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January 22, 2016

Train To Sustain

Posted by Atul Sahgal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:20 AM

The 2015 edition of a talent shortage survey of nearly 42,000 hiring managers located in 42 countries around the world reported a rise in the proportion of employers struggling to fill jobs, from 36 percent in 2014 to 38 percent in 2015. This figure was the highest since 2008. The problem was severe enough for more than half of the employers surveyed to say that it was hampering their ability to serve the needs of their clients. Which is why ensuring talent sustainability ranks among enterprises' pressing priorities everywhere.

Talent sustainability, or an organization's ability to attract and retain talent in the present and future, is a function of many things - the ability to satisfy employees' expectations of compensation, working environment and culture, engagement, and above all, in my view, learning. A study, with a remarkably symmetric respondent base of 2,700 employees and 2,700 executives in 27 countries, found that analytics, cloud, mobile and social media were top areas of professional development and learning. While there is no doubt that imparting these skills is crucial in order to retain employees as well as customers, there are some other areas that merit equal, if not greater, attention. One of these is the art of problem finding.

Is that a real competency? Our educational and professional training has conditioned us to get problems out of the way as quickly as possible. So our standard response is to jump into a solution, often the first one that comes along, and progressively hone it to the best of our ability. Traditional organizations have built their businesses on this principle of solution ownership. Now innovative, nimble upstarts are coming out of nowhere, and they are doing exactly the opposite - they are owning the problem by working at the problem end of things, identifying problems that aren't yet recognized and delving deeper into those that are. Once they've nailed the problem, they go about finding an often breakthrough solution. Think autonomous cars, which are not only offering themselves as a means of transportation, but also as a way to solve traffic congestion in cities like New York by reducing the total number of taxis on the road, over time.

An enterprise that invests in training its employees to look for problems stands to gain on several fronts. It would be in a better position to solve problems satisfactorily, and thereby meet client needs (a significant issue reported by the survey cited at the beginning of this post). It would also improve talent sustainability by building a pool of versatile problem solvers who could slip into any current or future role with ease.

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