In our present uncertain environment, it is becoming increasingly important to build our ‘transferable skills’ for our future employability, adaptability and occupational mobility. The amount of economic restructuring presently underway will require a far more flexible workforce in the future that needs to have a wide range of transferable skills. Knowing what and where it will be is valued is becoming important for all of us to understand.
Released in late September 2011 there has been a timely report for the European Commission as part of the Social agenda for modernising Europe entitled “Transferability of Skills across Economic Sectors”, ISBN 978-92-79-20946-8, doi:10.2767/40404 © European Union, 2011 found in the DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion section under this link: http://bit.ly/sDt14p. I think this helps build a better understanding of the different skills required and especially for me, a better structure for softer skill definitions
The background to this report is the increasing concerns within the EU as to how to improve its competitiveness and redirect the European economy towards higher added value to generate new and better jobs. This increasingly relies upon a more strategic management of human resources.
For me innovation will be a leading driver of this job and growth generation so in obtaining a deeper understanding of the present thinking in this area of skills is important one to my work on building future capabilities and capacity for innovation for my present and future clients.
The part people play and the skill set they will need are crucial for innovation’s health. Clearly we are facing continual adaptation and the consistent search for adding value, not just to what we sell but also to what we have available in resources to exploit it. This report helps in reinforcing where skills fit, front and centre, to any future growth and job creation.
Establishing a skills taxonomy
There is a lack of consistent theory for defining and classifying various skills, and there is no generally accepted skills taxonomy. The project team thus decided to distinguish three categories of skills on the basis of previous analysis: 1)soft skills; 2) generic hard skills; 3)specific hard skills.
Specific hard skills are characterised by their lower level of transferability, whereas soft skills and generic hard skills are skills with high transferability across sectors and occupations and can be identified as transversal skills.
The focus here on those more transferable skills that support innovation activity.
Transversal skills that range from problem solving to interpersonal skills are considered as important for innovation. Having these skills, which can be transferred from one context to another, is a good basis for accumulation of specific skills required by a given job expected in managing a robust innovation pipeline and portfolio to deliver new growth opportunities.
Within the report I find it is interesting that they have identified 22 soft skills within 5 clusters
Cluster one: Personal effectiveness skills:
Self-control and stress resistance; Self-confidence; Flexibility; Creativity; Lifelong learning. These skills reflect some aspects of an individual’s maturity in relation to himself/herself, to others and to work. They are related to performance of an individual when dealing with environmental pressures and difficulties.
Cluster two: Relationship and service skills:
Interpersonal understanding; Customer orientation; Cooperation with others; Communication. These skills enable people to understand the needs of others and to cooperate with them. Communication skills are linked to all clusters and they are included in this one because of their important role in relationship building and communication with others.
Cluster three: Impact and influence skills:
Impact/Influence; Organisational awareness; Leadership; Development of others. Skills in this cluster reflect an individual’s influence on others. Managerial competencies are a special subset of this cluster.
Cluster four: Achievement skills:
Achievement orientation, efficiency; Concern for order, quality, accuracy; Initiative, proactive approach; Problem solving; Planning and organisation; Information exploring and managing; Autonomy. The essence of this cluster is a tendency towards action, directed more at task accomplishments than impact on other people.
Cluster five: Cognitive skills:
Analytical thinking; Conceptual thinking. These two skills reflect an individual’s cognitive processes – how a person thinks, analyses, reasons, plans, thinks critically, identifies problems and situations and formulates explanations, hypotheses or concepts.
Although all skills, to some degree, can be transferred across jobs but it is these ‘softer’ skills, the transversal ones are seemingly valued as having a more important impact on success in life and certainly for working within and across innovation activities.
Distinguishing between hard and soft skills is important to recognize.
We all understand, sometimes frustratingly so, that Employers tend to distinguish the hard skills such as job-specific skills closely connected with knowledge as they are far more easily observed and/or measured and can be specifically trained. Having these ‘hard skills’ can be overly rewarded due to this ability to measure more easily and then reinforced, often to the determent of innovation that needs a healthy mix of all skills. Today thankfully there is a push that we do recognize and require more of a better mix of T-shaped occupational skills profiles.
Whereas soft skills such as non-job specific skills which are more closely connected with attitudes and necessary for innovation, that ‘can do’ aspect are far more intangible, and difficult to quantify and develop. Recognition and assessment of transversal skills in new hires is also more difficult also and getting to understand these softer skills and within this report they lay out a suggested roadmap to build this more into the educational system and should be supported by specific systems, methods and tools.
Soft skills are critical to innovation
We do need to manage and know what different skills do impact innovation activity; I think this report helps in this. It certainly provides a clearer structure for my work in supporting organizations ability to build up their innovation capabilities and competencies.
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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.