Modern-day organizations have to be able to respond rapidly and effectively to ever-changing developments – now and in the future. Flexibility as an organization demands greater versatility from your staff – staff who constantly hone their skills and expertise across more than one discipline.
This article takes a closer look at what we mean by greater versatility and its benefits.
What do we mean by a versatile workforce?
Various definitions exist for ‘versatile workforce’ and often they seem to be at cross-purposes.
- Sometimes, the term ‘versatile’ is used in conjunction with staff working under a flexible work contract, for example temporary contractors, freelancers, or zero-hour contract workers. Here, ‘flexibility’ or ‘versatility’ refers to deployment as and when necessary, for example during peak seasons.
- However, ‘flexibility’ and ‘versatility’ can also refer to an employee’s ability to carry out certain tasks independent of time and place. In other words, they don’t have set work times or workplaces. This is often referred to as ‘The New World of Work’ or ‘flex-working’, as embodied by the modern-day digital nomad. They’re armed with a laptop and a high-speed internet connection, and this is all they need to be able to work from anywhere in the world.
- Last, but by no means least, is another definition – one of ‘employability’. Here ‘versatility’ refers to an employee’s wide-ranging skill set and their ability to perform numerous tasks or roles throughout an organization, as embodied by the ‘generalist’ or ‘all-rounder’ we read about in countless job ads.
This article focuses on this last definition.
Dos & don’ts
Time to take a closer look at these ‘flexible’ or ‘versatile’ employees. Flexible working, in this context, doesn’t simply mean that you can assign people to do odd jobs here and there.
For example, you wouldn’t ask your marketing specialist or software developer to give your office windows a good clean.
What we mean is that you have certain members of staff with skill sets and expertise, wide-ranging enough to perform several roles within your organization and provide true added value.
Examples might include a project manager who has good enough written and verbal language skills to take on a communications role. Or a marketing specialist with IT skills who can build a web application or website.
The benefits of versatility
Versatility has many benefits for employers and employees alike. Below, you’ll find a few examples.
Benefits to employers
- Quite simply, versatility allows you to get the most out of your workforce. By looking beyond fixed job descriptions, you can capitalize on not just one, but all of an employee’s skills.
- Because working in this way maximizes your workforce’s talents, you also help boost employee motivation and satisfaction levels.
- What’s more, having versatile workers means you’re better able to respond to changes, for example market demand, technological developments, organizational restructuring, and economic fluctuations.
- A versatile workforce also helps safeguard your organization’s continuity, reduce staff turnover, and boost your company’s image.
Benefits to employees
- Switching between tasks or roles means employees aren’t doing the same work for extended periods of time. And what does this achieve? A more challenging job with greater variety!
- Versatility allows staff to employ more of their talents and, in turn, achieve even higher performance levels.
- Oftentimes, versatile employees are also able to manage their work more autonomously.
- What’s more, switching tasks, roles, or departments broadens their horizons, and allow them to learn new skills and experience greater challenges.
- Ultimately, being a versatile employee provides more opportunities and the freedom to chart their own career path. The more they can do, the more often potentially interesting roles will become available and the greater their value to the organization as a whole.
- In short, a solid foundation for a promotion or salary raise!
Mapping flexibility or versatility
Every organization wants to get a clearer picture of its staff’s flexibility or versatility. But how should you go about mapping something as abstract as ‘versatility’? One of the best tools available for achieving just this is the skills matrix or skills management software. Both allow you to see clearly who can do what and how well.
Skills matrices provide a snapshot of your staff’s skills in a matrix layout. At a glance, you can see who has which critical skills, qualifications, or expertise and who can carry out one or more tasks. Read how skills matrices work and how they can benefit your organization.
Skills management software
Many organizations use Excel spreadsheets to create their skills matrices, but in the long term doing so is rarely the best solution. Spreadsheets soon become overly complex and prone to error, not to mention the headaches that arise with version management. As often as not, individuals update these spreadsheets and then forward them to others by email. Before you know it, no one knows who actually has the latest or correct version in front of them.
A great way to solve these issues is to use AG5’s skills management software. All your information is stored centrally in the cloud for anyone to access – anytime, anyplace, anywhere.