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The Secret to Organizational Agility? Empowering Your Managers


Thu Jun 03 2021

The Secret to Organizational Agility? Empowering Your Managers

If you’ve been in the learning and talent space long enough, you’ve probably created a competency model, which is a guideline that defines critical work functions. Creating a competency model can take months and leave employees unsure of how to put the model into action, but empowering your managers can have immediate results. Apply this process across hundreds or even thousands of roles in your organization, and you see the challenge many organizations face today.

While planning for a long-term, well-defined skills ecosystem is important work, it shouldn’t prevent you from taking action to build skills right now. Your people have skill needs today. They can’t wait for the competency models of tomorrow.


Then Versus Now

In the past, defining and driving a skills strategy fell primarily to a central L&D team, and the focus was defining and mapping skills across various roles. This focus often led to more documentation than development and an unclear indication of how to start building those skills.

Often, the first people to recognize a skill gap are those closest to the realities of the work. In fact, 85 percent of the respondents in our most recent workforce survey reported that they already knew the skill gaps they have today.

If people had the tools and the confidence to start addressing skill needs as soon as they arise, they could quickly identify and assess their own skill needs and start developing themselves.

Decentralize and Democratize

Democratizing your skill strategy and allowing workers to develop skill journeys in real-time allows you to improve multiple elements of your learning culture:

  • Agility. Workplace changes are happening faster than ever. Empowering leaders and workers to set their own skill priorities allows them to adjust in real-time.

  • Relevancy. When organizations prioritize skills for people at the local level, the connection to their day-to-day is clearer than a one-size-fits-all competency model.

  • Engagement. According to Degreed’s research, manager involvement and guidance are crucial in learning engagement.

  • Data. Allowing workers and leaders to set their own skill strategies creates a wealth of skill data that your organization might lack.

While adopting this more decentralized approach to skills may seem daunting, using a program like Degreed makes every employee and leader in your organization a part of the L&D team rather than a passive recipient.

How to Get Started

Does this democratized approach to skill building diminish the importance of a central L&D function? No, it does the exact opposite. Your global L&D team will still own the development of skills that are consistently in demand across your organization but will be the architect for this new environment.

Here are a few key activities you can focus on as part of this broader cultural shift towards organizational agility:

  • Shape the environment. L&D can ensure leaders understand the tools and processes at their disposal to tackle the skills challenges most important to them.

  • Change mindsets. When workers know that they are empowered to solve their own skill problems, L&D can equip them with the technology, data, and resources to address skill needs as soon as they arise.

  • Amplify internal success cases. L&D can find the early champions that are owning their skill development and share those examples across your organization.

  • Connect the dots. L&D has an opportunity to identify and align teams focused on the same challenges.

Changing your learning culture to create more ownership will take time. Rather than attempt to shift, identify a team or leader that already has a clear desire to take ownership. Partner closely with them to bring this agile approach to skills to life so they can serve as an example that helps bring the rest of your organization on board.

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