Those in charge of training and development are facing a double challenge: prepare new people for familiar tasks and prepare familiar people for new tasks. Times like now clearly put the onus on the second challenge. The deeply intense transformation we are experiencing renders competencies profiles out of date when only a few years ago they were highly desirable. In contrast, capabilities which in the past turned out to be irrelevant or marginally useful now emerge as critical elements for good professional performance. Managers and professionals who have managed to weather the recession do not necessarily guarantee success during times of growth. It is not the same to manage wealth and expansion as shortages and cuts. It does not make sense to facilitate great changes in the economic and business environment, while intending to continue to think and work just as in the past.
Changes at the macro level translate instantly to the individual level. In the past, the concern of a professional was to “find the right job for me”. Nowadays probably the job for me does not exist: perhaps the activity which I devoted myself to has drastically reduced the demand for professionals trained for this task. The current concern is to “find the right me for the job”. So the objective is how to redefine one’s own professional profile to adapt it to a different scenario.
Companies generally discontinued some time ago the labour adjustment processes due to the contraction in business activity across many sectors. For several months now, the most pressing question is not how many employees we need under these new circumstances, but rather what kind of professionals does the business scenario we are facing need. The objectives switch from being merely quantitative to become qualitative targets.
The organizations best adapted to these new circumstances sustain highly efficient activity in terms of costs, but intelligently focus their actions towards developing people in critical skills for the times we live in.
The problem is that we do not know exactly what this new business environment in which we develop our activity will be like over the next few years. Quite clearly it will not be anything like what we experienced in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
This uncertainty is both a great obstacle and a fascinating challenge at the same time. Training and development departments are firm on renewing their value proposition to the internal customer so that these perceive effective and innovative support in this new scenario. It is not enough to just meet the more immediate needs; it is essential to anticipate what sort of manager profile our organizations will want in the future. It is true that the portrait of the efficient manager evolves over time, but it is likewise true that such changes are accelerated in the times we live in.
In the face of this challenge, the most attentive observers propose what we might call “the emerging competencies”. There is no consensus, nor can there be. At the end of the day, each organization is the one who has to tailor their suit, but I find it very exciting that we are personally entering a crisis, reviewing our beliefs on what converts a capable person into an excellent professional. In the same way as the business models are transforming, people who will develop them are also different from those who managed our organizations in the past.