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You may have heard the term ‘capability building’ banded around, but what is it?

Experts will tell you it is something essential to any organisation wishing to grow, improve performance and deliver impact.  It should be a high strategic priority and is fundamental to building a more resilient workforce and creating a more positive workplace. 

It’s about identifying the capabilities individual workers need, to deliver better performance, and then building those capabilities.  It plugs the gap between corporate strategy and successful strategy execution, by providing the ‘tools’ individuals need to succeed and play their part in overall organisational growth and profitability.

As Tim Welsh, US Bancorp Vice Chairman, Consumer and Business Banking, has said, “If you don’t get capability building right, you can’t get the strategy right. It’s as essential as any tool a company has for achieving its strategy.”[1]

However, it’s a more holistic approach than just a training programme.  McKinsey says “capability building goes way beyond traditional employee training.  It’s about fundamentally changing how the work gets done, it’s also one of the best ways to energise people, from the C-suite to the factory floor.”   

Importantly, it needs to be managed competently and strategically, which is where Space2BE adds such value for its clients and why it comprises one-third of our focus, if you visit our services page.

As Liz Hilton Segel, McKinsey managing partner, North America, says: “One mistake we often see companies make is when capability-building programs are not directly tied to an expected performance improvement. Companies get much more out of their efforts when they are extremely clear about what performance change they are seeking, whether that’s revenue growth or quality improvement or higher employee-satisfaction scores.”[2]

It is, therefore, essential to build in the means and metrics that monitor progress and highlight the impacts of capability building and its influence on the desired performance goal.

Like the painting the Humber Bridge, capability building is a never-ending strategy.  Skills become obsolete fast in our rapidly evolving world.  Global situations are making our working lives more fluid than ever.  Capability building equips employees with the ability to cope, be resilient, think differently, evolve, respond quickly and pro-actively deliver creative solutions.  There is no start and end date to capability building. 

Crucially, capability building also delivers the energy essential to any programme of transformation.  It is powerful.  Employees feel invested in.  It unlocks mindsets and latent skills, develops talent and furnishes teams with new skills.  It expands horizons and presents new opportunities.  It encourages every team member to learn, learn from mistakes, not be judged and be their best self, working towards a common goal.

Notably, Tim Welsh also maintains that, “An environment of mission, purpose and individual generosity is central to building capabilities that achieve strategic outcomes.”  Getting the corporate culture right, is an essential cornerstone for effective capability building.

Organisations also need to encourage intentional learning and be willing to invest in human capital, recognising that the payback is spread over very many years and can also be derived from better talent retention.  Experts argue talent development should be “job one” for every leader within an organisation, because of the business value it creates.

CEO’s have a crucial role to play in the success of any capability building programme, as people mimic people.  In organisations where senior leaders model the desired way of working, the success rate is 5.3 times higher.[3]

Deloitte believes capability building requires an organisation to focus on innate but coachable capabilities – curiosity, creativity, empathy, being some of the intangibles that can make a huge difference to organisational performance.[4] Our own emotional intelligence programmes support this viewpoint.

Above all, once employees are equipped with new capabilities, they need the opportunity to deploy them and get the buzz from achieving new goals, or superseding challenges they previously thought ‘beyond them’.  They need to derive the sense of being part of something bigger and being their whole self, as this video explains.  That’s what supercharges organisational energy and that’s what creates transformation.  That’s why capability building is such a big deal.