Any organization is only as good as the people behind it. Whether it’s a small company or a multi-national corporation, each member has an increasingly broad role to play in day to day operations. Effectively leveraging and continuing to build skill sets of each and every person is vital, especially in the new economy that requires companies to run lean and produce increasingly higher results. Let’s take a look at why it’s important to possess a broad range of skills and what it means for your organization.
As organizations of all types look to reduce overhead while maximizing output, cost-cutting measures have become a key focus at every level of management. In years past, companies would evaluate organizational tasks and hire accordingly, creating a wide variety of positions that were focused on very specific silos of activity. For example, marketing departments of the past had a vice president overseeing a group that would include graphic designers, web designers, statistical analysts, product managers and marketing coordinators. Each had their specific group of skill sets and when working on a project, each would tackle their slice of the whole. Anything outside their area of expertise was usually assigned to outside hires like consultants or contractors. This resulted in extended project timelines and exorbitant overhead expenses.
The modern world and its dire economic realities has resulted in many organizations looking for ways to cut expenses of all types, resulting in leaner departmental resources and requiring each individual to wear many more hats than previously required. Smart managers have embraced this fact and worked to recruit individuals with broader experience backgrounds and then encouraged the further development of these skills. Additionally, these managers have invested in robust tools to enable these individuals to execute projects to their utmost potential. This has resulted in payroll and other overhead decreases.
On the individual level, each skill that a worker brings to the table adds value to an organization and the broader their total skill set, the more value they create. While the old adage ”It’s better to do one thing very well than do several things mediocre,” still rings true, having a wide range of capabilities allows a worker to handle the day to day tasks and know when it’s appropriate to pull in outside help. This gives them the ability to manage consultants or contractors by speaking their language and understanding their specialty.
An example of this is hiring a marketing manager that has basic design and web management skills so that regular updates to site or email content can be executed in-house. When a larger update is required, this person will be able to evaluate, hire and manage an outside contractor with a solid understanding of what is included in the project. Another example is hiring sales reps that have a basic background in marketing so that they can use the resources created for them with a minimal amount of oversight or support from other parts of the organization.
Another advantage of a broad skill set is that it can actually make the employee more proficient in their primary role. Whatever that role may be, there are a wide variety of associated skills surrounding it. Knowing what to do or at least having a general understanding of those skills can help ensure that they perform their primary function to the best of their ability. If a programmer has a primary responsibility of coding in a certain language, for example, it can be very beneficial to become proficient in other programming languages to get a better understanding of the entire ecosystem they’re submerged in. While it may not be required, learning associated proficiencies will give them an edge over others and add additional value to their role within the organization.
From an organizational standpoint, it again comes down to value proposition. Any organization would rather someone who possesses a wide range of abilities over someone with a limited skill set. Someone who can fill numerous voids within an organization becomes much more valuable than someone limited to just one, which also limits their visibility into how the organization works as a whole, and dramatically decreases their value. Going back to the sales example, a company would much rather hire someone that can facilitate the entire sales process from start to finish over someone that’s just good at making sales calls.
Organizations are constantly evolving and the individual role must evolve as well. What was an important skill set to have in the beginning might be completely different a few years down the road and smart companies encourage their employees to grow and evolve to fit these needs. Being ready and willing to leverage additional abilities when they’re called upon is another prime advantage to diversifying your skill set.
In a time when organizations are becoming leaner and more cost-conscious, the required skill set of the organization must broaden to compensate. Smart companies are looking to encourage self-sufficiency as a way to create more capable, flexible and efficient processes.