In the world fraught with constant change, enterprises are battling opposing forces to fuel their growth story. While technology makes the world a global market and increases opportunities, we hear about the increasing talent shortage and growing demand for new−age skills.
Reskilling, upskilling, and redefining the nature of jobs become an integral part of the Future of Work as technology redefines the very nature of work itself. To remain ahead of the curve, organizations are powering their reskilling and upskilling initiatives with a barrage of programs on their learning management platforms.
But are updating and upgrading the technical skills of the workforce enough to navigate the workplace of the future? Undoubtedly, valuing technical skills is essential as technical competence and expertise are important. However, it is equally essential for organizations to help their workforce develop their power skills as they are equally important for the health of the organization.
Power skills − what are they?
Recently Google announced the findings of an internal study that revealed that their best teams were not the ones filled with the top scientists. Their highest performing teams, instead, were those that comprised of people who showcased strong soft skills .
Soft skills are essential skills such as good communication, strong leadership, critical thinking, problem−solving. However, expert Josh Bersin, compellingly states, that the term ‘soft skills’ is almost a misnomer. These skills are hard to win and have to be maintained with rigor. And given how vital these skills are to innovation, it makes more sense to call them ‘power skills.’
Hard skills and power skills − it’s a complex world out there
With progress in technologies such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, interpretation of data has become easier. However, it is only those who have critical thinking or creative skills to apply to that data that work out ways to define competitive advantage.
Soft skills are seen as the opposite of hard skills. This undercurrent suggests that ‘soft’ essentially means ‘easy’. But the so-called ‘soft’ skills are not easy, but these are the skills that give employees the ‘power’ at work. This is so because you can’t ‘buy’ power skills. You have to develop them. All technical or hard skills (skills needed to do a job) can be learned. Since the markets are evolving, and technology is progressing at breakneck speed, we have hard skills becoming obsolete and getting replaced on an everyday basis. But these can be taught and can also be bought by organizations.
The power skills, on the contrary, are highly complex skills that are ever−changing in their scope and application and take a long time to learn. Agility and flexibility, traditionally two soft skills, are now two of the most wanted skills for a CEO. The ability to be change-agnostic, the power to communicate clearly, or the capacity to innovate and create, or to be curious, are making their way into the ‘must−have’ list of the enterprise.
These skills are some of the hardest skills to have, and hence, rightfully are called ‘power skills.’
How do people with power skills help businesses?
Today the pressure to innovate is intense, the workforce’s expectations from leadership are changing, and the value of the human element is increasing at work owing to the rising number of millennials and Gen Z coming into the workplace.
Having people with power skills translates to clear communication, effective problem solving, better team relationships owing to empathy, and greater innovation because of a curious mind frame. All of these factors contribute directly to organizational profitability. In fact, an MIT Sloan study found that power skills training on problem’solving, communication and decision-making yielded a 250% ROI over a period of only eight months!
The path to developing Power Skills
The challenge today is that the business world is hyper−focused on developing the technical abilities of its workforce. While it is assumed that people will have basic power skills, little is offered to help them hone these skills. And often, these are offered as a one-time exercise.
It won’t be off the mark to say that power skills are the skills that bring about transformational value. Thus, the strategy to develop these skills has to be more on the lines of mentoring rather than coaching.
− One of the best ways to develop the power skills of the workforce is by first identifying where the employees need help to improve their skill repertoire. Rather than relying on gut feel, it is best to leverage data and take the help of tests such as Behavioral Skills Analysis tests or 16 Personality Factor Tests, etc. to develop clear pathways to improve power skills.
− Since power skills are behavioral in nature, the sessions have to be more focused, constant, personalized, and continuous. This approach also helps in developing a healthy leadership pipeline, since along with technical abilities, a leader needs a host of other tools, most of them non−technical, to drive a business to success. Today Satya Nadella, for example, doesn’t go about teaching technology to Microsoft. He teaches them the ‘growth mindset’ and how this power skill impacts work, teams, individuals, and the organization.
So, while technical prowess is essential for a leader, it is equally essential to have strong decision−making skills, empathy towards employees, critical thinking capabilities, and strong customer management capabilities. None of these skills can be learned overnight and turned into an individual’s second nature.
It is becoming increasingly clear that if businesses want to succeed, they need to focus on developing human skills − power skills that become the foundation of employee
productivity and employee engagement to help organizations achieve the competitive edge they need.
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