Discover the Wealth of Your Team’s Talent

Would you like to be valued for being you rather than for being your job description?

That’s a personal benefit of working in a skills-based organization. For the company, that kind of recognition brings better engagement, more productivity, and increased innovation.

A skills-based orientation goes beyond job titles and descriptions. Instead, it assesses the talents of everyone, from the front line to the back office, and then assigns people to projects that best suit their unique combination of skills.

Brian Richardson helps organizations enter this skills-based world. The founder and CEO of Richardson Consulting Group, Inc. shared the following steps and tips as a guest on our podcast. They can help you plan your move to fully realize your team’s talents.

1. Start with your own leadership mindset: it’s time to experiment.

As with anything new, expect stumbles and outright failures. More importantly, let your team know to expect them…and that they’re okay. One primary reason innovation and change stagnate is fear of failure; far too often, employees expect to be punished if they fail, so stop taking risks. Let your team know some failures are expected; it’s okay if you then look at the data and learn from your implementation experiment. At the Innovative Leadership Institute, we call this leadership trait “the mind of a scientist.”

2. Assess individual talents on your team.

Determine each person’s skills; without this step, you’ll obviously have trouble being skills-based! Skills assessments are nothing new. Your HR department most likely knows them quite well. Artificial intelligence platforms have entered this arena, making the assessments all the easier to collect, collate, analyze, and then have at your fingertips when it’s time to deploy. With AI’s help, go even deeper: fully understand what employees can do now and what they could do in the future with some development.

3. Start with one or two targeted pilot projects.

Remember the mind of a scientist? These pilots are your experiments. Don’t expect overwhelming victory from the outset; you’re gathering data now for your ultimate success. What works best in your particular workplace? For the quirks and strengths of your particular team? Discover your new best practices as you build momentum with quick wins in these focused domains.

4. Consider the cultural ripples.

Most firms grew with the old-school practice of squeezing people into narrow job descriptions instead of providing the personalized work experience that skills-based systems create. That standard workplace culture must now change, too—especially for leaders! HR leaders, for example, will now shift perspectives, enabling fluid workflows by basing activities on employee abilities rather than predefined responsibilities. Managers will move to flexible teams, quickly identifying qualified people from across the company to fill particular project needs. C-suiters will drive strategies (and strategic plans) by aligning them with the skills pool buoyed by their talented staff—talent they can now appreciate thanks to this new skills-based approach!

5. Expect an organization-wide change.

With a few successes under your belt, the advantages become clear. The win-win for employees and the company fosters a desire to change across the company. Hold steady; despite the excitement, this will be a multi-year journey requiring patience and commitment. Every step of the implementation provides you with more experience and data to make the next rollout smoother and more successful.

As the pace of change and the increase in disruptive events continues in our world, adopting a skills-based approach is more than a forward-thinking HR strategy; it’s an absolute necessity. Think of it as an accelerator for your organization’s survival skills: adaptability, resilience, enhanced productivity, and boosted employee engagement. And for you personally, what could be better than being valued for being you?


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Economies of Skill: Moving to a Skills-Based Team.

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