Developing Your Organization’s Core Skills

The task of organizational core skill development is a critical component of overall organization strategy and is necessary prior to calculating a comprehensive workforce planning initiative where an inventory is performed regarding current employees and their associated skills, compared to future employee headcount needs and predicted skill requirements. This activity links organizational performance with people performance and is one of the reasons HR must operate within a strategic context.

One of the weaknesses exhibited by Human Resource practitioners is a severe disconnect in linking people performance with business execution and an inability to understand “what is our business”.

All too often, HR tends to concentrate on the day-to-day tactical and operational fundamentals, ignoring their strategic responsibilities, beginning with a lack of an acute business acumen.

As an example, when teaching HR programs at the MBA level and providing pre-examination training for HR professional certification, I am amazed how many participants cannot provide a coherent explanation of what products their organization manufactures, what kind of raw materials they purchase, where they buy them from, how their operational process works, who their customers are, where they market their products, who their major competitors are, and, what core competencies their organization possesses in contrast to those of their business rivals. In short, understanding the simple value chain of the organization as inputs (suppliers), throughputs (process) and outputs (customers), enables HR to better provide services that target core skills needed for organizational development programs.

Strategic HR partners understand the necessity of identifying their company’s “core competencies” which are simply “what do we do best.”

This can be started with a simple SWOT analysis and accentuates the organization’s strengths, which are its core skills. Many organizations use this process to rank what they do well, and what they don’t do well.

Rather than spend resources on improving what they don’t do well, they outsource such functions and re-invest in what they do the best. This is the strategic approach to core skill development and maintaining competitive advantage over business rivals.

The Organizational Development and Training and Development arms of HR can effectively use this information at the strategic level to plan skill development at the operational level.

A simple model of this process is a hospital. The hospital’s core competencies may be its surgical staff, nursing staff, laboratory technicians, trauma center, etc. The hospital’s least efficient and productive groups may be identified as food preparation and janitorial staff. Rather than devoting valuable resources to improving what it does ineffectively, the hospital outsources those functions to specialized vendors, and concentrates its limited resources improving what it does well, making those functions even stronger, and reinforcing its competitive advantage over rival hospitals.

This is the essence of core skill development.

Additionally, for HR to be a true strategic partner requires a basic comprehension of the core functional roles of the organization, and developing a collaboration with those departments.

In many organizations, these core roles may include Accounting/Finance, Marketing and Sales, Operations, Information Technology, Research and Development, and, of course, Human Resources. This intimate collaboration results in a macro-view of the organization, identifying its strengths, it weaknesses, its core competencies, and its competitive advantages.

Once these factors are known, HR can become a more valued business partner by operating within a framework toward common organizational goals of continuous improvement and sustainability.

This will translate into the micro-view of departmental needs and performance, resulting in more effective, efficient, and successful critical operations such as recruitment, training, and the development and improvement of core skills and people strengths that create a powerful resource within the organization, thereby reinforcing established business capabilities, competitive advantage and ultimately, business success.

In summary, HR must learn to operate within evolving strategic, operational and administrative roles in order to best serve their company needs and promote relevant training and development of the required core skills of their workforce that will translate into the organizational core strengths and resources necessary to compete in both domestic and global economies.

A thorough understanding of business operations and a collaboration within the framework of the core functional departments will position HR as an effective strategic partner and establish their credibility as a valued contributor to organizational success.

Allan Gardner, PHR, HRMP, MHRM has over 35 years of experience in the Human Resources field. Currently, he is an expert Human Resource Trainer throughout the EMEA region and also teaches HR and Strategic Management programs for MBA students at the UAE campuses of Chifley Business School Australia.

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