Britain’s got talent …... or has it? Perhaps not. The CIPD has recently released a big study about how HR is not prepared for the future environment, and that companies will soon be needing multi-talented individuals who can and will turn their hand to a much broader range of tasks. Why? Because although the economy is recovering, the foundations will be quite shaky for a while. Companies will take on more people as things improve, but probably at a steady, controlled rate. It will be more advantageous for them to invest in the employees they have to make them multi-talented individuals who can adapt to whatever circumstances are thrown at them, rather than just taking on more and more people every time they need a new skill. One example is the British Army which is trying to restructure itself in this way with fewer personnel, so that a smaller force can react to different or multi-faceted threats all over the world. New recruits (particularly officers) are now likely receive much broader and more intellectual training in the future so that they can raid a bomb factory one day and carry out a politically complex peace enforcement role the next.
Having a multi-skilled workforce makes sound business sense in 2014. It means that organisations can response to business needs quickly without having to make major staff changes. In turn this could reduce the needs for redundancies and replacement recruitment and cuts associated costs.
A multi-skilled environment provides employers with the ability to develop skills quickly and also helps them become more innovative because they can use all of their skills in a more efficient and productive way. It contributes to creating a culture of collaboration where employees think and act in the best interests of the business.
Many larger companies offer structured graduate training programmes to put their trainees through various three-six month placements in finance, HR, general management and marketing, before they settled on the right career path. That way they would have a good, albeit basic, understanding of all areas no matter which they chose, and they could also switch jobs more easily within the organisation. The Civil Service’s Fast Stream takes on ‘Generalists’ who go through a series of placements at different departments doing different roles, and they tend to shift departments every few years anyway. If a crisis appears in one sector they can (theoretically) transfer people to plug a gap.
At Russell HR Consulting we have used the multi-skilled model for some years. All our team are trained expert generalists who can turn their hand to any HR question. Alongside this they are also able to study for and develop a particular specialism in their area of interest. However, they will deliver in both areas on an ongoing basis. It means that we have created a formidable range of capability and speed of delivery in a small group.
The job security of the 70s and 80s where people stayed in the same organisation for life is gone. The inflexible “it’s not in my job description” response so common then is a thing of the past. With the new value placed on adaptability, organisations want to recruit employees who are willing to take on different tasks.
If you can find people who can work under harder under pressure, who are genuinely excited by rapid changes and can successfully take on new tasks you’re well on the way to building the flexible workforce of the future.
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