untapped & unrecognised

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With Australia's finances in meltdown we're hearing a lot less of the 'skills shortage' that ruled the lives of voc. ed providers for years. It doesn't take much to change the Govt's tune.What happened to those poor people enticed into retraining only to find themselves yet again unemployed? But this week AIG's Heather Ridout was once again predicting a shortage of skills in coming years.

What really bothers me is that the missing skills are probably out there already if only our recruitment and workforce development practices & philosophy took a different tack.

The problem is that we take such a deficit, siloed approach.

A position is created. It's carefully but rigidly sculptured with nooks and crannies that no real person can ever completely fill. They take on 'the best person for the job' and then 'performance manage' their faults/gaps/weaknesses. At the same time the individual's true talents, passions and potential are at best ignored and untapped, usually unrecognised. Typically they fall outside the job 'role' and, heaven forbid, within another's.

The result is an unhappy and unproductive workplace filled with individuals who are frustrated, unsatisfied and shoved into moulds they will never fit.

It's time we stopped thinking about roles and started thinking about talent pools. We can not only manage that pool but adapt the scope of operation over time to maximise the productivity and creativity it's fluidity enables. I think of it a little like an amoeba. Instead of recruiting for a 'role' or 'position' we should be identifying the full range of skills of the team, extending skills to meet potential and enable new interests,  and seeking new people with skills that will complement what already exists. Projects would draw on skills as needed and even be designed around areas of skill and energy.

Of course there are challenges; you can't rework one aspect of work without flow on effects. I can imagine unions smoking at the ears. But with looming shortages and pressures to move away from the remnants of an industrialised past we need to stop and rethink. Goodness, it may even impact on our education system!

[CC FlickR image: dux_carvajal - on vacation :)]