Managing skills and performance in an uncertain world

How to make performance sustainable

The pandemic has shown how important it is for organizations to develop their agility and be able to implement training as quickly as possible. During the first lockdown, companies were forced to train their employees very quickly to help them acquire new skills, particularly the use of digital tools, managing teams remotely and how to manage stress. The pandemic has therefore shown that companies may face situations where employees need to be trained very quickly. A corporate culture based on learning makes it easier to manage this type of unforeseen situation. Moreover, the flexibility of tools and solutions must be integrated from the project’s design phase, by integrating content libraries for example.

Overcoming skills obsolescence

Certain skills are quickly becoming obsolete. Changes in technology, changes in certain sectors of activity, uberization, and the impact of digital technology on certain services mean that some hard skills must be renewed or upgraded. We’re finding that a combination of skills is required today, such as the ability to learn, to build solutions, focus on customers, the ability to adapt, etc. These are all Soft Skills.

A combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data can improve skills management, by allowing a company’s databases to be updated with data on global trends.

In addition, asking employees to declare new skills or update current skills (which may be ‘hidden’ or unknown to the company), allows a company to get a grasp on its employees’ skills and include them in their skills management system. Through annual interviews or exchanges, using digital tools, employees can now display new skills, outside the company’s skill repository, that their managers and HR professionals may otherwise have missed.

Setting up a ‘performance culture’ for human capital

On the subject of performance, it is clear that many companies focus on individual skills in the short term or at least for the year, because this is often required by top management, to which managers and HR report.

However, do these companies ensure performance for the next few years, or a ‘sustainable’ performance?

Today, more than ever, companies need to have a ‘performance culture’, so they can anticipate and perceive long-term trends, in their ability to deliver a given level of performance, but also with a view to establishing a continuous exchange between the levels of responsibility and ensure optimal contribution from everyone, and not only for yearly objectives, which are sometimes not very realistic.

A ‘performance culture’ cannot be forced. It must be built, and the term ‘performance’ itself should probably be abandoned. Sometimes, the term is used negatively. ‘Performance culture’ can thus be replaced with ‘skills and contribution culture’, which would encourage employees on a path towards collective and individual success and push companies to incorporate the idea of long-term performance.

To do this, companies need to invest in managing skills and develop such skills through training and experience, coaching programs and transfers of expertise (with communities of experts for example). They should also consider assessing trends in new skills, adapting mobility and setting up databases with contributions (performance indicators) in different job families.

All this will also make employees more ‘employable’. It is clear, however, that an employee’s employability is directly related to their level of commitment and motivation. Employee employability is therefore connected to a company’s performance, since employees will be more committed to success of that company.

Companies can therefore can have a real capacity to adapt to the ups and downs of their line of business, and probably know better than others how to react (in times of crisis, or periods of growth) more rapidly, with respect to the key people that ensure their success and performance.

It is now time, even more than before, to realize how important skills management is for corporate strategy to serve competitiveness, agility, innovation and ensure the sustainability of organizations.