Changing Nature of Work: “It’s All About Expertise, Not Experience”

by Michael Haberman on February 28, 2012 · 2 comments


I have written about the changing nature of work several times, as recently as two weeks ago (See Changing Nature of Work and the Difficulty of Government Regulation) so it is something I find interesting. So I was happy to run across Josh Bersin’s blog post The End of a Job as We Know It written on January 30, 2012. Josh talks about many of the issues that I have also talked about. But he used a phrase that I think has implications for many areas. He said the world of jobs today is “…all about expertise, not about experience.”

This is showing up in many different guises. Here in Atlanta we have unions protesting at the AT&T headquarters because the traditional landline business is declining and the company is cutting the number of those jobs, yet at same time they are hiring for their wireless business. The reason this is occurring is that the land line workers have experience but not the needed expertise to take on new roles. Company after company is complaining they cannot fill jobs, not because they cannot find workers, but they cannot find workers who have the expertise they need to have to fill those jobs.

Bersin also believes this change impacts several areas:

First he says that companies are hiring for skill sets not experience. This requires of applicants  “…that now, more than ever, it is time to focus on your own skills and abilities. Decide what you are truly good at, and focus on building this set of skills in a deeper and more meaningful way. Read everything you can. Take courses to build fundamental skills.

Secondly, he says it requires managers and business leaders to “…think hard about your own organization. Have you created enough flexibility in the organization to empower people to develop expertise and bring it to your customers? Do you encourage continuous learning and learning from mistakes? Do you reward expertise and functional depth?”

The major thing this changing nature of work requires is for all of us, employees and employers alike, to re-evaluate what and how we do it. The change is causing us to look at the roles we play in making organizations more effective instead of looking at what jobs we hold. Thinking of expertise allows employees to fill roles beyond the boundaries of their traditional jobs. Thinking of expertise allows employers to be more agile in responding to customer needs by allowing employees to work outside the silos of their job description.

I think one of the reasons that I find this so interesting is that I embraced this concept when I started consulting. I have a developed expertise in human resources, in particular compliance issues. I have no “job” doing this. I have different, albeit similar, roles with each of my clients. The particular needs of each client drive how I work, when I work and what I work on.

For this to work we will have to make major changes. As an article in the Washington Post published around February 19th blared in its headline Surge in temp jobs reflects fundamental change. Perhaps we need to start viewing all jobs as temporary, though that word is too loaded with prior meaning to be effective. Perhaps we need to view it as hiring “interim expertise” rather than hiring someone to fill a slot. There will have to be changes in government regulations as well as changes in the delivery of health care. So this change in the world of work will not be an easy one, but it is a building wave and we best be prepared for it before it becomes a tsunami that sweeps us away.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sharon September 19, 2012 at 7:18 am

solutions to problems of changing nature at work

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