Ops 4.0—The Human Factor: It takes two to build capabilities

New technologies have already changed the world of work, and there’s much more disruption to come. Digital tools have transformed the way we communicate, solve problems, and execute tasks. Now artificial intelligence is playing a role in a rapidly expanding range of tasks and activities.

That shift has profound implications for workers, and for the companies that employ them. Building the workforce of the future will require a different type of collaboration between the individual and the organization, with each side playing its part.

The individual

As an individual, you must own your development, striving for personal growth and the acquisition of new skills and capabilities. In the learning and development world, we call that the “growth mindset.”

The growth mindset is all about pull: setting personal development goals and sticking to them, seeking information and resources, and asking for help. The most effective people recognize that their skills and expertise are the critical factors that help them do better work, support their colleagues, and delight their customers.

The catalyst for all that is stepping back and defining a personal growth plan. Reflect on your current work and the feedback you receive. Understand the future priorities of your organization and the evolution of your industry. Think about the skills that would improve your performance today, and those will meet the needs of the future. Use those insights to build your personal T-shaped skills profile, with the right breadth of general skills and depth of specific expertise.

When you know what you want, you can set out to get it. Sign up for learning experiences and find the resources that will help you when you need them. Talk to your team and your managers about your learning goals.

The organization

Encouraging individuals to take ownership of their development doesn’t let the organization off the hook. Quite the opposite. Our colleagues at the McKinsey Global Institute have found that companies are consistent in their financial performance, and more resilient in a crisis, when they focus on both business performance and people development.

A workforce with a growth mindset will only thrive if their organization offers a nurturing environment and a culture of development. Organizations need to make sure they meet demand for personal development with the right mix of off-the-job and—most important—on-the-job learning resources. They will want to think about the employee experience: ensuring they offer support for their employees at critical moments, just as they do for their customers. They also need to foster an environment in which people feel that it is safe for them to learn and grow.

That’s very different from traditional personnel development in many organizations, which often involves pushing training courses to reluctant recipients who struggle to see their relevance. Instead, companies must adopt a personalized learning mindset, tailoring their offerings to the needs of each individual.

That approach involves more work for organizations—but it is important work. Companies need the right talent and skills in their operations to create the products and services for which their customers are willing to pay. The long-term success of a business depends upon its ability to continually match the skills it has with those that it needs.

Once individuals take more responsibility for the pace and direction of their own development, skills matching will inevitably become even more important. Companies will need to understand how the organization’s current talent profile aligns with its operations and business strategy, identifying the gaps. Leaders must optimize their talent acquisition and recruitment processes to target people with the right skills and aptitudes. They must match existing and new skills to internal roles. They must offer the right mix of learning and development experiences, both off and on the job. And finally, they must provide a good range of in-the-moment-of-need learning resources and standard operating procedures.

There’s ongoing debate about whether organizations should push learning and development opportunities onto their people, or expect individuals to pull. In reality, it is a joint responsibility. It takes mutual understanding and deliberate collaboration for personal and organizational development to succeed.

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