I have to admit I am a bit of a mark or an easy target for many things. Innovations in fast food, (have you seen the Cheesy Bites Pizza yet?), the great Hubie Brown on NBA color commentary, and big, flashy research studies that are packaged well, served up in easy to digest servings, and hopefully, lend some insight or at least perspective that can help to better understand what is going on in the world. And if you have not been turned on to them yet, the series of C suite studies from IBM consistently provide the broad view and mindset of what C suites executive from organizations from all over the world are thinking when it comes to competition, technology, strategy, and very often talent.
The most recently released study analysis report titled, ‘Leading Through Connections: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study’, while not fully about internal talent management or strategy, does offer up some clues for talent professionals, specifically around what types of people or traits within them that organizations should continue to pursue, (and surely, develop). Specifically in the research, global CEO’s were asked to name the most important personal characteristics critical for employees’ future success. The CEO’s top responses? Collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible.
So what you might be thinking, everyone knows that people that possess these traits are likely to succeed, and in fact, this is nothing new. It probably has always been true. But what is new, or at least intriguing about what the CEOs are looking for is what they seem to be less interested in or at least not as much as collaboration and flexibility – namely specific or ‘hard’ technical skills and aptitude. Certainly these skills are still important, but to the CEO, who has to think about (hopefully), more than just today, this week, this month, future proofing the company means finding people with future proof potential.
The IBM report authors offer the following to describe this approach in CEO thinking about talent:
However, we believe there’s another driver behind the high ranking of this particular group of traits. For years, organizations have been embroiled in the so-called war for talent. The challenge has historically been a shortage of particular skills. But today, it’s virtually impossible for CEOs to find the future skills they will need — because they don’t yet exist. Bombarded by change, most organizations simply cannot envision the functional capabilities needed two or three years from now. Instead, CEOs are increasingly focused on finding employees with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves.
Drink that one in again, particularly this line – most organizations simply cannot envision the functional capabilities needed two or three years from now.
If that is indeed true, and if we were really being honest with ourselves we’d probably admit it is at least mostly true, then that admission should have implications reaching into every aspect of our talent management processes. Talent acquisition certainly, would have to find a way to de-emphasize the weighting of specific and precise skills sets and presumed, (and often way too lengthy), years of experience requirements, and look more broadly at candidate’s histories to look for clues around these four more desirable, more durable personal characteristics. Sure, hitting the target with a candidate with 10 years prior experience doing exactly the same job using the same kinds of skills and technologies that you need today to fill your open role looks like a home run. And it is a home run. But just like in baseball, in business there is another game tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. And we all know the game is changing more rapidly than ever before.
Hiring managers want you to find today’s skills and fill jobs and help them make sure the widgets get shipped on time next week.
CEOs want you to find people that can do more.
So what game are you playing?