4 July 2019
3 Reasons You Must Upskill & Invest In Your Team's Development Today
When asked whether up-skilling their team members may benefit the organisation, relatively few business leaders would say no: flick through any HR manual, and ‘training refresh’ sessions will stick out as occasional tasks to add to the company calendar.
But dig deeper, and the majority of business leaders will admit that their organisation is not doing enough: whether crippling bureaucracy or the hangover from policies developed for a pre-internet age, multiple factors are making team development an afterthought; whereas almost all of today’s industry giants have made team development strategies a source of success.
We have all nodded to the same advice: ‘’your team will probably never get big enough to warrant the team building strategies of the Silicon Valley giants’’. But at Conqa Group, we (strongly) disagree. Ultimately, the market will decide the fate of your business or corporate career – but any chance of carrying your team to this level of success means at least emulating these ‘big player’ strategies first.
#1 MAKE CREATIVITY THE ANTIDOTE FOR A FINE-TUNED MARKET
Mastering any project requires mastering the surrounding environment, and your small team is no exception: with hundreds of market variables that could wipe out your business project within a matter of weeks, the ability of your team to pivot and re-evaluate project targets will be what decides the viability of your company over the long term.
In the past, your project team may have been able to rely on a decade-old training handbook. But today’s market moves too quickly, and this is forcing many competition-conscious players to turn to new training methodologies: this means not only training your team to follow project briefs and standard procedures – but also the leadership that enables them to ‘step back’ into the bigger picture, and intervene with creative changes on your behalf.
In the case of Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, projects incorporate this factor of ‘unexpected change’ as an assumed project variable: this enables teams to shift from imagining static project targets, and instead to ensure that results are measured according to the most accurate key performance indicators.
Moreover, unlike many smaller organisations, 5% of the time allocated to SpaceX teams is reserved deliberately for free-flowing conceptual visualisation (Niekerk, 2017): this may seem non-intuitive for a company that micromanages every cost by the minute, but the ROI on this allocated ‘creativity slot’ is ultimately what makes the remaining 95% of core task time so productive.
#2 EVERY SKILL-SET HAS ITS HALF LIFE
We may chuckle at the PR campaign featuring Bill Gates and Roger Federer in ‘tennis match of the season’. But when it comes to skill-set development and the pressures facing leaders in both sport and business, the two celebrities really do meet eye-to-eye.
Whether a high-flying executive or famous athlete, one commonality binds industries together: every skillset has its half-life – and this means committing to refining skill sets constantly.
When Bill Gates started Microsoft in 1975, the training of even the most seasoned IBM engineer would not survive the coming decade: just as any fiat currency depreciates in value over time with inflation – so too do the skillsets that fuel their capitalist markets.
However, even the teams that birth new industry standards incorporate strategies to ensure their teams remain ahead of the curve:
In the case of Bill Gates’ Microsoft, every training manual, staff procedure and project structure is linked to fluid customer feedback by design: this ensures that the organisation can obtain a sort of ‘market rating’ for each of the skill-sets trained for each project member – and then deliberately signal the tasks and procedures that need updating to the latest industry standard (Kraiger, 2012).
#3 INNOVATION IS A PRODUCT OF MULTIPLE SKILL-SETS TOGETHER
The ‘big winner’ giants might be enjoying an edge through pre-planning creative conceptualisation and increasing the efficiency of their team activities – but even these strategies are no substitute for the leadership that enables teams to identify radical new product categories all on their own.
On the one hand, introducing existing strategies used by industry giants will equip your teams and projects to cope with forces outside your control: an almost religious focus on new market data is often what separates projects that innovate in response to new user requirements – and the projects that continue on blind belief, only to get left behind.
However, as Steve Ballmer famously stated at least year’s Oxford Union: ‘even the most detailed corporate strategies are no substitute for organic leadership and a true culture of innovation’. Ultimately, although the above strategies will enable your team to increase clarity and reduce risk when refining a new idea or product category; natural leadership flare and top-down innovation is the only ingredient that enables a team to mine the next radically new product category – not just refine it.
At Conqa Group, we are actually fortunate to host invite-only seminars that combine leadership methodologies from high-performance individuals industry-wide: in reality, we know that not all leaders are aiming to build the next Microsoft – but the synergy of ideas and objective feedback that raises every leader to their full potential is raising eyebrows as the missing ingredient that gives every high-performer their next great idea.
KEY OUTCOMES & TASKS FOR YOU TO APPLY
In this week’s article, we decided to shift back to the business perspective and explore how larger industry players are deliberately incorporating team skillset development to keep their competitive advantage in the marketplace. If you yourself are a business leader in a director position or similar (request our Conqa Group application requirements for seminar attendees), here are some changes you can begin making with your team this week:
Allocate ‘creativity blocks’: You may be leading your team through an intense start-up period, or you might be experiencing heavy-duty workload following a recent order. However, although there will be HR activities that are simply inappropriate for your team or business stage, try to think of how you could organise the tasks of your team a little differently: allocating 5% of your employee’s task-time for non-project focused idea development may appear a cost you cannot afford – but think of it as an investment into better productivity, collaboration and team harmony. One idea could be to gradually raise this percentage of your ‘creativity block’ from 2-3% over time: at a small team size, your team members will be able to help you gauge where the balance lies, so beginning at least with a small experiment is what matters.
Link team training to market scanning: Spending hours of time theorising how to creatively link ‘one part here’ and ‘one part there’ in your business model may not –and should not – be your first priority until your team reaches a much larger size. However, as Bill Gates recognised back in 1975 when founding Microsoft, the success of your current team will ultimately be driven by how ‘tuned’ team training is to the latest priorities signalled by the market. Instead of spending the time to make large-scale changes using current judgments based on existing data, one interpretation of Microsoft’s ‘fluid market-driven training’ could be to integrate periodic reports following the team training sessions you already have planned: this will enable you to focus on current project priorities of the ‘here and now’ – but also simultaneously begin the habit of collecting the market data that might enable you to make real innovative change to your employee training manual 12 months down the line.
Apply to attend a Conqa Group seminar: The reality is that the majority of business leaders mull over hundreds of possible changes over the course of the average year. With ‘behavioural tuning’ being the missing ingredient that unlocks Steve Ballmer’s ‘culture of innovation’, applying to gain exposure to a multitude of organic leadership methodologies is often the missing piece of the puzzle.