Future-proofing your talent pipeline: The case for future skills (Part II)

In Part 1 of our two-part series on future skills, we discussed the coming skills gap and best-practice responses to this challenge (to read the article, click here). In this article, we turn to practical applications of Aon’s future skills framework. In particular, we will focus on future skills associated with digital readiness, and digital leadership, both constructs which will prove critical for talent professionals who wish to future-proof their talent pipeline.

The nature of the challenge: Digitized society

Given that virtually all areas of society have or will be undergoing some form of digitization, organizations are likely to experience shortages in talent associated with digital innovation and technology. As such, talent professionals will need to advise business leaders on how to develop their existing talent to overcome the inevitable skills gap that will emerge.

But the requirements of a fully digitalized business landscape go far beyond just digital and technical skills (i.e. knowledge of business applications, data analyses skills, etc.). Employees will have to cultivate and be trained in skills that will enable them to function optimally in a digital landscape, be that being open to innovation, understanding the importance of collaboration, or being able to coach team members.

Such actions are already underway. In a recent survey of global companies, Aon found that 990 out of 1500 (66%) of companies surveyed had prioritized programs that identify and assess for future skills gaps in their existing staff. But such assessments will need to go beyond the here-and-now of technical prowess and focus on various cognitive and behavioral competencies that will give organizations capabilities that will meet their long-term strategic objectives.

Bridging the skills gap: Assessing for future skills

In deciding the appropriate assessment strategy for bridging the skills gap, talent professionals will need to be closely guided by their organizations’ business model and strategic objectives.

In the figure below is a model that illustrates the steps in designing and implementing future skills assessments:

A critical feature of this model is the combination of skills and competencies into capabilities that will ensure optimal functioning within a complex, fully digital working environment. In such contexts, leaders and employees will have to adapt to a rapidly changing technological disruption as well as the behavioral analogs of such change.

Fortunately, Aon’s Future Skills Framework (discussed in greater detail in Part 1 of this series), includes best-of-breed competency frameworks that can be used to assess for such future capabilities. In this article, we will focus on two such frameworks: digital readiness and digital leadership.

Digital readiness: Adapting to future challenges

The rate at which knowledge and skills become outdated is accelerating. For instance, the World Economic Forum recently predicted that the half-life of skills has shrunk to five years.

This means that five years from now, your organization’s current skill set will be worth around half as much as it is right now. Because of this instability, organizations need to focus less on developing specific skill sets and more on developing future-proofed and future-ready competencies.

Aon’s digital readiness model shows that the core foundational competencies of agility, curiosity, and learnability are essential for future working in a more automated and digitized organization. In addition to these core competencies, digital readiness also includes constructs such as resilience, curiosity, adaptability, and flexibility. It therefore stands to reason that assessing for these competencies should be on any assessment or talent professional’s agenda now or in the very near future.

Put simply, digital readiness is an individual’s ability and enthusiasm to navigate new ways of working. It is about embracing constant change, adapting to ever-developing technologies, and benefiting from the advantages they offer.

In addition, highly digitally ready employees are more likely to engage in life-long learning and be more open to learning from others and their own mistakes. In an ever-moving work environment where technical skills age quickly, these are vital behavioral competencies to cultivate and look out for when hiring.

Using Aon’s award-winning ADEPT-15 personality assessment, paired with selected cut-e ability assessments, talent professionals can provide organizations with an accurate read on an individual’s digital readiness. This is crucial for a number of reasons:

  1. Identifying competencies that require development in the existing staff complement
  2. Identifying potential hires that would enhance the organization’s future digital readiness
  3. Understanding skills gaps within teams
  4. Informing training and development initiatives based on empirical data rather than speculation or fashion

For instance, organizations that want to build more agile teams can use digital readiness assessments to better understand the development needs of individual team members or use aggregated talent analytics to evaluate the digital readiness of teams as compared to others in and outside the organization.

Future leadership: Helping teams navigate a digital future

The modern leader will remain a high-potential individual for any organization, but what has changed is the types of environments that team members will be working in. As such, effective leaders of the future will embody the classic traits of high aspiration and comfort with responsibility, paired with competence in leading others in highly digitized, dynamic environments.

Such digitally ready leaders will tend to emphasize collaboration and learning far more than ever before, as these are vital ingredients to building digitally effective teams. For such leaders, reporting lines and authority will take a back seat to team learning and development, and they will have to lead with humility and a coaching mindset.

Aon’s research on digital leader constructs shows strong global results for individuals who assess well for both classic and digitally ready personality traits and aptitudes. Such high scorers are:

  • 30% better at continuous improvement
  • 25% stronger at problem solving
  • 15% better at both managing their own workload while engaging in self-development
  • Receive 20% higher job performance ratings from their managers

Organizations will need to address the critical need for digital leaders as well as devise strategies to develop their existing leadership potential to address the requirements of future leadership.

In this regard, Aon’s model of digital leadership offers an evidence-based and assessment-ready approach that can be used to identify and develop employees that show the promise of becoming highly effective leaders. As with so many principles of business, the 80/20 principle applies here as well: Companies will be able to achieve high performance results from a relatively few exceptional individuals who can lead in an agile and digitally ready manner.

Competencies and capacities covered by the assessment model (which utilizes the ADEPT-15 and selected ability assessments) include the following:

Agile mindset, which is further subdivided into learnability, agility, and curiosity. Leading change, which includes a drive to challenge, championing collaboration, humility, and empowerment. Driving business, which is underpinned by a capacity to handle data, think strategically, apply business acumen, digitally communicate, and show mental endurance.

Final thoughts: Objective methods outperform subjective judgments

In an increasingly accelerating business environment where skills enjoy little permanence, teams work remotely and are often widely distributed, and disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence change the way individuals and teams do their work, organizations will need to base their decisions on solid, defensible data.

In this article, we discussed two assessment-ready models that help to clarify the needed skills and competencies required of companies who want to thrive and succeed in the future world of work.

By using designed-for-purpose assessments that are themselves founded in objective scientific research, organizations can avoid an over-reliance on subjective judgments and unreliable performance data that have traditionally dominated selection strategies for senior-tier individuals.

In both the selection and identification of digitally agile staff and digitally competent leaders, Aon’s assessment solutions have shown very promising results for organizations, and we are excited to be bringing this product to the local market.

If you would like to know more on how your organization can start understanding its future skills landscape, or if you are ready to act now, why not drop us a line at info@tts-talent.com?