Getting Ahead of the Skills Curve

What’s the uber skill? The ability to constantly learn, evolve, update, or even un-learn relevant skills. Today, training workforces to acquire that mindset of continuous learning is everything. We spoke with Stefan Haenisch, senior vice president of SAP Learning Strategic Initiatives at SAP, to dive deeper into his perspective, especially as he comes out of the World Economic Forum’s summer event, The Jobs Reset Summit, and recently published an article for WEF about the critical lessons in workforce skilling and lifelong learning.

Q: In your article for the World Economic Forum, you discuss the importance of connecting business strategy to workforce skills. Can you share what this looks like and why it’s so essential?

A: Every company plots out its business strategy. But how often does it think about how this relates and aligns with its people strategy and strategic workforce planning and skill building?

For example, if our strategy is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to make our products smarter, we must simultaneously be asking ourselves how we can upskill the workforce on the required skills to drive this vision.

Skill training shouldn’t be an afterthought. Instead, by connecting skills and strategy from the very beginning, companies can proactively adapt and more effectively position themselves for long-term success.

How does an organization develop skills for the future when things are changing so frequently and we can’t possibly know what the world will look like in the next couple of years?

As we saw with the global pandemic, things may go differently than predicted. Companies must embrace ambiguity and disruption when it comes to skills for the future. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review noted, “If you focus on building individual micro skills, you may be missing the bigger picture.” Indeed, there are ‘expiration dates’ on technical skills as innovation emerges, so companies must establish a culture that encourages agility and experimentation in the workforce – and, not least, motivates continuous learning – in order to yield sustainable success. Soft skills like dealing with uncertainty, staying curious, as well as embracing and tolerating ambiguity are the foundation of employees being ready for the future. They can then quickly and continuously keep up the relevant hard skills.

A recent report from Deloitte asserts that the future of work in our technology-driven world is about “creating an environment where organizations can optimize human potential” and “empowering workers with agency and choice over what they do, unleashing their interests and passions.” What this means is that the ultimate skill is being able to continuously learn in a constantly changing business environment. Fostering agile, innovative mindsets and curiosity throughout the workforce – promoting not only the need to learn, but the want to learn – helps companies to think big and earn a competitive edge.

How do offerings at SAP help support strategic workforce planning and continuous learning?

At SAP, we value ongoing learning as part of the foundation for success. In the fast-moving tech sector where skill demand changes faster than in other industries, we’re constantly evolving our learning offerings to support the hard and soft skills needed to help people stay competitive.

Inside SAP, for example, we look at a long and successful track record in deploying skills management to effective resource management in our consulting business and are now evolving this to support dynamic and forward-looking workforce planning and development.

Our customers can benefit from our experience as we are incorporating the best practices we learned in people and skills management into our SAP SuccessFactors solutions. When it comes to helping our customers and partners build and sustain SAP product skills, our digital learning offerings, openSAP and SAP Learning Hub, work to provide easy-to-use, engaging content for learners to explore, build, and maintain relevant skills. Additionally, we help support career planning around the skills that learners are honing, working to provide the right learning journey targeted to each learner’s goals.

Our mission is to create learning and development opportunity for all across the SAP ecosystem. We aim to empower everyone to successfully build SAP software skills using future-oriented content delivered in different formats to fit individual ways of learning. By better aligning strategic workforce planning and business strategy at the onset, as well as becoming laser-focused on a workplace culture that values agility and curiosity, businesses can get ahead of the skills curve.