22 Dec 2016 15:14 IST

Year-end appraisal: how to top up your skill set

We mistake the number of years spent in an organisation as a ticket to our future

What’s on your mind as you head towards another year-end: your year-end holiday destination – or that New Year resolution you tell yourself you won’t break again? As for me, I’m writing out my CV right now, and I’d urge you to do the same. I’m not suggesting that you change jobs, but rather to reflect on what you learnt this year. Some organisations force people to analyse their performance during yearly appraisals. But I think the year-end is a good time to reflect on the skills we learnt during the calendar year without any organisational nudging.

Often, we mistake the number of years spent in an organisation as a ticket to our future. Some of us are also led to believe that if we are performing, we must be good — and should therefore feel safe about our future. That’s probably the wrong way to look at it.

When it comes to choosing talent, today's organisations are as disloyal as employees are about choosing workplaces. Organisations tend to favour people who have critical experience and skills.

Upgrading yourself

Sometimes we have strong opinions about our career paths, and remain oblivious to organisations’ needs and plans. Our own passion to go down certain paths and roles blinds us to otherwise obvious growth prospects. For organisations to thrive, they need to add new business lines, use more technology, and go digital. Have you attempted your own upgrades in these areas to stay relevant?

I write my CV every year-end, and some years it’s a struggle to think of something that counts as a ‘skill’ that’s different from the year before. We can intellectualise this and claim that a year is too short to add any new skill, but why not make a beginning based on what we need to add?

Does ‘skilling’ mean pestering the Learning & Development team to send us to some new training programme every year? That helps, but it is at best a one-time stimulus; otherwise training programmes are like watching a play: they are entertaining while you’re in the hall, but tend to be forgotten later.

Acquiring skills

For me, a skill is the cultivation of a new habit that is repeatable, demonstrable and useful to one’s self and to the organisation. It’s a change that is visible to everyone, and can have an impact on your personality and the people around you. Any skill acquisition process will bring about an element of discomfort and difficulty, and requires discipline at the start. That is why only a few of us succeed in climbing up the corporate ladder or landing new, exciting jobs.

Does the solution lie in reading 30 pages of management tomes a day, listening to podcasts, joining an online course, and doing executive programmes on niche skills? Perhaps yes, as they will stimulate us to ‘learn’. But more important, we need to recognise the key changes happening around our ecosystem or industry and pick one or two immediate areas that need to be added to our repository of knowledge. This is an individual agenda to be pursued relentlessly. Anything that we don’t do daily can never be learnt.

It starts with you

We can’t depend on our employers to get skilled as organisations are focussed on their business models and need to protect their market share. This may limit the potential you have or the skills that you can build based on what is needed beyond your current employers for your tomorrow.

Also, most often organisations are focussed at an institution or collective level of upskilling than at an individual level. For example, how many organisations are willing to put you on an entrepreneurship programme, if you think that’s a skill you need for yourself? So, the onus of skilling is on you — and you alone. Don’t get busy with only what organisation wants you to learn.

Maybe if you write your CV every year in terms of ‘skills added’, you may get a true picture of where you stand. If it looks the same as in the previous year, you know what to do!

(The author was till recently Managing Director of Kelly Services & Kelly OCG India, and is now pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams. He is a commentator on workplace dynamics.)