The success of today’s hyper-personalized, intuitive and intelligent products requires that employees have a full stack of skills. At first, the term “full stack” described software developers who had multiple competencies and worked across the development process, from the front to the back end. Today, this term covers the skills of every professional across the enterprise — sales and marketing, finance, operations, human resources and more.

Full-stack employees are digital natives who understand the enterprise’s larger picture and resolve issues effectively. They are curious, knowledge seekers and eager to overcome challenges. Enterprises gain by saving time, reducing costs and enhancing efficiencies when they recruit full-stack employees. In tomorrow’s enterprise, full-stack employees will have more than domain expertise to include the following three traits: problem-solving, communication and learnability.

Three Fundamental Tenets Of A Full-Stack Culture

1. Problem-solving

The World Economic Forum lists complex problem-solving as the top skill for employees to thrive in 2020. As enterprises emerge from the pandemic and try to penetrate a market that has accelerated digital adoption, good problem-solvers are going to play a critical role in making sound decisions and building effective products. To quote a famous expression, “If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes defining it and five minutes solving it.” This thinking suggests that the underlying strength of a problem-solver is excellent judgment and the capability to go the extra mile. 

In 2019, a Colorado high schooler innovated an augmented reality software program for use in spinal surgery. The invention has increased the accuracy of screw placement in spinal surgery, potentially decreasing operating time by at least 30 minutes, reducing physical therapy recovery time by four weeks and diminishing the adverse side effects of traditional medical imaging. Krithik Ramesh, the inventor, has demonstrated himself to be a great problem-solver even before high school graduation. It is an excellent example of the importance of the skill to understand problems and solve them effectively. 

2. Communication

In an increasingly global workforce, communication becomes crucial in teams to explain a point of view, sell an idea and minimize errors. Indeed, a lack of communication has led to many accidents globally, including the first Mars Climate Orbiter built by NASA. The disintegration of the spacecraft in the upper atmosphere of Mars was the result of a miscommunication between two engineering teams about the units of measurement. While one team used SI units, the other used U.S. customary units.

Now more than ever, the ability to express one’s thoughts clearly at in-person meetings or over digital channels such as email, documents and team calls is indispensable. The pandemic has pushed us into remote working, and communication is now especially vital to eliminate confusion and errors. Language differences, idioms, accents and a lack of non-verbal cues often cause barriers in communication. The language of texting in social media is not suitable for sending email summaries of meetings, outlining decisions, resolving complaints and creating effective proposals. In the new abnormal, excellent communication skills go a long way in enhancing job opportunities and career growth.

3. Learnability

Alvin Toffler wrote, “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” In an increasingly dynamic world where new technologies, information and best practices are churned out at a rate faster than ever before, employees who refuse to learn will be left behind. Learnability is about adapting to new skills, expanding the knowledge base and continuously rebuilding the arsenal of skills. A C++ developer needs to learn JavaScript and Ruby, a marketer needs to learn the ropes of sales and tooling, and an accountant needs to look beyond profit and loss to find growth opportunities for the enterprise. 

Building The Full-Stack Culture

Enterprises today need a revolution — one that empowers employees with full-stack capabilities to future-proof careers. Human resources teams must drive rapid reskilling initiatives to address the widening skills gap that has been catalyzed by shifts in technologies. Today, every enterprise needs the critical skills of advanced analytics, automation, continuous delivery and cloud. A combination of reskilling and upskilling programs can help enterprises future-proof their workforce for the shifts caused by the pandemic, globalization and transitions in markets. At the same time, HR needs to collaborate with academia proactively to ensure that the college curriculum aligns with the changes in the marketplace.

The shift from code-driven to solution-driven, from a mass factory approach to hyper-personalization and from one-dimensional to multidimensional skills is fundamental to building a resilient workforce of full-stack employees. Skills in problem-solving, communication and learnability are significant in addressing both short-term and long-term challenges of tomorrow’s workforce.

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