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Reimagining Part 1: Organisation Centricity

The organisation pursuing a digitization strategy must reimagine learning if they are to build the necessary skills to power this ambition. In the introduction to this 4 part series we looked at what is meant by reimagining learning. Building the case for transformation from needs analysis through delivery as well as the importance of technology in bringing this transformation to bear. We noted that to reimagine learning we needed a careful combination of four key components namely Organisation Centricity, Learner Centricity, Discovery, and Measurement.

In this, part one of our four-part series we turn our attention to the first of these components, namely Organisation Centricity.


Organisation Centricity

The starting point for any organisation when reimagining learning is to understand and define the competencies required. This is in fact or at least according to Gartner research a deficit most HR executives admit to. To appropriately identify the required competencies organisations, need to extend their analysis beyond the customary and instead take a theoretical and empirical approach.

Many executives are frustrated by the high investment into talent management and learning without a meaningful, measurable return on their investment.  In fact, the development of the next generation of leaders and a failure to attract and/or retain top talent were rated amongst the top 5 issues facing more than 1,000 C-level executives worldwide in a 2018 study (Global Leadership Forecast, 2018).  Talent management is often relegated to an annual, highly manual exercise to generate succession lists.  Learning departments, trying to catch up with the fast rate of required skills change, are increasingly relying on open source material but without the necessary matching of curated content to competencies predictive of performance, learners are quickly overwhelmed by the choice of learning and underwhelmed by the quality of learning whilst line managers complain about the lack of skills to achieve their outcomes.

4thTalent believes that these frustrations can be attributed in part to a lack of scientific grounding in developing people and organisations.  It is only by identifying and then developing those competencies that have been shown to predict performance that organisations can achieve return on learning investment.  Moreover, it is only by matching the right learning content to each learner’s measured learning needs in context of / as mapped against those competencies that the organisation requires to drive performance that sustainable performance improvement can happen.

4thTalent tackles this challenge by bringing research, science and artificial intelligence together to deliver a highly comprehensive performance predictive taxonomy of  tasks underlying the capabilities required to carry out work, both now and in the future; an algorithm that matches people’s capabilities, behaviours and values against the requirements for specific roles, tasks and corporate cultures; and hyper-personalised, curated learning journeys.

Our research shows that successful performance in most organisations over the next 5 -10 years will be predicted by a combination of competencies along two axes – Level of Collaboration and Level of Digital Enablement. These give rise to a set of competencies within four categories (Intrapersonal, Intradigital, Interpersonal, Interdigital) that is used as a starting point for organisations who want to develop their employees to embrace and optimise digital technologies.

Creating a Resolved Competency Framework for a digital future: The 4th Quadrant Model


Tasks:  the building blocks of performance

At the very core, human performance is underpinned by competence.  Put very simply, competence is something that one needs to do well to be able to do a job role.  A competency is therefore a characteristic of an individual that contributes to successful job performance and ultimately, the achievement of organisational results (Page & Wilson, 1994; Shippman et al., 2000).  To demonstrate competence a person needs to be able to perform certain tasks at a particular level of proficiency.

Because organisations have different performance output requirements, generally guided by their organisational strategy, the way these competencies are defined can differ significantly between organisations.

As an example, Company A is a large UK-based chain of home stores* with the motto “Living better”.  This group will undoubtedly have customer service as one of its core competencies. When describing what good customer service looks like, the CEO may say: “We believe that everyone is a customer, whether it is our supply chain partners, our customers in store or the different parts of our organization working together.  By doing the best you can for everyone in every interaction, we all live better”.

Now, take an international online FMCG group* (Company B) where customer service also takes centre stage but in a very different way.  At this company the motto is “Delight through innovation” and they state that the type of people who work for them are committed to bringing innovation to their customers daily.

It therefore stands to reason that the tasks that Company A would require to determine if a person can deliver its version of customer service would be significantly different to those needed by Company B.

Table 1:  Illustrative tasks underlying the Customer Service competency at two different companies

  Company A Company B  
  Service orientation Customer centricity  
  Verbal communication Innovation  
  Teamwork Verbal reasoning  


So, because competencies, through the demonstration of tasks, drive organisation results, no two companies will have the same contextual meaning ascribed to competencies that predict performance in their unique environments. Any competence development programme should therefore start with a clear definition of the competencies and underlying tasks that are required to be successful.

* Illustrative – not based on any single organisation

You can read more on how 4thTalent approaches competence in our white paper: A science-based approach to talent management

From the discussion above it becomes clearer that when organisations look to learning to achieve their digitization objective, it cannot be responded to by simply opening access to digital learning nor by doubling down on traditional learning strategies. As we saw in the introduction to this series, Gartner research shows that instead this results in a lower return on investment and a widening skill gap. (Gartner). To adequately address these challenges, we need to heed the call to rethink our learning strategies starting with understanding the competencies required to execute on the strategy.

In part two we turn our attention to learner centricity and look at how to develop more effective ways to achieve the expected returns on learning.

I hope you will continue to join me on this journey and I welcome your feedback as we – together – Reimagine learning.

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