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How to shift away from outdated talent management structures?

Talent Management Podcast Episode 02

In the second episode of our talent management podcast series, SD Worx HR Evangelist Jan Laurijssen continues the conversation with Professor Ans de Vos of Antwerp Management School and the University of Antwerp. Today's topic: building a skills-based organisation. Do traditional job structures limit business growth? Find out in the full episode!

      Full Transcript

      Jan: Welcome back to our podcast series for the Perfect Match on talent management. Joining us again for a second podcast is Ans de Vos. Welcome back.

      And as in the first series, we want to talk about a statement. Things are going on in talent management in today's agile organisations, the traditional constraints of regional organisational charts and job structures have become outdated, some say paving the way for a more flexible skill-based approach. What do you think?

      Ans: I have two overall thoughts on this. First of all, I do not believe that focusing on a more skill-based approach will automatically also rule out formal structures. And I think we exactly need to be aware of the risks of focusing too much on skills, that we're going to over-engineer in measuring skills, trying to forecast skills and forgetting, that this might also create a huge load on managers, on people to navigate into those skill structures. But that being said, I do believe that the first part of the statement ‘We have to get rid of those rigid organisational charts and job structures’ is indeed true.

      We need, first of all, an organisation that has sufficient adaptive capacity to change jobs, to change structures, to change routines and culture so that people also are able and encouraged to change.

      Jan: That sounds a lot like what Josh Bersin was talking about over the summer. Skill-based approach not being new, competence management has been around forever, and it'll take more to actually make it work than just setting up a new skills database.

      Ans: I think we’d better talk about becoming a developmental organisation rather than a skill-based organisation. And that sentence is in itself also not new. I owe it to Robert Kegan who already published on that several years ago in his book ‘Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organisation’, where I think that also reflects much more the dynamic idea behind it than focusing on skills.

      Because for me, if you talk about a skill-based organisation, then you just use a smaller unit of the analysis. You focus no longer on jobs or on departments, but you focus on skills as the core element around which you might find a match between what you as an organisation need and what people have or possess or want to develop. And that's fine. But just by narrowing down from a job to a skill level will not put things in motion from itself. You really need to establish this developmental culture.

      Jan: It makes me think that for skills there is another problem. I mean, skills get outdated. We'll be needing new skills. There's all sorts of research about what we're going to need. So, it's going to be hard to do that.

      I like the developmental approach because we would be more plugging into what's driving people, also where they're at in their life and careers.

      Is that the idea?

      Ans: It's reflecting more the reality that, both as an organisation and as a person, you are developing constantly. Even if you stay in an organisation that is not changing for 40 years, and you, as a person, stay there for 40 years, there is a lot happening, both in your personal life and in the organisation’s life that also creates this constant change.

      And I think over time, through the structure that we have created, which was actually meant to help people, to provide perspective, to give a sense of direction to people, that it's exactly that, which has created the rigidity that we want to let go of today. We don't want to let go of that long-term relationship necessarily, but it has to be built around more this dynamic capacity to change, both on the individual and the company side. And what I learned from the numbers coming out of your study is that there is still a long way to go.

      If I just may summarise a few of the numbers that really caught my eye, one was ‘four out of ten say that they are aware of the importance of training for their employability’. So, that means that there is still a lot that needs to happen if we want to put that skill-based mentality into practice.

      It also helps to explain why people are a bit inactive when it comes to this internal mobility that we talked about earlier. I noticed that one out of two says I did not receive any training last year. But also, one out of three admitting they are not on the lookout for any training. They don't want it. One out of three saying that they receive enough help to develop their skills. So, there are still a lot of things that we need to do before we can really talk about this developmental culture or skill-based approach. And I don't think we need to refer to the rigid structures that might still be in place as an excuse for not starting to work on these kinds of numbers.

      Jan: I take away especially that skill-based approach being important but it is not at the core of really changing things. So, I hear a plea for a developmental organisation and to focus much more on the build part, actually, of career management.

      Thank you so much. Looking forward to continue the discussion in the next podcast.

      Ans: Thank you.

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