Randall Atkins, an ex-Wall Street banker and current chairman and CEO of coal producer Ramaco Resources, made a significant discovery at the Brook Mine in Wyoming, which he had purchased 12 years prior. In May 2023, a huge reserve of rare earth minerals, potentially worth $37 billion, was found at the site. After 18 months of drilling and chemical analysis, this site is believed to host the largest unconventional reserve of rare earth elements (REEs) in the United States, including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium, crucial for modern technologies such as electric vehicles, military tech, wind turbines, and medical devices. The amazing aspect of this story is that Randall Atkins only paid 2 million USD for this mine.
I start with this tale to illustrate a point: within any organization lies a wealth of latent talent, akin to unexplored mines brimming with valuable resources. There exists a vast expanse of potential within teams and individuals that, when properly cultivated, can yield the skills necessary for future success.
Michael Micalko, a former US Army officer who has become a leader in creativity, advocates a process called Assumption Reversal. Suppose you are thinking of starting a restaurant. The first assumption might be, “Restaurants have menus.” The reversal to this assumption is that the restaurant would have no menus. (From the book Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed)
In skill matching, we must reverse the assumption to search for cognitive skills rather than specific technical skills. The recent World Economic Forum Report provides the following aspects (summarized from different sections of the report – Skills Outlook Report – The Future of Jobs by World Economic Forum.
- Companies expect 44% of workers’ skills to be disrupted in the next five years, a stabilization from the 57% predicted in the wake of COVID-19, with frontier technologies driving the evolution of workplace skills as workers adapt to automation and AI.
- Core skills workers need today include analytical thinking, creative thinking, and self-efficacy skills like resilience, flexibility, agility, motivation, self-awareness, and curiosity for lifelong learning. These are essential for adapting to disrupted workplaces.
- Looking ahead from 2023 to 2027, cognitive skills, particularly complex problem-solving, creative thinking, and technology literacy, are expected to grow in importance. Businesses also value socio-emotional attitudes like curiosity, lifelong learning, and resilience, reflecting the importance of a culture of continuous learning as skill lifecycles decrease.
- As businesses adapt to a rapidly changing skill landscape, there is a strong emphasis on socio-emotional attitudes, such as curiosity, lifelong learning, and resilience.
- Businesses anticipate a quickening importance of technology skills, reflecting the digital transformation across industries.
We implemented a strategic approach in a specific initiative by establishing skill clusters to enhance skill mining. We meticulously analyzed the professional profiles and experiences outlined in CVs and resumes to form distinct groupings of competencies. This process created various clusters, encompassing technology proficiency, mastery of industry-specific tools, understanding digital concepts, and foundational core engineering knowledge. This framework allowed for a more nuanced and dynamic workforce deployment, aligning individual capabilities with our project needs and objectives.
Here is a simple table (for illustration, we have shown only a specific section of the table)
In this context, the organization can initiate targeted training initiatives and recruitment strategies tailored to the identified skill clusters. By focusing on these specific areas of expertise, we can design educational programs that address the precise developmental needs of our existing workforce, enhancing their competencies in key technological, digital, and engineering domains. Concurrently, our talent acquisition efforts can be fine-tuned to seek out professionals whose skills align with these clusters, ensuring that new hires contribute effectively to our strategic objectives and help drive innovation and excellence within the company.
Identifying Skills Gaps: Skill clusters can help identify the gaps between the skills employees currently possess and the skills in demand in the job market. This can be done by performing a skills gap analysis, which involves understanding what skills the workforce currently has and what skills they will need in the future.
Skills-Based Hiring: Organizations can adopt a skills-based hiring approach, focusing on a candidate’s skills rather than their qualifications or job titles. This can help address skills gaps by hiring the right people with the right skills.