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Skills and Crafts

In preparation for a talk later this year, I’m starting to take a look at the HR and recruitment space, getting to grips with how companies select, engage, employ, develop and yes, fire people.

It’s early days so my knowledge is still pretty sketchy. But the reading I’ve been doing did inspire a thought about the nature of the skills that we recruit for, and how these skills develop — particularly in the context of a radically changing employment environment.

As I’ve written about in the past, I believe there are three core skills that will remain defensible strengths based on which humans can continue to compete with machines: the ability to Curate (discover and qualify information), Create (synthesise something new from that information) and Communicate (sell that idea to colleagues and customers).

These are what might be called ‘transferable skills’. They can be developed and enhanced in general terms.

But it is only through their application in specific contexts that they become really valuable to employers. In the terminology I’m choosing to use, the repeated application of these skills in a particular context turns them into a Craft. A skill honed by experience and practice, increasing the quality of the output and likely the performance of the worker.

What does this mean for recruitment? The company I’m speaking for later this year seems to be extending the relationship between employer and prospective employee over a longer period, creating a marketing-style lead-nurturing relationship. Given their success so far it seems to be a growing idea.

I wonder if this will see prospective employers starting to create exercises to translate raw Skills into relevant Crafts before they take people on. Not just assessing skills, but honing them.

I know this has been done on a some scale. For example, with army cadets in the University. But this is different to mass, probably digital-first, education and experience programmes.

This has potential implications for the education market as well as employment.

That’s my thought in progress, anyway.


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Tom Cheesewright