Building a capability pipeline.

This week I joined Roads Australia’s Capacity and Skills Workshop. Over 35 companies came together to rethink how the industry can close the skilled resource gap in order to meet the community’s future infrastructure needs.

This holistic collaborative approach appears to be an emerging trend that contrasts with traditional competition for skills resources. Instead of competing to attract or retain highly skilled people with big salary packages, industries are looking to collaborate to create a sustainable pipeline of talent for the future.

Here are some of the ideas that were shared during this workshop and across other forums, together with my thoughts: 

  1. Skills / Capacity Planning Maturity. Some organisations are only just turning their attention to the challenge of meeting their long term capability and capacity demands. Others are far more mature in their thinking. Linking in to other sectors could help provide valuable insights into how other sectors are thinking about solving this challenge.

  2. Influencing Policy. Do you have a voice influencing the policies that will impact your industry? For example, government policies that will affect variability in demand? Smoothing ebbs and flows that come with cyclical investments simplifies workforce forecasting.

  3. Innovation in procurement. Looking beyond the standard recruitment approach for filling needs as they arise can strengthen your ability to scale together with demand. Whether it’s catastrophic weather events hitting the insurance industry, or winning a major construction bid, there’s often a need to get more resources quickly. Sometimes these needs are temporary.

    Thinking differently about where these resources come from, the core skills required, and how you can upskill these resources, may be able to open up your responsiveness considerably. Digital platforms like Expert360 or Freelancer are emerging to support individuals to connect with industry – but there’s room for more cross sector skills matching. What innovations in digital platforms and cross sector collaboration have you seen in this space?

  4. Break down barriers to skills transferability and mobility. There are several methodologies for assessing capability. Most of these are based around identifying job families, functions, sub functions and roles. While this might work well when resourcing a ship for the navy, with fixed roles that are well determined, I don’t believe it’s sufficiently robust for the rapidly changing future we’re facing up to.

    We need to speed up the process of recognising the core skills we really need, and then closing the gap. Breaking capabilities down to critical thinking attributes, leadership capabilities and technical skills could rapidly build out the population of potential future employees for your business, with a much more targeted set of shorter training solutions to close the gaps.

    Even with certificate bridging initiatives to update qualifications, there is still yet another key gap to help people make the move across industries. They need to see the possible career pathways to recognise the transferability of their skills. There is a whole body of work that could be done here to help people see the links. Have you seen a good online tool to support this?

    Essential to increasing mobility, is the removal of barriers to entry. For example, we heard today that bias towards experience within the same Australian state means that we limit our ability to hire talent interstate, and completely miss the opportunity to hire talent from overseas. Other barriers to entry can be removed by enabling remote working, part-time hours, and non-traditional variations to work formats.

  5. Promoting the sector. Every company needs to compete for the attention of young people entering the market, as well as mature and experienced people open to new opportunities. Is your sector on the radar? Is there sufficient awareness of your sector opportunities from school leavers?

    The shortage of women in STEM subjects is still creating challenges for organisations trying to attract women into technology, engineering and other arenas. There are a number of start ups that are trying to address this challenge. For example, Robogals and STELR are aiming to increase the number of women entering into STEM. Are you hooked in to these sorts of organisations to inspire or source your talent?

  6. Attractiveness of the sector. Is your sector attractive to the talent you are looking to acquire? Are long term career pathways visible? Are you in a future oriented industry? If you are in an industry that lacks diversity, how will you overcome the unconscious and conscious biases, the cultural norms and other challenges that may create perceived barriers? It’s important to reflect on the real and perceived barriers that may inhibit interest in your sector. 

    Purpose Led organisations may be more attractive than ever. When promoting your sector or advertising roles, consider including commentary on the positive social, environmental or community impacts. Tell the story about what you do and why you do it. You don’t just build roads, you connect remote communities with essential services, like hospitals. 

  7. Role Design.  Are your skilled resources spending more than 20% of their time on administration?  Performing a quick assessment of “what you have on your plate” – a chart of time spent on activities – can go a long way in indicating whether a resource is being utilised to the best of their strengths. For example, the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India, ramped up average eye operations per doctor from 250 to 2000 by removing the administrative components from the doctor’s roles. This resulted in greater access to care at a lower cost to deliver and made the most out of skilled resources.

Importantly, more and more of these collaboration forums are emerging. If you aren’t participating in cross-industry or cross-sector collaboration to consider how overall capability and capacity needs will be met – it’s definitely one to check out.