Skills Management

Durable vs. Perishable Skillsets and Why It Is Important?

Why we should be talking about perishable skills vs. durable skills?

Investing in the right balance of perishable and durable skill sets helps organizations outlast a volatile or fluctuating economy. With the global talent shortage becoming more and more apparent across all industries, the concept of durable and perishable skills has caught on. Employers around the world have started to recognize the learning needs for both types of skillsets.

Though it can be tempting to focus on the skills needed right now, we should consider whether these skills will be as important in the future.

We can't afford to tie our employees up with knowledge that will only be useful in a specific, narrow context, because the world is changing so quickly. Yet, current technological skills often meet the definition above. So, when developing a talent management program, a balance between perishable skills and durable skills must be created.

What are Durable Skills?

Durable skills are the skills that can be used in the future, making it possible to remain competitive even as your business landscape changes. Durable skills are not easily replaced by technology. Durable skills are a set of knowledge, experience, and abilities that will be needed in the future. They include things like creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

Durable skills will provide your employees with long-term benefits. These skills will not become obsolete because they are in demand everywhere.

Examples of durable skills include:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Public speaking
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation

What are Perishable Skills?

Perishable skills are skills that are relevant for a certain amount of time, and often contextual to a place or organization. They are not skills usable for the rest of your life.

Skills like programming and web design are examples of perishable skills. Skills that have to do with specific technologies like blockchain technology or artificial intelligence will also be considered perishable skills.

The term “perishable skill” was first used in the 1990s by futurist Alvin Toffler in his book “The Third Wave” to describe a skill that is no longer relevant in a society because it has been replaced by an innovation or new technology.

Perishable skills are easily forgotten, outdated, or that no longer have a demand in the workforce.

Some classic examples of perishable skills include:

  • Using typewriters
  • Using slide rules
  • Punch cards
Other perishable skills could include manual labor, manufacturing, and other jobs that can be replaced by automation.

How Long Do These Skill Sets Last?

According to Chief Learning Officer Magazine, skill durability can be divided into three categories:

  1. Perishable skills: Less than 2.5 years. These are specific technical skills that must be updated frequently.
  2. Semi-durable skills: 2.5 to 7.5 years. These tend to be frameworks that are based on an understanding that may remain relevant for a few years.
  3. Durable skills: More than 7.5 years. They are foundational to an employee's soft skill set.

Creating the Right Balance of Perishable Skills vs. Durable Skills for Your Organization

To close your organization’s skills gaps in the short-term, as well as for the future, determine which skills and competencies that are most needed fall into the categories of perishable skills and durable skills.

Preferably, you will possess a versatile skills management tool like the SkillsDB Competency Builder that will help you label which groups your skills fall into. Next, create a process and schedule to review and, if required, modify the relevant skills and competencies within your competency model.

Examine your perishable skills annually, at a minimum, and be certain your competency model – as well as your employee’s skillsets – remain fresh and pertinent. Then, make sure your learning and development plans and individual development plans align, using the skills your organization actually  requires now, as well as for the future.

 In Conclusion

It may sound like a drastic change, but if you've been relying on the existing talents of your team to sustain the competitiveness of your organization, this idea may come as a rude shock. In 3 years, your company will have significantly less capacity to adapt to a changing marketplace.

On the other hand, if you encourage employees to develop skills by adapting, learning, and growing, they'll have a more diverse and relevant skillset for decades to come.

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