The Social Compact is Dead. Long Live Expertise Management

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We all know the days of spending your entire career at one company are over. Heck, the average tenure of a U.S. employee is under 5 years and shrinking faster than glacier ice in Greenland. Meanwhile, both employees and companies are suffering the consequences.

For employees, the days of employment certainty are gone. Your number may come up at any time, at any company, big or small. Individual professionals are moving in record volume to position themselves as independent contractors. And, tellingly, the 401k is swamping the venerable pension plan. This makes long-term personal and career planning challenging to say the least. In this environment, mobility and portability are king for working professionals.

Strangely, things aren’t much different for companies when it comes to the pace of change. Anyone familiar with the stock market knows that companies are judged quarter-by-quarter and that executive teams can be replaced on a whim by boards and shareholders who frequently have a short-term focus. In order to keep ahead of the competition, companies have to be nimble and move at lightning speed when needed. Thus, even for companies, mobility and portability are king. But just what does that mean?

In this environment, companies are increasingly looking for very particular skillsets, and wanting to date rather than get married. That is, they prefer a short-term “gig” commitment over the higher cost and reduced flexibility of offering full-time employment any time they need capabilities, the exception being where they have truly stable, long-term work for a particular skillset, or where they find people who are nimble learners and can adapt to the rapid pace of change in today’s business world.

This translates roughly to: people are a pile of skills and competencies that companies will try to fit to their needs for the shortest time possible, unless they are willing to make a long-term investment in you because you can learn, and quickly.

This is where Expertise Management™ comes in. Expertise Management™ exploits these trends and helps both the company and the working professional understand, utilize and expand the expertise of the individual.

For individuals, the challenge is first simply understanding where you have expertise. From there you need to manage competency gaps and expand your professional capabilities both tactically (what do I need to learn today to survive today) and strategically (how do I plot a course that ensures I know what I need to know, when I need to know it). This brings us back to mobility and portability. Not you literally, rather, your skills. If you can turn on new skills in an hour, you can respond to that new task from your boss or apply for a gig as a consultant today, not miss the opportunity. If you can plot a longer path to expertise, you can strategically lead your career where you want it to go, with fewer ups and downs, and more certainty.

For companies, it’s about understanding what you need - what are the skills needed to stay ahead of the competition - and finding the professionals who can get you there. That means understanding the skills of those who you already have to a greater degree than almost any company does today. And, once uncovered, utilizing those skills to the maximum extent possible, and then nurturing and expanding upon those skills. Sure, you will still need to hire to access new skillsets and acquire nimble learners, but that is far more expensive, and frequently far slower than discovering or growing from within.

Expertise Management™ helps both sides find what they have and get to what they need. It doesn’t slow down the pace of change, it helps both parties thrive in the new, inescapable reality of the modern day economy.