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Michael Gullan - The end of jobs. The dawn of skills

For years, job descriptions have defined how organisations are structured. This method worked well when businesses changed slowly, and employees were considered cogs in the machine. However, smart HR teams are focused more on skills, empowering employees to be agile, autonomous and perform beyond their duties.

A 2023 survey by Deloitte shows that less than 20% of business leaders believe work is best structured by job description, and more HR professionals and business leaders are becoming skills centric. For example, an employee with excellent strategic skills can be deployed to work on client business while also forming part of an internal team tasked with optimizing the overall business strategy.

The benefits of a skills-first approach to structuring and hiring candidates offer the following benefits:

  1. Pressure to perform – When employees’ skills match outputs, organisations can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

  2. Agility and flexibility – To survive rapidly changing market conditions, employees deployed for their skills, not just job descriptions, get results.

  3. Skills and talent gaps – Focusing on the work employees can accomplish based on their skills opens possibilities and mitigates talent gaps as you can harness your existing resources instead of looking for external hires. It also inspires employees to learn and grow.

  4. Increased diversity – Hiring employees for their skills rather than their experience or network facilitates diversity and a high performing workforce.

Like all successful business initiatives, it must start with a clear strategy based on a clear understanding of your business goals overlaid with an audit of employee skills, interests, and values to identify skills opportunities and gaps.

Implement as follows:

  • Match employees with work, teams, or projects that align with their skills, passions, and preferences.

  • Assign work based on adjacent skills allowing them opportunities to grow.

  • Supplement existing skills with extremal hires and consultants.

  • Implement a targeted eLearning programme to develop skills.

  • Trust employees to deliver on outcomes, not just their past credentials and job history.

When you understand the unique portfolio of skills, values, preferences, and interests each employee offers, they are empowered to contribute with their existing skills, develop new skills and move on to projects or departments as their growing skills are needed. People are happiest and productive when their work aligns with who they are, what they care about, and when they are continually learning and growing.


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