You can have the best business strategy in your pocket, but if you don’t have the right talent to execute, it won’t be enough. As we end 2016, the tough and necessary evaluation has to be whether the team you have in place today has the right collection of skills required for success in increasingly disruptive markets.
For 2017, the operative word is team, and the right talent may not be what you think.
The core business model, talent development and technology leverage are critical elements for innovation. And I’d argue that talent is the key success factor. Yet technology has captured the lion’s share of attention the past few years, with e-commerce at the head of the line. And frankly, Amazon and other digital disruptors fueled a fear factor that may have overweighted some reactive decisions in favor of technology over talent.
Historically, distributors that have forged premium positions in markets have done so by building a set of differentiated services (at higher profit margins than most product segments) that increase value to customers and make them harder to displace by competitors. Services also help distributors navigate volatile business cycles better; they lessen dependence on product sales and can combat commoditization.
In the past, hard skills – whether product-focused, operational or around specialized services – have largely defined what distribution teams look like. Now there are new types of hard skills emerging. Just look at some of the fastest emerging hard-skills job descriptions that are being put in front of “analyst” – data, IT, business, business intelligence, market research, marketing. It’s an indicator how much once-isolated business units are getting blended to get more horsepower.
Another example of blended skills is content marketing, which is just starting to grow in industrial and distribution sectors. It requires hard technical skills in digital media coupled with team-oriented strategic and creative talent. That increasingly is defining how to drive revenue across many channels of business.
Some of these soft skills sound like basic business aptitude to baby boomers – ability to work well with others, communicate well, take ownership of work, problem solve, lead teams. But companies that intentionally combine hard and soft skills in their talent pool will quickly outperform competitors.
How does your organization assess job applicants for soft skills, and how are you building the level of soft skills in your current team? The companies that pay as much attention to soft skills as they have to more technical talent development will move forward faster in 2017.