In this VUCA(volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, organisations face many challenges and uncertainties each of which bear different consequences and put different demands on the business side of things. Leadership/management of organisations generally rely on established structures and processes in dealing with challenges, trying to reduce uncertainty. However, in the past year we have seen that uncertainty and rapid change can reach unexpected levels which put enormous burden on ways of working. This is where a skilled workforce starts playing a key role … sometimes even more than the leadership itself.
Now, more businesses than ever before are struggling to survive. This existential crisis shows the first signs in more material areas like budget cuts, restrictions, more meetings, introduction of ‘war rooms’ together with a new vocabulary of fancy words that compensate for the lack of interest in the real gem, the workforce.
We have been hearing a lot about ‘reskilling and upskilling’ lately, in many different conferences, talks, consultancy reports. All is well and relevant but are these two the real deal? It is the strong foundation of human capabilities complemented by work skills that will bring longevity to the businesses. It not only strengthens the life prospects of the business, it also helps the workforce to navigate and have a sense of stability. This is why, at Hatch, we focus first on ‘transferable skills’. We believe that the companies which understand the true value and strength of their workforce will get ahead of the game by investing first in ‘transferable skills’ and then identifying where the gaps are to fill with upskilling and reskilling programmes.
What are these ‘transferable skills’?
Many of the human capabilities manifest themselves in organisational settings and take on different labels. ‘Working together, asking for help, supporting someone in need’ becomes ‘collaboration, cooperation’; ‘sharing your knowledge, showing how to do certain things’ becomes ‘mentoring, coaching’... we all have these qualities, how we use them at work is now going to make it or break it.
Let’s look at the Top 10 Skills of 2025 published by World Economic Forum. Eight out of ten of these skills actually are ‘transferable skills’. These are the skills that one has innately, a part of their human capability set. Along the years, by experience, through social interactions, family, work some of these skills get stronger and some take the back seat.
What does it mean for organisations and workforce?
This list is a huge challenger of many organisations’ approach to their workforce, talent and learning practices. The list of skills show that talent and skills will come second if the workforce do not have the maturity, the courage, the right attitude to navigate in the unknown yet being focused on continuous growth.
This will put huge demands on organisations and leadership to redesign their organisations and reevaluate their people policies from a different perspective.. The focus will truly be on understanding a co-worker’s abilities and skills which are generally wider than the role description. It will be about looking at distribution of transferable skills and interests to keep the business grow while bringing in the necessary role-related skills through ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ initiatives as well as new hires.
Hardcore soft skills for future-proofing your business
The ‘soft skills’ which are a part of our human capabilities are now emerging as key necessities for the corporate world...resilience, courage, critical and creative thinking, complex problem-solving...
Muscling up and building a toolbox of transferable skills will help individuals and businesses to challenge the norms, procedures, systems & methods, behaviours to create a more effective, more innovative ways of working and ways of engaging.
Business side of things look into culture & values, systems & methods, procedures, organisational structures whereas with people comes relationships, hierarchies, power, dreams, expectations, ambitions….all of which need courage to deal with.
The success of ‘reskilling’ and ‘upskilling’ initiatives lies in the hands of organisations who are clear on the ‘transferable skills’ that their organisations rely heavily on to survive and thrive in the VUCA world.
Where to start?
The starting point is simple. Have conversations around these questions. You will be surprised to see which transferable skills are dominant and where you have gaps within the organisation..
- What is the feeling of belonging to the company?
- How ‘at home’ do I feel in the role, within the team, with my manager, with the company policies and direction?
- How open am I to change roles?
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses? Which weaknesses are worth focusing on to turn into strengths?
- What is my attitude towards personal and professional development?
- What is my attitude towards creation and execution of business plans?
- Am I willing and curious to be challenged? To learn something totally different than what I’m used to?
We are at a tipping point where some organisations will start refocusing and driving movement for future growth and some organisations will fall into ‘organizational exhaustion’, a state where they will be struggling to return to business as usual for a long time, sometimes years. According to McKinsey, Gartner and some other respectable consultancy companies’ research, this state is agitating and has the risk of taking a toll on managers’ mental and physical health, causing major harm to organizational effectiveness, from a decline in responsiveness to a deterioration in the overall quality of work.
However, if the ‘transferable skills’ are identified, the organisation will gain new energy and also formulate a new approach on how to grasp business and people related possibilities. Based on that strong skill-set, then highly specialized and hard-to-access skills or knowledge vital to running the combined business (such as expertise in the legacy IT systems) can be woven into the company’s skills portfolio.