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In previous posts I have already spoken about agile methodologies and agile capability and some of the reasons why agile is not a panacea for all business problems. In this post I will talk about how the skillset scarcity has to be a key element to consider when going agile.

Very often executives see agile simply as a methodology: we apply a, b and c. We get result +x%. Unfortunately it is not always (and often) the case.

In fact in every change initiative there are two aspects to take into consideration: on one hand the technical side (processes, tools, software, structures, etc), and on the other side the people (those who are going to proficiently use those processes, tools, etc).

 

 

In a service and knowledge based economy skilled individuals are one of the most important assets. Nowadays many organisations voice the challenge linked to a skill shortage and how hard it is to find the people that have the right skillset and experience to help the company achieve its goals.

Those individuals that are in high demand are not only in the position to choose who they want to work for,  but they are also in the position to “dictate” the conditions of their employment. Over the past few decades we have gone past the concept of job for life, where the psychological contract behind the working relationship was “you are loyal to the company, the company provides a job for life with a salary and career that is going to progress with seniority”.

In the 90s this paradigm has started to shift. From a job for life we have moved to a performance related job. The psychological contract behind the working relationship has  significantly changed “if you individual keep you knowledge relevant and perform up to expectations, the company is going to keep you employed. Otherwise it will let you go”. The pressure is up to be consistently relevant and employable. Over the past few months there has been an additional shift with several multi national companies – e.g. Microsoft and Accenture – moving beyond the performance management paradigm.

 

The concept of job for life is now an element of the past and it is not unusual for employees  in some geographies to change job every three or four years. Career paths are not set in stone anymore and job security is no longer given for granted. Employees are aware of this shift and those that are in high demand due to their skillset and experience are aware that they have to seize the moment: the market changes quickly and also the skillset demands. What is highly marketable today may be obsolete in a couple of years.

 

To be successful in a volatile economy companies require employees that are knowledgeable, flexible and resilient.

The tricky part is that companies are asking employees to go the extra mile to support them achieving their financial goals and, due to the change in the basis of the working relationship, have to craft appealing benefits (financial and non financial) to attract and retain talent.

Changing job often is no longer considered a stigma. Millennials have already adopted the practice of planning a portfolio career, choosing the employer that is going to offer what they want considering the point in life that they are at (it isn’t necessarily monetary bonuses. It can be a learning culture, growth opportunities, parental leave terms and conditions, flexible hours, etc). If the marketable employee is not satisfied with an employer s/he is aware that due to the shortage of skills they can jump ship relatively quickly.

Therefore, for an organisation the issue is to stay competitive by investing in order to foster a competent, flexible and resilient workforce;  being able to motivate employees that belong to different generations (from baby boomers to generation Y) and, at the same time being able to attract and retain talent whilst investing in continuous learning of individuals that may well move to their competitors in a short period of time.

 

This situation shows how the careful management of the people side of change is a strategic factor that does not have to be delegated to support functions, but is a priority on the agenda of every executive.

Yes, the right structure, processes, tools are important to get change right and to move to an agile model. But without people that have the right skillset, attitude and resilience also the most amazing change plans are going to fail.

If you want to drive a Formula 1 car you need to become a more proficient driver. Being able to drive the car that you use to commute every day is not going to cut it. And having a very expensive Formula 1 car that cannot be used because no one is capable of getting the best out of it is a very costly mistake.

 

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