The skills challenge: are you equipping for the future?
Last year, the UK’s Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development issued a report highlighting Generation Y skill gaps. Commercial skills came out as a priority area – in particular, the ability to understand the point of view of clients and stakeholders.
Selecting a business partner, negotiating a relationship, managing a contract – doing any of these successfully depends on understanding other points of view. Indeed, commercial skill is about much more than this. Understanding is one thing; real commercial skill is about achieving reconciliation between those view points. It requires the ability to analyze, to influence and to create a workable solution – or to establish that there is in fact no workable solution, at least with this set of stakeholders.
The reason commercial skills are becoming increasingly important is because of the momentum of change. In the past, fields such as procurement, contract management and (to some extent) legal and finance have been about defining and imposing standards and norms. ‘Compliance’ became such a buzz-word – and yet compliance spells disaster if it constrains innovation and change.
The standards and compliance mentality of the last 20 years bears significant responsibility in the crushing of commercial skills and business judgment. It created ‘professions’ that are highly compliant, but intellectually useless. Professional bodies saw themselves as ‘guardians of the standard’ and therefore offered training and development programs that were outdated before they were even released.
Commercial skills are all about balancing the need for sound business controls with the imperative for continuous update and the management of change. This is an exciting, but challenging, environment – especially for educators. It means they need to provide a basic structure for learning that includes training to regularly question and redesign the way we do things.
That is why, at IACCM, we are driven by continuous research, by outreach to multiple stakeholder groups, to new technologies and ideas that will shape the commercial landscape. We fervently believe that our role is to support our members in equipping for the future – not to prepare them for the past!