To have a technical staff capable of meeting the business needs for creating a sustainable advantage position in ongoing investment must be made in enhancing the technical and business skills in the technical staff. This practice companies have found that a comprehensive program for assessing and addressing the skill needs across the organization involves two components. These are a Competency Review Process and HR Review Process. To gain maximum impact the business skills training should be provided to all levels of the R&D workforce.

First kind of courses offered are usually behavior type training courses. These consist of selling and negotiation skills, influencing skills, and managing conflict and confrontation. After these training courses have been completed and the participants have demonstrated skills in these areas, additional programs related to leadership are undertaken. These consist of team manager training, coaching skills for managers, and management effectiveness seminars.

The business skills training involves having the technical staff become familiar with such concepts as ROI and other financial metrics, HR concepts such as job rotations, and sales concepts associated with key account management. Interpersonal skills training consists of selling and negotiation skills, resolving conflicts skills, and influencing skills. The leadership skills training is comprised of coaching skills, project team leadership skills, and providing 360° performance and development appraisals.

Skills Development Matrix

Based on the findings of the IRI working groups Gina O’Connor invited technical management into a grid of nine generic job roles that cut across all industries. These are shown in the “Skills Development Matrix” figure. In this figure job scope is shown on the vertical axis is represented by the roads. It starts with work focused on projects. The scope increases to working on multiple projects or platforms followed by even larger scope working on hope portfolios of programs. The focus of the work is shown on the vertical columns and starts with discovery work in understanding the technology and market gaps and opportunities. Once projects with good ROI are uncovered the roles needed for successful development of the ideas through preliminary assessment and scale up her shown in the center incubation column. Acceleration is focused on late stage scale up commercial introduction and market growth to take market share.

In order to build skills in the areas needed in the Skills Development Matrix a self-assessment is first done by the individual to determine their competencies and gaps. Based on the gaps that have been uncovered between their current performance and their current job level a development plan is created to close those gaps. For individuals wishing to progress to larger areas of scope responsibility or participate in commercialization of projects in different stage along the innovation pathway for self-assessment can be compared with the gaps in the new role they seek. The self-assessment tools are often supported with peer, management and coaching/mentor feedback.