A constant challenge for most organizations is to ensure their people are up to date with the skills they need. This is an issue that has been debated in HR (and especially the Learning and Development Team) for some time, but as the rate of change in the world increases every day, the pressure to address this challenge becomes even greater. There are many ways the L&D team is trying to solve this challenge, where some common ways don’t seem to work!
Reactive skills building
A common way is to stay close to business, keep our ears on the ground and respond to the demands expressed by business leaders. However, it is very responsive. This means waiting for business to tell us what they need at a given moment. Which, in turn, means that it takes time to find the best solution to the learning gap And An additional gap in time to enhance the skills of the people who are required for this work. In addition, if it takes time to fill this skill gap, there is a risk that the skills are somewhat obsolete once acquired.
Being this responsive is very strategic and non-strategic. This creates the risk of going astray in a way that may give you short-term (instant gratification), but will not lead you to your long-term mission. If you take a more proactive approach, it will actually slow you down.
Active Skills Building
Another approach that many forward-thinking L&D teams are choosing is to try to predict future skills. While this is a difficult way to go – it means looking at the ‘future of work’ trends and trying to understand the signals from companies and industry experts so that the future may be what you need in a particular case. Many variables and unpredictability can be very difficult. When using this predictive method, employees applied only 37% of their new learning skills because the predictions were wrong, according to a recent study by Gartner.
A dynamic approach
We need an approach that is more agile and dynamic. To stay engaging we need to engage all parts of the company and avoid the old routine of analyzing and / or conducting surveys that require traditional theoretical learning by asking what the business needs are. It is very responsive. The combined intelligence and power of our people, our culture, our processes and technologies must also be taken into account and used.
We all own
At Spotify we nurture a strong learning culture, where we ask our band members to drive their development. This means that our people need to take ownership and think about what they need to develop and how. It has been enabled by managers who will be there to support the growth of their staff. And it is empowered by HR and L&D to provide those with the tools and knowledge they need to plan for the future. We think this is really important because at the pace of change that we are experiencing, managers are responsible for the development of their team members, they will create a barrier and slow us down. And we don’t expect our people to hand over their future to anyone else – to make constant decisions (both large and small) about their growth and career direction. As I mentioned in a previous blog post about the Blogth Industrial Revolution, in our new reality many will have multiple careers across different industries in their lifetime – so why would anyone leave a manager of their company with a lifetime of education and development to drive them?
We are creating a marketplace for all spotters to create more transparency, fairness and liquidity in the dynamic skills creation opportunity. It supports our employees who are driving their development and making efficient decisions, and helps the organization grow and develop by nurturing internal movement. We are connecting band members to the project, by mentorship, or internally with the opportunity to find a new job. This type of technology is crucial for our ability to scale, reach, acceptance, transparency and speed. Again, we need to make room for our people to drive their development.
When recruiting, an important trait that we see in our candidates is adaptability. Having a high AQ (adaptability share) means being able to change behavior quickly in changing situations, and our workforce is learning-savvy.
This is not to be confused with being flexible, which is a term that is often used interchangeably with adaptability. Being flexible is being able to stretch itself – you can adjust a certain amount, like a rubber band. But if you keep pulling, you will probably break down in the end. Being adaptable means accepting a new reality of how we work and moving forward. Not to temporarily expand our behavior, but to treat them anew. Understanding and self-awareness is an important difference for us to be able to improve in a constantly changing world.
At Spotify, we specialize in creating self-awareness and AQ skills. AQ is not a specific feature, but something that anyone can develop. It is, of course, strongly linked to a Growth Mindset, one of our core beliefs in creating and sustaining a learning culture.
Longevity of skill set
Another beneficial method we use is to divide skills into sustainable and perishable skills. There have been numerous alarming reports surrounding the dramatic shortening of the shelf life of skills. It is true that this is happening, however, not all skills fall into this category so it is important to differentiate between different categories in order to be able to take the right approach.
Now that you have the skills needed to do a particular job, these are often job-specific and change frequently. We can define these as perishable skills.
Then there are meta-skills, how to create skills. These are sustainable skills that are transferable to any job and that make your lifelong learning journey. They can include skills in reasoning, strategic thinking, self-awareness and much more.
In Spotify, this is where we double down. We have a team that works on highly-needed perishable, short-lived skills that are needed now, but we have a global L&D team that works on sustainable skills.
The key to success in a rapidly changing world is that your employees can acquire skills. Remember that your learning strategy is always based on your people and your culture, and if you haven’t already done so, lay the groundwork for adopting the concept of growth mentality and adaptability. Then use your staff AQ to navigate the fast-changing world for it, and strengthen your adaptability muscles.