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The skills and attributes employers look for and those they really need

“Professional success used to depend on experience, knowledge, and skill. But things have changed in recent decades…experience and knowledge are less relevant, while the abilities to learn and adapt, to be resilient and to connect with others are ever more crucial”.  This article by Claudio Fernández-Aáoz entitled ”Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumés” published in the Harvard Business Review and the subsequent comments about it really resonate with me.

We’re living through a transitionary period where linear employees, i.e. those who have worked for one company or are serial monogamist employees still enjoy a privileged position in small and large organisations. Some people would say of course that’s the way it should be. I agree that people are and should be the lifeblood of organisations. However, I think employers should be demanding different things from employees or rather employees need to be offering something different.

Anecdotally I see very few employees who have made the transition to seeing themselves as a product that needs to be marketed and kept up to date. Whereas I see many self employed people who’ve been forced out of need to make this transition; if they don’t manage themselves as a product they can’t sell themselves and if they can’t sell themselves they can’t work.

The tools and activities I’m talking about are:

- managing personal development rather than doing the minimum for compliance and employer requirements
- using social media (producing and not just consuming)
- networking.

What these tools offer on an everyday basis is a constant dialectic; nothing can be taken for granted, ideas can be generated, challenged and progressed.

There seems to be a big difference between individuals who have gone down the self employed route who are consistently taking these tools and activities on board and employees who still don’t see the urgent need to use them. Loyalty, tenure and in-house knowledge are still the dominant characteristics being rewarded by employers over adaptability and the ability to independently and pro-actively learn new skills.

To compete globally and be more agile, employers and employees will need to change but it will be a difficult and painful shift for those making it.

Employers need to make the shift from paternal controllers to facilitating employees’ creativity. Boards of Directors will need to direct a cultural shift and demand a change in management style to enable the changes to take place.  The necessary cultural shift can be seen within numerous organisations that are still nervous about allowing employees to produce social media content.

Employees need to make the shift from certainty of linear employment to managing themselves as a product.  Many employees are nervous about producing social media content on behalf of their employers unless they are experienced communicators.

The good news is that the changes should herald more creativity in organisations which is good for employers and employees alike.


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