Achieving Economic Success Through Human Skills Development

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Achieving Economic Success Through Human Skills Development (Le Temps)

Amidst the mass amount of negative global news that we receive every day, we learn that Western Switzerland is doing quite well in confronting the crisis. The gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by more than 2% in 2010 and 2011, according to a study by CREA institute published last May.

By Liliane Held-Khawam, author of the book "Management of Processes by Coaching (MPC): Learning to Cope With Complexity in a Globalized Economy". This article was published in French in the Swiss daily Le Temps on July 26th 2010.

There are two key factors that could explain this finding. On the one hand, we observe a broad diversity in the economic fabric of Western Switzerland: the jobs market indeed offers a variety of skills as well as an entrepreneurship capacity that support the creation of SMEs. On the other hand, the study evidenced a strong presence of companies with high added value – in the biomedical and watchmaking industries, for example – as well as advanced research and development units. If these sectors are supported by cutting-edge management and production tools and enjoy considerable financial resources, they also depend in a vital way on the human skills of their managers and employees.


This allows us to claim that the human skills on which our companies rely represent an essential component of our economic capital. Moreover, they contribute to the stability and economic development of a region, a nation and beyond. The income they generate is a good indicator of economic health, as it allows measuring a tangible wealth that is not based on speculation.

Many large companies, especially those with high levels of added value, have come to understand the vital role played by both individual and collective human skills. It must, however, be noted that major training and development programs that can be very costly, do not always achieve the expected results, since the employees are not fully integrated into the development process.


Some conditions favor the expression of talent. The key element is the mutual trust of employees with their partners. This is essential in order to build an environment that will eventually lead to greater autonomy, flexibility and a greater commitment to the solving of problems and the search for quality. Another factor that favors the expression of professional skills is serenity. The more peaceful the work atmosphere is, the higher the probability that the human factor will commit to what they do. Trust and serenity provide a favorable framework that allows each individual to achieve professional development.


Competency development starts with an audit of the person’s professional skills. The corresponding skills may be divided into four categories:

  1. The first category corresponds to the technical expertise that has been accumulated during the various educational, academic and professional curricula and consists of technical skills, language skills, etc.
  2. Another category regroups organizational and entrepreneurial skills. This type of skills refers to the management of one’s area of responsibility. It reflects the ease in which processes and projects are managed, as well as the ability to structure one’s professional mission. We have observed that project management can prove an efficient tool when trying to structure a professional mission, independent of the latter’s context or magnitude, or the person’s level of responsibility. The relevance of this approach increases with the company’ extent to which the company is business process oriented…
  3. The management of interpersonal relations also regroups a variety of skills that have gained much importance nowadays. Such criteria may relate to the ease in mobilizing a group, communication and conflict-solving skills, for example.
  4. The last category of skills that ought to be assessed is related to the person’s self-management. This may refer to the level of resistance to stress or the person’s work-life balance. This aspect is very important because it questions the relation between one’s professional, social and private lives. Family life, in particular, has a great deal of importance, especially in times of crisis. It indeed offers a reference framework and the possibility to recharge one’s batteries. It is therefore judicious for each person to assess the combination of these three components of their lives.

Once this audit of the person’s skills has been completed and compared to the person’s ideal work-life balance, the individual can separate them into two categories with respect to a given professional project.


First, asset-skills refer to the strong competencies that we enjoy applying in our daily work. They may be innate or have been acquired over time. It is important to bring them to expression; otherwise this energy will become a source of frustration, stress and loss of motivation. The more individuals use these skills, the more they expand and discover new facets of their personality. On the other side, limitation-skills refer to potential weaknesses. We all have limitations; therefore, it can prove judicious to list them up, so we may identify them and either resort to them as little as possible, or seek to develop them.

Managers who do this exercise for themselves can at the same time help their team members to conduct the assessment of their own asset- and limitation-skills. By doing so, they may encourage them to release their potential and better use it to complete their professional mission.

Thereafter, managers will be able to strengthen the human capital of their team, which may help unite the team around them. Moreover, this will boost the delegation of activities according to each person’s capacities. In doing so, these managers will indeed make the best of their team’s complementariness, thus contributing to their group’s cohesion and effectiveness. All this will ensure that the competitiveness of the individuals, group or company in question will grow and last.

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