With Q4 well underway and the holidays rapidly approaching, 2018 planning is front and center for many companies. Goals are being defined, the tactics to achieve them are being outlined, and supporting budgets are being formulated.
As leaders think about their plans for next year, there is a critical, but often overlooked, question that they should ask themselves: Do we have the skills we need to achieve our goals?
If your organization does, don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Ask whether you are setting your goals high enough and whether you could achieve more.
And if you don't have the skills that you require, now is the time to start thinking about whether you need to build, buy or borrow them. That decision, however, must be informed by a thorough understanding of what you will need and what you currently have. The resulting difference is the gap you need to fill.
So where to begin? Start with your goals and the teams and roles that have the greatest impact on their outcomes. What skills do they need to achieve those goals? Don't focus on the skills they have today. That will come later. Instead critically think about what is really needed to be successful. Talk to experts in each area, both outside your organization and at any level within it.
Think too about how your industry is changing and which are the skills that your company will need to have a few years down the road. If these skills aren't clear, do some research using keywords like "skills", "workplace", "future" and your industry. The results should give you some ideas on how thought leaders are perceiving the skills that will be required.
Consider these strategic skills and whether they can impact your 2018 goals. If they can, obtaining them now will provide both near-term (2018) and long-term dividends.
With this understanding of what you need, next focus on what you have. For each of the critical skills that you have identified, map them back to the teams, roles, and/or team members that require them. If you want to get more precise, identify the level of the skill that is required. Will a team member with intermediate competency suffice? Or do you need an expert?
Then survey your team members on the skills that each of them should possess. Combining a self-assessment on a five-point scale with a company assessment done by a manager or another team member with insights into an individual's competencies will give you sufficient data to rate skill levels.
Comparing the results of your survey with the skills you need will show you the location and magnitude of your gaps. Are they with a specific skill, team or role? These insights will inform how you approach filling your skill gaps.
Can you quickly build the skill sets you need? Or do you need to buy or borrow them? If you need to buy, it likely means focusing your hiring efforts as a larger-scale acquisition of talent probably won't happen fast enough to impact 2018 results (although it may be necessary as you look strategically into the future).
Borrowing talent is easier than ever with the rise of the gig economy. Consider too other sources of expertise, such as your partners.
Finally, add a goal for 2018 to take this understanding of your skill requirements, capabilities and gaps to the next level. You will need it again for 2019 and that will come sooner than you think. Consider building a comprehensive competency framework for your entire organization. Dig deeper into the skills your organization will need in the future and begin to invest in them. Think about how you can use your team's skills as a long-term competitive advantage.
If you do so, the goals you set for 2019, 2020 and beyond will outshine each of their predecessors.