T3-4 Identifying Non-Technical Skills that Affect Productivity the Most

We cannot always assume that, in any specific work context, (cognitive) knowledge assets are all we need to manage for greater productivity and innovation. Affective or non-technical skills and aptitudes can also be important.

In fact, in one of my multinational corporate clients, we found that non-technical skills account for more than two-thirds of the variation in employee productivity! We explained this finding by observing that this organization manages its (technical or cognitive) knowledge assets so well that doing more of the same would produce less impact on productivity than doing something else that they nearly forgot: enhancing non-technical or affective skills. I dare assert that many organizations practically have a blind spot in this area.

Over a 1.5-hours lunchtime brown-bag session in another multinational client, we were able to identify non-technical skills that greatly affect productivity the most by asking one simple trigger question: “From your experiences and observations, what are the skills and aptitudes of a high-performing professional staff which are not reflected in their CVs/resumes?”

This particular client operates over many Asian countries, and their professional staffs have to deal with clients from different Asian cultures. Among the outputs from this short lunch session were: cultural sensitivity, politically savvy, emotional intelligence, communication skills and people skills.

Some learning of participants from these short sessions were:

  • With the right trigger question, high-value tacit knowledge can be elicited and cross-validated by a team in a short period of time.
  • We have much individual tacit knowledge about what works well which we are not always aware of as a group; KM serves to convert these into more useful group explicit knowledge.
  • Managing knowledge is not enough; emotional factors must also be managed but the management tools for the latter seem relatively unrecognized and unorganized or not systematized.
  • There seems to be a gap in the HR Department’s screening/selection and performance evaluation frameworks.

You are welcome to read my previous blog posts related to this one:


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