Whose job is it to keep staff skills modern?
Personal Responsibility or the Boss’ Job?
I’ve been working recently with some still-successful businesses where the business models had tired somewhat. There is no doubt that business leaders are responsible for keeping the corporate mission modern and relevant. If leaders allow a state of complacency and comfort to develop in an organisation, and this continues for an extended period of time, then the company will start to fade. To this extent – it’s the leaders’ job to stay modern.
But what of the staff working in these organisations? I was struck at how quickly individuals also accepted the status-quo, how personal skills became out of date and how little drive there was to maintain one’s own capabilities. I’m not saying it’s the staff members’ responsibility to drive corporate change. At a more simplistic level, staff members didn’t maintain basic computer skills, undertook no personal learning and had no curiosity about how the business environment around them is evolving and changing.
New Computer: In one example, a new computer system that I helped implement was particularly painful for staff to adopt because underlying basic skills were not in place. Even in their private lives, staff didn’t own PCs or tablets and didn’t use the internet, FaceBook or other social media.
There was definitely a generational issue at play. Older staff members were significantly less interested in the “inter-web” and stuff.
In the case of a new computer system, or organisational change, it is generally held that it’s the company’s job to modernise the skill levels of the staff. Training material, classes and on-the-job support need to be offered by the Employer. Experience in Workplace Relations – including employment law – all lead to conclusions that the Employer is almost always held to be solely responsible for the provision of training in anything new, and in the absence of such training, it would be unfair for an employer to expect more from employees. Is this right?
No Retirement Age: What’s brought all this to mind was an article in recent weeks which highlighted a proposed change in the law to do away with any contracted/mandatory retirement age. Everyone should have the right to work for as long as they feel capable of doing the job.
But there has to be a corollary of this argument? If employees expect to stay in the workplace for extended lengths of time, can the Employer have a reasonable expectation that the individual will stay modern? The Employment Contract is a contract of Service – this aspect of the employment dynamic is often missed – in return for pay; Employees present themselves to Employers as people willing and “capable” of doing the prescribed work.
Should “capability” include staying abreast of, and mastering wider societal capabilities? Should capability include people developing their own set of skills without being requested to do so by the boss? I’m always struck by the fact that if the position was filled by a new staff member, the replacement would likely arrive with the latest capabilities (if not more) for the role.
If employment is to continue over many years, and society and business evolves, is the skill-set that presented on that original first day of work all that an Employer can rely on?
Ultimately, Darwin’s theory of evolution applies – those most adaptable to change will survive. If we’re to have a society where change is constant and rapid, everyone surely must do their bit?
Written by: Winabu
Date: November 3, 2015