Multi-skilled employees keep organisations going!

Companies need people who could adapt quickly, think on their feet and competently perform duties often beyond their JDs.

 

 

( Dr. Poornima Gupta for people matters ) The word “disruptive” has become very commonplace these days. As time goes by, jobs that are known today will disappear tomorrow. We are witness to drastic changes in jobs and careers compared to 20 years ago. Earlier, working in a company for 15-20 years was the norm. Now, companies offer loyalty bonus to those who complete five years. In IT companies, loyalty bonuses are common and paid every year after the first 2 years. More jobs are likely to disappear in the next decade.

 

As seen during the recession, employee specialists became an endangered species. Firms needed generalists who could adapt quickly, think on their feet and competently perform duties often beyond their job description. Successful businesses were those that evolved rapidly and effectively. As companies face the constant challenge of cutting costs, focusing on what they are good at, countering competition from newer players, outsourcing all non-value adding activities, they will look at the employee costs that they will have to ultimately curtail. They will commit to employ only those people who have skills without which they cannot survive, or who have ability to don multiple hats.

 

The old saying jack-of-all-trade workers remain crucial to companies for their ability to handle multiple assignments. And adaptability and versatility is emerging as a key quality that recruiters say they consider when filling vacancies these days. Adaptability is thinking on your feet. It’s more about being thrown unexpected turns and instead of just reacting, you look at the opportunity, see it and deal with it. People who can work under pressure, take on new tasks and can be okay out of their comfort zones, these are the ones companies need now.

 

The trouble is, conventional recruiting tools such as résumés, background checks and interviews won’t reveal if job candidates possess such traits. Personality tests and talent assessment tests become better indicators. The tests do not tell you whether to select or not, but they tell you the characteristics of the individual and the environment where they will do well. The traits like ability to deal well with pressure, talking about the excitement of change in their work and willingness to learn new things are the ones to look out for. If the candidate had left previous job because of uncertainty at work, is not one willing to adapt well to change.

 

Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra have a policy of job rotation with the specific intention of equipping their employees with multiple skills to handle leadership positions. In Maruti, a supply chain manager can be in charge of marketing or production engineer head of R&D. They give ample opportunities for their managers to study further and work on  cross-functional  projects enabling them with the skills to manage the organization for the future. This requires the employees to be willing to learn new things.

 

Another reason for hiring multi-skilled employees is that these employees make for highly motivated and engaged workers. Research has shown that because they are versatile, they are always on the lookout for new dimensions in their own work, which prevents it from becoming monotonous. They can be fit wherever there are opportunities in the organization keeping them from being looking outside the company. Thus it results in greater retention.

 

Wipro Technologies and Infosys, the leading IT companies in the country, train their employees to turn into a multi-skilled workforce. They believe that when people are multi-skilled, they will likely need fewer people. This increases the hiring efficiency as well as reduces the attrition as workers tend to stay because they are given a variety of jobs to do and can see the growth potential in their jobs. Thus, today in the era of turbulence, what matters is not what you are good at, but what you can be good at in the future.

 

( About the author : Dr. Poornima Gupta is Associate Professor in the field of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at Great Lakes Institute of Management in Gurgaon ) 

 

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