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How to crack the skills dilemma

September 17, 2019
Today’s fast-changing workplaces need employees who can keep up with advances in technology—and employers who can remove the obstacles to retraining.

You’re interviewing a candidate for a software development job in your organization. They bring great energy and a “vibe” that aligns with your company’s culture. They communicate well. They show a high potential for leadership.

There’s only one catch: They don’t know one of the coding languages required to do the job. That’s the kind of dilemma faced every week by Ellen Petry Leanse, chief people officer at Lucidworks, a fast-growing, 250-employee company in San Francisco that makes search tools for massive data sets. But the solution doesn’t have to be complicated, Leanse says. The only questions about candidates that really matter, she says, are, “Can they learn the skills, intellectually, cognitively?” And just as important: Is the organization set up to support that training?

Businesses have entered an era of constant change, Leanse says, which means it’s an employee’s job to be learning all the time, and a manager’s job to remove obstacles to that learning.

“There are only three things that bring us real satisfaction in life, and any company that wants satisfied employees needs to know this,” she says. “Relationships: interpersonal connections, things that make us feel like we belong. Contribution: the ability to offer something of ourselves that feels worthy and valuable to others or to the organization. And growth: the opportunity to be acquiring new abilities that help us move further along that path to who we really want to be, to that higher version of ourselves. If we have a culture that allows relationships, contributions, and growth, then re-skilling is the easy part.”