Driving talent and leadership capability in 2021

Leadership Development Team

Whilst hope is on the horizon for an improved year, and potentially an end to COVID-19 restrictions, there are many uncertainties to grapple with. As leaders assess the damage – and in some cases – the opportunities of 2020, there’s a clear strategic priority for 2021: driving talent and leadership capability.

Recent research tells us that talent and leadership capability trumps workplace flexibility, wellbeing strategies and even diversity initiatives.  But what does this really mean for organisations? Where do you focus your efforts?

You need to start by being aware of how employees’ expectations have changed due to the pandemic, and ensure your workforce has the skills needed to navigate more uncertainty.  The way we see it, there are two key ways to do this:

  1. Building on employees’ critical skills – understanding skills gaps, and building on existing strengths, and;
  1. Organisational design and change management – overhaul traditional workplace practices, ensure a switch in focus from efficiency to workplace flexibility.

Let’s take a deeper look into each.

Building critical skills to drive talent and leadership capability

Talent and Leadership Development Team

In a recent Gartner report looking at the top HR priorities for 2021, some of the key findings that jumped out at us were that:

  • 68% of HR leaders say building critical skills and competencies as their key priority for 2021, however;
    • A third of HR leaders admitted that they weren’t aware of their employees’ skills gaps
    • 33% said that they didn’t ‘effectively integrate learning into their employee workflows’, and;
    • 31% said they couldn’t ‘meet employee skill needs quickly enough with development solutions’.

That means a lot of training budget spent on potentially the wrong things, or organisations relying on out of date assumptions about the relevance or effectiveness of their existing learning programmes. 

What organisations need is a fundamental shift in learning approach. 

This means taking a much more dynamic approach to reskilling, to identify skill needs quickly – and supporting employees to apply these skills on the job. The crucial thing here is to consider both current and future skill needs, and improve how skill needs are identified within teams.

It also means doing away with established practices like annual learning needs analysis or engagement surveys. These are no longer fit for purpose; they’re slow to offer insights and are too generic, so it’s difficult to action them in a meaningful and impactful way.

What are the alternatives?

“It’s critical to get employee input at every stage to align organisational priorities with individual employee needs”

Businesses need more flexible and agile tools and frameworks to assess the required skills and capabilities required for a role and how an individual fits with those. Utilising a just-in-time diagnostic and learning tools can dramatically cut down the lag between a need being identified and a solution being deployed.

We’ve developed a unique digital assessment and reporting tool, QPT, which gives leaders and teams access to quick, actionable insights into skills gaps, and helps you focus on the capabilities that matter most right now.

Make organisational design and change management a priority

Change Management Prioritisation

“Change is the perennial gap in organisations, not helped by learning approaches that fail to keep pace with shifts in organisational priorities.”

Let’s face it: leaders have their work cut out.

Employees are completely fatigued from all the change of 2020. Leaders may not be fully equipped to lead change. Businesses desperately need to overhaul traditional workplace practices. They need to ensure that their focus switches from efficiency to workplace flexibility.

“Employees thrive when given radical flexibility. More employees go above and beyond at work when organisations give them a choice over where, when and how much they work”. Source: Gartner

Yet real flexibility doesn’t stem from the HR policy – it starts with a clear view of business and workforce outcomes.

Co-creating a solid set of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) provides the platform for working out the activities that need to be done. Rather than thinking about whether a whole job can be done from home or not, breakdown the activities within it and work through how, where and when might be the best way to get each one done. 

“Encourage teams to experiment with different ways of working, and share that learning across the organisation”

Provide leaders and their teams with timely information and devolve decision making as much as possible to stay ahead of the change curve.  

Final thoughts

Leadership review talent and leadership capability

“HR leaders and businesses must consider adapting and developing roles and skills and ensure that workplace flexibility is embraced in order to truly drive talent and leadership capability in 2021.”

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we work. It has meant that many individuals require different skills to successfully carry out their job in the ‘new normal’. On top of these issues remain the continuing challenges of developing diverse leadership teams, adapting the employee lifecycle and focussing on the employee experience.

If 2020 was a crisis year, 2021 is the year to rebuild and adapt the workplace and embed new ways of working.

Turn insight into action

Now’s the time to support your Leaders with immediate tools at low cost. At My Leadership Strengths, we’re uniquely positioned to address the challenges with identifying skills gaps and managing change in these uncertain times.

Talent and Leadership Capability QPT

We’ve used our years of experience and research into the key behaviours that modern leaders need, to build our Quick Prioritisation Tool (QPT) – a digital self-assessment survey, which provides participants with a tailored leadership development report once completed. It enables participants to rate their own effectiveness and identify their development priorities. It can be used by any leader or aspiring leader to plan their development in their current role or prepare for a future role. The QPT report includes practical development content to drive on the job learning.

The reports have enabled the team to shape our organisational development programme for the remainder of the year“

NHS Federation Manager

Completing the QPT survey generates an instant personalised report that pinpoints strengths and development needs. With a free essentials version of the report available free for a limited time, why not get started on your development for free today?

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