Article: A skills-first approach critical for 2024

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A skills-first approach critical for 2024

In conversation with Ruhie Pande, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Sterlite Power we explore the growing role of skills in building resilience and exploring ways skills demand can be met in 2024.
A skills-first approach critical for 2024

Building for a successful 2024 requires business and HR leaders to look at how closely business trends are impacting skills consideration. From hiring the right people to building leaders who are ready for another year where tech disruptions take centre stage. We sit with Ruhie Pande, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Sterlite Power to see how companies can hire better, build resilience, and leverage AI for greater impact.

What are the necessary ingredients to building a resilient company? What are you enabling that change in your company?

Firstly, and very importantly today, the ability to build agile organizations. Promoting faster, data-informed decision-making and adaptable outcomes becomes crucial to navigating complex business challenges effectively. There need to be high levels of collaboration and ownership in a team, and employees need to be given the autonomy to make decisions, take action and navigate challenges without bureaucracy slowing things or people down.

Leadership teams also need to be further empowered to drive capability building, to encourage a constant feedback loop and to coach their teams through change. Even mid-level people-managers need to transition from the ‘reporting manager’ mindset to the ‘mentor’ mindset, providing their team with strategic, purposeful direction. Leaders must embrace workplace paradoxes and a systems mindset while prioritizing well-being at every juncture.

Companies must bridge skill gaps, attract diverse talent sources, and realign compensation, benefits, and culture with employees' evolving needs. All of this will culminate in better retention and attracting the right people to make companies more resilient.

At Sterlite, for instance, we’re focusing on identifying skill gaps and searching the market to map these skills, after which we begin hiring the right skill fit for the organization. Also, we are focusing on crafting our EVP which will help us get the best candidates on board who not only possess the right skills but are also the best culture fit for Sterlite Power.

What are the skills that you think companies should have on their radar while building recruitment strategies in 2024?

What I’m expecting in 2024, is that organizations will embrace more skills-based hiring and will prioritize internal talent mobility to eradicate biases in job assignments. This shift aims to focus on skills rather than origins, ensuring fair opportunities for all and minimizing the preference for external hires over internal talent.

We are currently facing a global skill shortage, and I think it’s important to put the focus back on what matters, optimizing existing workforce potential, and working towards growing the talent pool. What this will do for people is that, unlike outdated competency models, a skills-first approach will reinforce the criticality of data-driven assessments and equitable opportunities.  

When we talk about the kinds of skills that recruiters will look for, they range from technical ability to human & EQ-centric capabilities, and potential that when leveraged and developed could lead to future success.

While different industries have their specific requirements, I feel certain key aspects that will remain strong identifiers of hireable talent are – some level of comfort with technology, and the hunger or willingness to learn, diversify and move beyond just their core specialization.

With the skills landscape rapidly evolving how should companies ensure their upskilling programs are more successful?

The distance between where a skill is learned and where its applied influences the probability of its practical use. If individuals, irrespective of level or designation, do not have the opportunity to deploy the skills they have learnt, they feel a dissonance with what’s provided to them, a sense of stagnation when it comes to improving in their roles, and a loss of motivation at being seemingly ‘stuck’ in the status quo.

The future involves a move towards personalized, adaptive learning that integrates seamlessly into work environments. This shift may require traditional players in education to reconfigure their offerings, while newcomers benefit from the flexibility of the Personal Learning Cloud and its personalized, socialized, contextualized learning experiences. There also has to be a balance between internal growth and sourcing talent from outside. Perhaps where new skills are needed, organisations can invest in building these skills internally through coaching and L&D.

How do you see the role of AI impacting the HR function and how it creates more impactful initiatives?

I would say there’s no fathomable way for AI not to impact businesses and consequently HR. There is still so much untapped potential to leverage artificial intelligence. AI unifies data, is capable of mitigating biases if used right, and customizes training, enhancing career growth and talent retention.

With more upskilling and reskilling in the analytics domain, data-driven insights will power strategic decisions, shaping the landscape of talent planning and development like never before. AI deployment is not just enhancing internal operations but also revolutionizing decision-making processes and allowing employees to focus on creative tasks rather than repetitive ones.

At the end of the day AI is only as good as the data humans provide to the system. So, it’s going to be increasingly critical for organizations to focus on onboarding AI builders (researchers, developers, data scientists) and translators (business leaders, change management experts), albeit from a currently limited pool of specialists.

Amidst all these shifts that have impacted the HR function, how do you the role of building the right leaders evolve in 2024?

There is a growing consensus on the fact that leadership development shouldn't be limited to top-tier executives but extended across all levels within an organization. Despite significant investments in executive education, many senior leaders feel that current training efforts fall short of developing critical skills and capabilities. Existing executive education programs often focus on discipline-based skills rather than crucial relational, communication, and affective skills needed for effective leadership.

I see three main issues here: motivation misalignment between organizations and individuals, a disparity between the skills taught and those needed, and a significant gap between learning and its practical application in the workplace.

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Topics: Strategic HR, C-Suite, #SMEcorner

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