Applying the right skills at the tight time is critical to ensure health of your service business. I get to speak with many different professional service organizations (PSOs) every week. What I hear over and over again is that skills are the critical advantage company leaders are looking for. Bringing the right skills to bear on a project at the right time is what makes the difference. Availability impacts scheduling of course. But when push comes to shove, availability of a resource can be negotiated. It takes much longer to develop real skills. See my previous post on why skills matter for a professional services firm.

The big questions

Having led service-based organizations the critical question I’ve learned to ask myself is, “Does my team have the skills to execute on the company’s strategic vision.”

Before I can answer this question I have to step back and ask, “How do I know what these critical skills are?” And “How can I know what skills exist in my organization’s talent network?” I am not the only person asking these questions.

Preparing the ground for high growth

I recently met with a professional services firm which is experiencing mid-triple digit growth. This is a firm that started and grew in the recession years by focussing on niche markets. Recognizing the important role that talent acquisition, retention and development plays in enabling its growth plans, the company invested in a talent leader when it had only 25 employees. And laid the foundation for the rapid, skill driven growth, to come. Today, this company has one person in HR and talent management for every twenty-five employees. The company is aggressively accelerating its growth. Investment in skills and talent is paramount for high-growth firms.

Growth in China is growth in talent

The conversation prompted me to look at China as a high growth market. With a high-growth economy, China has many high growth firms. China is an interesting model when you consider that high growth companies are those experiencing annual growth rates of 2000% and upwards of 20000%! CKGSB posted some insights on the war for talent faced by Chinese companies several years ago but I think it is worthwhile sharing this saying in China, “Building a business is dependent on who you get. If you get the right people, and enough of the right people, you can grow no matter what.”

Many years ago I worked for a top software localization company and I still follow trends in that field. I recently read Motionpoint’s pitch for localized Chinese retail sites. Essentially, Motionpoint’s pitch is that you should choose them based on their experience and skills. They have the people with the skills to create localized sites that meet consumer demands and trends. Understanding local buying trends plus knowledge of how to integrate with local payment systems and their ability to tap into China’s social media are all critical skills that the firm promotes as part of its skillset.

CTPartners, an executive search firm, ranked the desired leadership competencies for a China-based senior executive for a specific role as follows:

  1. Government credibility
  2. Local network
  3. Decision making ability and values
  4. International exposure
  5. Industry expertise
  6. Functional expertise
  7. People-management skills

In North America, CTPartners goes on to say that the rankings would be reverse and that people-management skills and functional expertise will be at the top.

How would these skills be ranked in your country? What drives the differences in which skill clusters are seen as important in different economies? I will explore these themes in future posts.