CEOs are typically expected to quickly assimilate competencies from an entirely new industry when they move to lead a new company. Today, this expectation and assumption can be extended to all company groups, from senior management to all personnel.
Companies are undergoing such a significant change that even if the industry remains the same, operating methods, processes and cultures will be renewed to a level that requires new kinds of competence from everyone. For an organisation to succeed in renewal, the competence needs of the future must be articulated to creates an understandable learning agenda for the entire organisation.
Strategic capabilities guide future competence needs
The capabilities that bring companies a competitive advantage often arise from a combination of different skills and resources. In our Strategic Renewal study, published at the beginning of the year, we found that competitive advantage is increasingly created in ecosystems with third parties.
"A forward-looking organisation and its people are thus able to operate in ecosystems and networks and combine their own and others' resources in a way that brings new added value."
This drastically changes the idea of how a traditional functional organisation works. At the same time, many industries are undergoing a huge renewal and everyone should have a plan for how to develop their competence as the company radically renews itself. And even if the renewal of a company is slower, digitalisation and sustainability thinking, for example, bring so many changes to all work tasks that continuous learning, experimentation and curiosity about new ways of working should be on the agenda of all individuals. Developing strategic competence may be perceived as difficult and cumbersome, but at its smallest, it could mean that you read a little more about artificial intelligence and consider how it affects your work. Or you could discuss with a colleague what your work looks like, for example, in five years and how to prepare for it yourself.
Competence development is the responsibility of both individuals and companies
There is no single correct answer to what is the individual's and the company's responsibility in competence development. After all, every individual is responsible for ensuring that their skills are up-to-date and that their contribution is attractive in the labour market. However, it is not the sole responsibility of the individual, but organisations must also be able to point the way to the need for skills and what will be needed to succeed in the future. This requires also management to have the skills to engage in dialogue on the future in an inspiring and understandable way. Our strategic renewal study showed that industrial companies need more platforms for discussing the future, and there needs to be more dialogue about the need for future skills.
How an organisation can build capacity for renewal
01 Create a positive 'burning platform' for learning and strengthen the understanding that it may be necessary to develop new knowledge areas of which there is no previous experience.
02 Ensure that teams have the opportunity to have a practical and understandable discussion about how their tasks and work is changing and what it means for learning new things.
03 Ensure that immediate leaders can lead development and support learning. Development discussions are just one platform to support learning. On-the-job learning and supporting it everyday is an important part of a leader's job.
The changing competence of the leader
Based on CEO job descriptions, analysed by the Russel Raynolds Institute, an apparent change in management competence needs can be observed. Whereas in the past, we have been looking for a strong financial manager with good knowledge of substance and an iron-clad administrative grip, we are now looking for a leader with strong social skills and the ability to interact well. Today's leader must be able to coordinate different areas, be able to work in diverse teams and in the composition of various experts, and, of course, be able to lead these teams.
These competencies must be more than just prerequisites for good management. Experts and supervisors should also maintain social skills on their own learning agenda, for example, by ensuring that they have sufficient asking and listening skills, the ability to identify different styles of action and thinking, and to use them as a strength in teamwork. In addition, it should be ensured that there is a sufficient network in one's field and beyond. In addition to sharing knowledge and know-how, the network is an essential mirror for assessing one's ideas and competencies.
"When a company's competitive advantage comes from a combination of people's skills and the company's services, everyone should have excellent skills for learning together, experimenting and inspiring colleagues in a common direction."
Of course, there must always be basic professional skills. Still, the more knowledge-intensive the work is done, the more social and influencing skills are important for both productivity and competitive advantage.
About the author
Mari Tasanto D.Sc. (Admin) is Growth Area Director of Customised Solutions at Hanken & SSE Executive Education. Mari has more than 10 years of experience in various manager positions and international experience from HRD and talent management positions. She has worked more than 15 years in leadership development and organisational development consulting and training organisations. Mari specialises in strategic capabilities consulting and competence management. She has designed and delivered several talent development programmes internationally. Another focus area is management team development and potential assessment of management teams. She is passionate about continuous learning and organisational renewal and her mission is to support the potential of the organisations as well as individuals.