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Agility

3 Steps To Workforce Agility

Workforce agility refers to an organization’s ability to move people to support changes in the environment.  I think of it like supply and demand.  Workforce agility enables you can easily move people from one place, where demand is low to another place where demand is high.

For example, let’s look at how automation can impact your workforce needs.

  • If automation is being applied in some area, such that the people need is lower, I need to be able to move people who used to do that work to a place where they have the right skills and demand is higher

  • If automation is being applied in some area, such that the skills associated with that work change, I need to be able to upskill people to do the new work, or move people with the right skills to that area

I like to use an analogy of a sports team.  Every team has different positions people need to play regardless of the sport.  Usually, you try to have some “depth”, people who can play the position when the top player gets tired or hurt.  Other times, you don’t have sufficient depth, you need someone with different skills (shooting, blocking, running, passing) and you bring people up from the practice squad, trade, or draft these players.  Just like a company is always tweaking its corporate strategy, a sports team is finding a strategy that will help it win against the competition.  A run-first offense may become a pass-first offense and need different skills.

Not everyone can be a quarterback, pitcher, goalkeeper, or point guard.  But they can build transferable skills that give them the ability to be shifted to where they are needed most.  And they can be upskilled to play their new role.

Workforce agility does not need to be a permanent condition.  It can be a temporary one driven by predictable (e.g., seasonal) or unpredictable changes in demand.  One of our customers often has a project that will take several weeks or months that requires additional resources – they simply need to know who can participate. 

If you now believe you need workforce agility, let’s get to the 3 steps to create it.

  1. Identify what each position/role needs to be able to do. That’s a role-based competency model, that includes what people NOW need to do in that role.

  2. Identify who has what skills. That’s a competency assessment. This is NOT so you can see who gets promoted… this is about workforce agility.

  3. Leverage technology to enable:

·  People to upskill within their existing role

·  You to explore who has sufficient skills to be moved temporarily or permanently, depending on the need.  We use a dashboard that lets you see who has fewer than 2 skill gaps for this other role, with sufficiently overlapping skills.

Lastly, make sure that you make workforce agility a benefit. 

  • Be transparent.

    • Share changing skill requirements for a role.

    • Share supply and demand trends.

  • Encourage people to develop skills for their own role, as well as roles in high demand so they can be used when needed. Inspire them and empower them to assess their skills against current and other roles and be provided with a personalized learning plan to close any skill gaps.

  • Offer, rather than demand, a move: “Would you like to work on this project for 2 months as a way to build experience outside your area?” or “Demand in this area is going down, but we could really use someone with your skills in this other department.” Promote these transfers as a reward.

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How can competency models be used to drive innovation?

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So the CEO says that the next 2 years are all about innovation.  Great!  How can you get the organization to change?  You add a skill to every role’s competency model that demonstrates what innovation looks like to them.  That is, you need to identify, specifically, what someone should do to be innovative in their role – whether they are in product development, engineering, marketing, or finance.  You might also update other skills in their competency model with behaviors that demonstrative innovation as one moves from good to great.

Translating strategy to every person in every level of the business so it can be executed is hard when it’s abstract.  But imagine how much more tangible it could be. 

  • Develop disruptive technologies that meet unmet/unknown market needs (product development)
  • Develop financial models that support disruptive product ideas while minimizing risk (finance)
  • Identify new product applications/market opportunities for our existing solutions (marketing)

Remember that for each person, a competency model describes what it looks like to be great in their role.  For the organization, a competency model describes what each person in their role needs to do to execute their part of corporate strategy.  Therefore, to get the employee to embrace innovation as corporate strategy, show them specifically what it looks like to them.  Let them assess themselves against it, and develop toward it.  Give managers the ability to easily assess and coach their team members against it.  And the organization will change.

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