely not new to the readers. After all, we live and operate in a knowledge economy and have benefited from the services boom – knowing very well that it is information, skill to interpret that information and sometimes arbitrage that keeps the wheels of the knowledge economy going. In the absence of an effective skills market, how does one keep the flywheel to success going? It is here that there have been innumerable debates on skilling.
The key questions have included: whose responsibility is it to skill employees the corporation, academia, government or the individual themselves? The accepted definition of the right skill sets has gained currency in the last few years and there is a general acceptance of standards set by industry bodies such as sector skills councils, NASSCOM, and others.
The challenge that remains is on the value acceptance of those skill sets. We have definitely heard of the adage “Trespassers will be recruited”, but that clearly is not the desired state for most of us. This reminds me of an overheard story where Expert A was interviewing Corporate A on the skill challenges they face and trying to determine a possible way out.
- The first question was - do you face a skill-challenge? The resounding answer was a yes – and the dialogue lasted about 10 minutes
- The second question was - if you were to get skilled people for a job role that you are not able to fill and they would have a proof of being at the level you want them to be (a certificate, degree, assessment that you accept), would you hire them? – Of course yes, was the clear answer
- The third question was – will you pay that skilled person 500 Rs./month higher than your average hire off the street? – And there was stunned silence in the room
While there could be several reasons for the silence; including corporate policy, pay parity and several other issues – let’s not shy away from the fact that there is a value quotient issue too. The key item to consider is that why we are able to solve for this unknown value in our lateral hiring processes but not so much when it comes to entry to junior level positions?
One way to look at the question is that we place a value premium on this unknown, let’s call this value premium “X”.
To clarify/illustrate let’s place into an equation
Salary = Base Salary + X (premium for hire)
X is influenced by our assessment of the candidate’s learning curve, attitude, x-factor, and several others.
This is the story that we know so far. How does this play out in the disruptive, cognitive era that we are in? For one, organizations will need to create cognitive explorers, cognitive capable as IBM has described them in "Analytics: Dawn of the cognitive era". It will be a required capability to appreciate data - as it's going to be the new currency. Second, education will become an important part of the mix - and will be ahead of training for the next few years. Organizations will need to be clear on the mix between wide angled glasses vs narrow focus lenses.
As per Carol Dweck "Leaders with a growth mindset (who assume talents can be developed) place high value on learning, are open to feedback and are confident in their ability to cultivate their own and others abilities". Learning is going to be an important skill for winning organizations. It's going to be formal, informal, social, continuous and deep. It is important for the application of the right framework for the right people.
To summarize, skill development is going to be an important instrument for the success of tomorrow’s enterprise and will distinguish the winners from the survivors.