Identifying Potential from Within

January 29, 2021 Aon's Assessment Solutions

The Times Special Report on the future of work featured an article that emphasized the need for organizations to ‘look within’ and unearth the potential of its current workforce rather than always looking externally to bring in new talent and skills.

This is a conversation we often have with our own clients – especially given the acceleration of the shift in business strategies and working practices towards a more digitized model. Many companies have been encouraged by the success of the changes made in the past 12 months and are now examining what skills are needed to take the business forward. This, in turn, informs their talent strategy.

With 1,400 participants, Aon’s own study, ‘The Future of Work is Now’, has shown this. While 30% already have a clear and consistent definition of their ‘future of work’, a further 55% are actively working on this. 83% say that it is very or extremely important to understand how current resources (including people resources) can be deployed flexibly. Preparing for new roles and skills is viewed as important by most: 70% agree that it is very or extremely important to plan for the roles and skills needed going forward. When asked about the importance of talent mobility to the building and maintaining of an agile workforce, 73% said it was very or extremely important.

83% Understanding how resources can be deployed flexibly is very or extremely important.
70% Planning for those skills needed in the future is very or extremely important.
73% Talent mobility is very or extremely important to build an agile workforce.

Given that organizations recognize the power of untapped potential and the imperative to take action, what can be done?

Understanding What is Needed in the Future

The rate of knowledge and skills becoming outdated is accelerating. A few years ago, the World Economic Forum talked of the half-life of skills as being five years. This means that five years from now, your workforce’s current skill set will be worth about half as much as it is today. With such dramatic changes in the skills needed, organizations need to focus less on developing specific skill sets and more on developing greater future-proofed and future-ready competencies.

The Aon Digital Readiness Model shows that the core foundational competencies of agility, curiosity and learnability are essential for future working in a more automated and digitized organization. If these are the essential skills, are organizations identifying those with these competencies now and developing them within their current workforce?

It seems that there is progress to be made. Only 24% of organizations are currently assessing individuals for agility and adaptability skills, despite 83% (in a previous survey) indicating that 83% see this as important for the future.

Empower Talent by Encouraging Career Ownership

The drive towards individual career ownership is not new. For years, there has been an increasing demand by employees to have access to the tools to help them explore, try out and plan different career paths. It takes the pressure away from the succession plan, the line manager and the L&D team to design a career plan to help retain and engage the strongest talent and transfer the responsibility to the individual.

However, they need access to useful career mapping tools, accurate assessments to help focus on their strengths and areas for growth and development interventions to extend their capability and competency. People need to proactively steer their own skills acquisition and development to improve their mobility and marketability. This is a move away from the talent team-led approach: it is more of a ‘delegation’ rather than ‘abdication’ of career progression responsibility.

Aon’s recent survey showed that over half of organizations are currently evaluating or updating career levelling and/or pathways in the context of improving future-of-work strategies and a further 58% are identifying future skills gaps.

Identify Future Leaders

This survey also showed that only 29% of HR leaders are assessing employees for new or changing leadership expectations. This is despite the very clear shift in what is needed as a leader going forward. You can read more about how the Aon Model of Digital Readiness applies to leaders, building on the competencies of drive to lead, championing collaboration, humility and empowerment.

You can read more about how to identify future leaders in our special white paper.

Realize that Employee Potential Changes

Employee potential will ebb and flow. As personal and professional circumstances change, so will an individual’s potential to progress to a different role or accommodate new skills. The key is to continue to engage with employees about what is right for them and the business. Regular check-ins, career conversations and talent reviews will support this. As Dan Lucy, principal research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies observes in The Times article: “Progression might not always be upwards, but there still needs to be a sense of development for employees. Transparency and support are essential to democratizing employee potential.”

We would add to that: employees need access to reliable information about their own skills and competencies and access to opportunities to best use these and develop new ones.

What Next?

You can read the full article from The Times report.

Contact us if you would like to explore how to rethink and develop your current employees’ potential.

About the Author

Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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