How skills will power future success for Arcadis, our People and our Clients 

A group of diverse work colleagues holding a meeting

Arcadis shares their journey to becoming a skills-powered organisation

How can you ensure your business has a workforce that is ready for the future, when so much is unknown? At Arcadis, we know people are our most important asset – so we are undertaking a profound cultural change to ensure they have the skills they need to thrive.

Learn more about Arcadis’ journey

Like so many other organisations, Arcadis has faced skills shortages in some areas. As Mercer’s recent Executive Outlook Study found, 50% of CEOs and CFOs anticipate their organisations will struggle to meet demand with their existing talent processes – with construction one of the industries that will struggle the most.

As a global organisation delivering sustainable design, engineering, digital and consultancy solutions for natural and built assets, a potential skills shortage is a critical consideration for our growth strategy. We also know, as the 2023 Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report highlights, people want, need and expect increased influence and choice over their work and future career options.

I’ve been lucky to enjoy an 18-year career at Arcadis I’d describe as ‘squiggly’ – one that has evolved to align with work I am passionate about, connecting my experiences with opportunities across different countries and areas of the business. Imagine if we could create that kind of diversity of career experience for all employees. One that challenges the traditional and often hierarchical ‘job promotion’ path to instead democratise learning and access to career enhancing experiences for everyone. And at the same time, upskill, cross-skill, and re-skill our people so they stay relevant as the pace of change accelerates.

That is the potential of a skills-powered organisation. In the words of Arcadis’ Chief People Officer, Jacoline Van Blokland, the shift to a focus on skills “is as an enabler for more objective, transparent, bias-free internal talent processes​ – acting as an equaliser for all our people globally.”

In a skills-powered organisation, skills become the currency of the business. It is skills, not jobs, that underpin every talent process throughout the employee lifecycle.

This is not a simple switch for a 135-year-old company with 36,000 employees working in over 70 countries. It is also much more than implementing talent marketplace technology, the focus is on truly changing the way we work and learn at Arcadis.

But every journey starts somewhere. Here’s how we have taken the first steps on ours, and what we have learned so far.

In a skills-powered organisation, skills become the currency of the business. It is skills, not jobs, that underpin every talent process throughout the employee lifecycle.

Why are we embarking on this journey and why now?

When we began building the business case for becoming a skills-powered organisation, we knew it needed to benefit our people, our clients, and our business.

Becoming a skills-powered organisation supports adoption of an internal-first approach to talent discovery, helping our people create more diverse and personalised career paths across Arcadis. It will better enable transparent access to new opportunities, helping Arcadians take control of their career.

For the business to scale and operate globally, we also need better insight into the skills we have now, and the skills we will need in the future. This will allow us to connect our people with immediate and emerging client needs much sooner.

Understanding skills will also help us on our digital transformation journey. Our ‘Standardize then Automate’ program is underway to identify, develop, and reap the benefits from globally aligned processes, definitions, and harmonised ways of working. As part of this we will identify opportunities to substitute, augment and reinvent work. Our people can then use their skills in different and more interesting ways, and deliver better outcomes for our clients by changing the way work can be delivered. 

How to start future-proofing your business

Early in the journey, I got some great advice: there will never be a right time to start this journey – you have to just start.

Our vision is to enable a skills-focused culture, and embed skill-based talent practices throughout the lifecycle of the employee experience so we attract, grow and connect talent globally. As we evolved our understanding of what is possible, we made sure to work closely with every aspect of our business to better understand the potential impact of our transition to a skills-powered organisation. We realized it was vital to start with current business pain points – while also keeping an eye on, and planning for, the future end state. 

While we are still at the beginning of this journey, we have already learned four core success factors when starting the transition:

  • 1. Take a multi-year view
    We have purposefully embarked on the first step of a three year journey, starting with a focus on engaging with people right across our business to co-create a skills-transformation roadmap and strategy. At each horizon over the multi-year program, we’ll have a points of reflection to test our assumptions, review priorities and make sure we’re ready to move to the next stage.
  • 2. This is a business-led change

    From the start, this has been a cross-business co-creation. On the program Steering Committee, Change Sponsors represent our Global Business Area leadership teams, and together we are responsible for designing, building and implementing the changes we need to the way we work and operate. The program team also includes change and communications professionals, and as we work through the 5 horizons different subject matter experts from all parts of Arcadis will be engaged.

    Our largest shareholder is also a co-investor.  At Arcadis we are in a unique position to have a foundation called the Lovinklaan Foundation which is led and managed by employees. As the largest shareholder in Arcadis, Lovinklaan’s mission is to ensure the continuity of Arcadis and to provide Arcadians the opportunity to reach their full potential. Given the clear alignment between Lovinklaan’s mission and the vision of becoming a skills-powered organisation, we engaged with Lovinklaan early. We are extremely grateful that they have co-invested with Arcadis and will act as an incubator throughout the implementation. 

  • 3. Make sure your skills-powered organisation strategy suits your unique needs
    Our proof of concept and the pain points we are targeting are very specific to Arcadis, because while other organisations may have commenced a similar approach, where they start and what skills strategy is right for them may not be right for us. That’s why it has, and continues to be, so important to hear from diverse perspectives across our business as we evolve our strategy.
  • 4. Choose the right partners

    There are many potential partners providing, or supporting the implementation of, talent intelligence and talent marketplace technology and the associated organisational change. They can be a fantastic source of insight before you decide what works for your business. We needed an implementation partner to support us with human-centred change management and insight, and a technology partner to enable our new ways of working with the right platform and data so we can scale globally.

    As with any major change program, it’s easy to get caught up in the challenges of technology, risk or governance. But people are at the heart of Arcadis’ shift to become a skills-powered organisation. That’s why we are taking a human-centred approach in this business-led change. This will enable us to design a workforce that is ready for opportunities which may not exist today and will set the business and our people up for future success.

    This opinion piece first appeared in the Arcadis’ website.

About the author(s)
Amy Baxendale

Global Capability & Workforce Readiness Director – Arcadis

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