case study – business/skills balance research project
The research project was commissioned by an industry body to meet a brief set by government agencies. The overall aim was to explore the links between skills demand, skills development, business development and company performance and productivity. There was also a pressing need to build understanding of how SME needs for skills and knowledge compare to larger organisations.
The research methodology included in-depth analysis of the balance between business strategy and skills strategy in high-performing technological companies drawn from a spread of sectors.
A key consideration in the choice of methodology was the need to offer employers something positive, useful, and potentially transformational, in return for their involvement. I used two tried and tested tools (StrategyTrak and TrakFX) to support the research and to explore the links between organisational market/product strategies, business performance measures, and demand for skills.
The approach proved effective in gathering data across the breadth of business strategy and in sufficient depth to draw key conclusions. The tools and techniques used in the study were well received by employers.
The key conclusion drawn from the research is that innovative, futures-focused organisations (IFFOs) link business performance to knowledge and organisational learning, not ‘skills’ and HR processes.
This has important implications for ‘skills/training’ support agencies, as processes that appeal to larger companies may have little value to nimbler firms. The messages used to engage employers must be carefully segmented and targeted if they are to meet different requirements or expectations. There also seems to be market failure in supporting knowledge and organisational learning initiatives among futures-focused SMEs.