Are Your People Becoming Obsolete?

One of the dangers to both employees and companies these days, particularly in small to medium-size companies, is that there tends to be insufficient emphasis on continuous learning. The manager or production supervisor or engineer or even IT person are hard at work year after year solving problems and making improvements inside their company. Yet, unless there is a concerted effort to keep up with advancements outside of the company, they are putting themselves, and the company, in jeopardy.

When the company suddenly needs to change because of market disruption, technological innovation, or the like, those people who have been so valuable in the past can become obstacles to needed change. By then it’s usually too late to catch-up as people with the needed new skills are brought in to take the company to the next level.
I’ve seen this happen far too many times.

While it’s true that individuals need to make sure they are keeping their skills up to date, companies also need to be responsible to ensure that external trends are monitored and knowledge and skills are continually updated.

Ask yourselves these kinds of questions:

  • What trends do we see in our markets, our technologies, and the overall economy that could be indicators of change?
  • What one big change would make our business obsolete?
  • Are our people regularly bringing in new ideas from the outside?

When technical skills are insufficient

A Wall Street Journal article last week caught my attention.  It cited both surveys and industry discussion groups that have identified “soft skills” as a significant part of the current skills gap that make it difficult for employers to find qualified applicants for jobs.  While science, technology, engineering and math skills are important, it is frequently the soft skills that that are scarce – such as interpersonal skills, enthusiasm/motivation, the ability to pass a drug test, to show up every day on time, simple grammar and spelling, and an elementary command of the English language.  Business and technical schools largely ignore these fundamentals.