‘New Year’s’ resolutions No.4: Getting the most out of people

The New Year / back to school theme is wearing a little thin now, so let's finish this series with some thoughts about people.

If you manage staff, how well do you understand their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses?  Is development of the annual training plan just a case of looking through a few websites and saying  "that negotiation course looks pretty good"?

There is an alternative.  I've become a firm believer over the last few years in structured capability assessment.  I don't consider myself a real expert in this area so this is not personal sales pitch; but it does seem that 'our staff are our greatest asset' is both a cliche and a truism.  But if you don't understand what they know and don't know, what they can or can't do, then how can you best utilise that asset?

You can also use structured capability assessment in both recruitment processes and in situations where staff numbers need to be reduced.  Whilst the latter is rarely a happy situation, using a structured process can be a better option for both organisation and people than relying on voluntary redundancies, arbitrary cuts, last in first out or other methods.

Capability can cover of course both 'hard' and 'soft' skills. We've seen a realisation over the last few years that the 'soft' skills (persuasion, influencing, initiative) can be just as important as the more traditional areas such as contract law, or knowledge of formal tendering processes.  I agree, but would introduce a note of caution.  I've seen organisations recently getting heavily into soft skills, which is great - but it then becomes clear their people don't actually know how to run a decent structured tender / evaluation process.  So a balance is appropriate, and capability assessment can certainly help you understand where you're starting from.

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Voices (2)

  1. Drew1166:

    Peter, a timely reminder that balance is important, and that soft skills alone are insufficient.

    I suspect that this is something that will come increasingly into focus; the immediate past, in the public sector at least, has resulted in a bias to the soft skills that the current climate will have to rectify.

  2. Nigel:

    You rightly point out that soft skills are important, but ultimately the job needs to be done right – especially with tendering which can be a legal minefield. In the past we used a procurement service for our negotiations and learned the process / skills from them which turned out to be more cost effective than sending staff on expensive courses which often provided more questions than answers!

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