Keeping the Capability Gap in Check

Capability building may be a term you have not encountered yet, so perhaps a short definition will help to set the scene: to quote Norm Smallwood and Dave Ulrich in the Harvard Business Review[1] it is

“These capabilities—the collective skills, abilities, and expertise of an organization—are the outcome of investments in staffing, training, compensation, communication, and other human resources areas. They represent the ways that people and resources are brought together to accomplish work. They form the identity and personality of the organization by defining what it is good at doing and, in the end, what it is. “

In other words, it is an umbrella term for such time proven concepts as career planning, talent management and life long learning, but in actual fact it goes much further. It also embraces such personal aspects as engagement and responsibility, as well as the whole question of incentives, methods and long term viability. When expressed in these terms, it rapidly becomes clear that capability building is a very complex concept with the potential to bring huge benefits to companies, as long as HR professionals are able to rise to the challenge and coordinate the implementation of such a farreaching operational framework. The speed of change today has made it all the more necessary: we can only survive and remain competitive – both at individual and corporate level – if we embrace this concept of agile learning.

Nowadays everyone is familiar with the theory of talent management and career planning, these serve both to create a relationship of loyalty and well-being between an employer and staff: if an employee believes that his/her employer is interested in furthering their career by investing in considered training schemes, (s)he may be less likely to leave the company. Similarly, by involving employees in the planning of their careers an employer can ensure that HR planning is aligned to what employees want and strive for, once again increasing their likelihood of staying with the company. It costs a vast amount to recruit new staff and in this age of talent scarcity, it makes far more sense to invest in your tried and tested employees than to risk them becoming dissatisfied with a non-starter approach to their careers. By carefully coordinating your talent management programme you not only nuture your top managers of the future, but you also integrate them in an internal network where they can be mentored by existing members and encouraged to achieve their true potential. There is little worse for a high-potential employee than to feel that their attemps at improvements are being frustrated, they will either resign themselves to the situation or literally resign, depriving the company of the ideas it so desperately needs.

In this context it is worth mentioning incentives; monetary gestures are always welcome, but will fall flat if there is no personal recognition of achievement and engagement. There are very few committed employees, who are happy to work creatively on a longterm basis with no positive feedback, we all need recognition and reassurance that our input is on track and well-received. This long term motivational incentive can work at both individual and team level and should go hand in hand with internal communication and the celebration of project milestones and other internal success stories, whereas a monetary incentive may only have a short term (extrinsic) effect. It should and must constitute an integral part of all corporate capability building strategies and will be rewarded with high level productivity and quality levels.

Learning methods will inevitably vary considerably from company to company depending on their training culture and requirements. A wide palette of access to information ranging from webinars to books and physical training sessions should be complemented by privileged access to specific network support in the case of top talents and to communities of practice aimed at professionals of all levels. If a culture of knowledge capitalization and sharing can be installed, everyone will benefit. All employees need to understand what their individual contribution to the company is/can be – with encouragement they will become more curious and thus innovative: a dream team for any CEO!

Similarly, it is vital to become familiar with a wide variety of creative skills such as Design Thinking, co-creation and other innovative methods. The future of every company depends on its staff being continually prepared to “reinvent” the company to maintain its relevance and market attractiveness – many a company has rested on its laurels, only to be rudely awakened as the competition moves in to assert itself on the marketplace with a new poduct or service. It is too late to say: why didn’t we think of that? This creativity can create a cutting edge advantage, but it must always constitute one more step on the ladder to progress and change.

Work together with your HR professionals to assess the current situation; have annual appraisals and/or the challenge of digitalization shown there is a capability gap? What has been undertaken so far to remedy the solution? Anticipation is better than cure: your manangers need to work together with their teams to assess current competency levels compared with probable future demands, the resulting outcome will serve not only to reassure your employees that you have every interest in keeping them on board, but also show that you are preparing to meet future challenges: a robust and reassuring approach. Provide everyone with feedback and details of their personal objectives and deadlines together with a follow up framework to check progress and celebrate successes, for example when a staff member achieves a particular certification.

By installing such an interactive and intuitive approach, you should automatically create a more agile learning culture, which in turn will be better equipped to react to market changes and turbulences. As digitalisation speeds up the working world, companies will need more people who can assume responsibility and cocreate new products and services more quickly than was previously thought possible to anticipate new customer requirements – perhaps even before the customer was even aware of them him/herself! As the corporate strategy is fine tuned to take in market changes, so the capability building plan can also be adapted and objectives realigned.

Communities of Practice[2] can provide considerable professional support for employees working on similar tasks in different departments, company branches and even in different countries: why not set up a virtual community to share knowledge, best practices and training openings? If your company has an Intranet platform, then create a dedicated space for encouraging knowledge sharing and to celebrate training achievements. Similarly if your company already has a CSR strategy, check to see if this approach can be integrated, as it surely is a means of ensuring the longterm viability of your company.

Nowadays more than ever before, you cannot expect a once acquired training certificate to serve you for your entire professional career. Life long learning means just that: everyone needs to acquire new competencies and adapt to new market demands as part of an ongoing strategy, which also explains why online training is becoming more and more popular. Stay informed to stay ahead of the competition! eLearning offers flexibility of access and above all of content, which traditional schools with fixed curricula and training schedules cannot hope to replicate. The sooner all managers and staff accept that investment in training and competencies constitutes a win-win expenditure with immesurable ROI for everyone involved, the easier it will be to keep the capability gap in check.

[1] Capitalising on Capabilities published June 2004

[2] Communities of Practice (CoP) is defined as an organized group of professional people who share the same interests in resolving an issue, improving skills, and learning from each other’s experiences. Luis Goncalves Cornerstone Content 14.11.2019