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“War for Skills”: Get the changemakers out of the isolation of the labs!

In the past few weeks, we have repeatedly been attested war-like circumstances in view of Covid-19. For HR managers nothing new so far. They have been at war for years, the “War for Talents”. This bellicose phrase has become part of the standard vocabulary in the HR field.

There are three main reasons for the tough HR challenges in the talent market:

  • the global competition,
  • the demographic shift,
  • the change in values, especially among young people.

Covid-19 and its aftermath now give the combating parties – companies all over the world – an involuntary cease-fire. The uncertain situation has led to hiring freezes and consequently to free time, which HR staff could and should use to reevaluate whether, over the past years, they have been fighting for the best people with the right “weapons”.

Flexible skill profiles instead of rigid job descriptions

Classic job descriptions, for example, are now a blunt sword in the armory. Why? Because they are still far too often based on criteria from an antiquated working world – education, resume, positions. With a meticulous look into the past (“What have you done?”), HR managers try to set up their workforce for the future. But this requires new questions, such as: “What do you want to do?”, “Can you work well in a team?”or “ Do you like to learn new things?” Too many companies are still opting for predictability and thus only for candidates, who work in predefined structures, instead of interesting and extraordinary personalities with whom they run the risk that they might change the existing system. Hireability continues to beat innovation. In times of crisis, such as the novel Coronavirus has created in a short period of time, this way of thinking will quickly backfire. Because especially in the face of unpredictable upheavals, they are needed: the lateral thinkers and doers. People who know how to take advantage of change, who love to bring about change themselves and draw creativity and strength from it.

  • With some luck…

…you might find these people by using traditional job descriptions. 

  • With openness and the courage to listen to your own gut feeling…

…HR people do not chase them through five assessment centers, thus scaring them away, but create opportunities and the space to do things in a completely different way, testing the path less traveled. New employees who want to work this way need one thing in particular: open structures and trust from the management level.

  • With great probability…

…there are already people in every company who want to help shape and develop themselves and the organization. Flexible structures, smart technology, and a culture of exchange and learning increase the chances of finding them.

Skill exchange: Into the breadth of the organization!

You found them? Wonderful! Where? Aaah yes, in the in-house lab, think tank, HUB, … you name it. With these practical “bunkers”, companies ensure that the movers and shakers stay nicely isolated amongst themselves and don’t interfere with the predictable, safe processes and procedures of the core organization.

Quick question: Which divisions continue to function smoothly in times of lockdown – remote, digital, connected?

We know the answer – and formulate a new tactical goal for organizations: Share knowledge, learn, work interdisciplinarily across departments and positions, using analog and digital methods of communication in a complementary way – all that needs to be taken from the labs and implemented in the entire company! Organizations do not win the “War for Skills” by opening up new cells of knowledge (only this time with fancy lounge chairs and tape art on the walls), but by involving ALL employees in change processes. Dynamic hierarchies and changing responsibilities (for example in projects), which do not result from the position but from the competence of the individual, are the key to more mobility and innovative strength, away from the rigidity that some companies have lingered in far too long – first in the face of digitalization and now, very obviously, in the face of Covid-19 and its consequences.

Other people’s skills…

…are the best thing that can happen to anyone and everyone in the organization! Managers and employees should be able to use them to develop their own skills. In order to do this, companies must learn to trust in people’s skills, because the desire for regulation and control hinders the flow of knowledge and information, lateral thinking and exploration. Skills need the freedom to develop in the best possible way! Managers have to tolerate that especially innovation-driven skill owners sometimes break with existing structures, find their own ways, build their own structures in which they can develop well. This is ok and good as long as you know the common goal that everyone is working towards. The latter sounds banal but is not a matter of course. In his overview “Personnel in numbers” (brandeins / Issue 09, 2018) Ingo Eggert wrote that 25 percent of specialists in Germany are not aware of the goal of their company. Speaking of the figures: 55 percent of the employees believe that the current organizational structures of their company are unsuitable for the future.

The future is today. The Coronavirus is making this painfully clear. And as bad as it is for many, the current crisis is also a wake-up call and an opportunity to finally deal with the question of how we want and have to work (from now on). When Corona is over, the recruiters will sharpen their “weapons” again. Maybe they’ll use the time in between to take a closer look inside the organization to see what’s already there. And perhaps they will realize that it is not those whose swords clash the loudest that win the “War for Skills”, but those who rely on their own inner power of change.

With our Tandemploy-SaaS we support the generation of a network of all employees in a company. 18 use cases create concrete occasions to exchange ideas and share knowledge. You can find more information here.

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