T-shaped workforce—the answer to future sustainability risks

The future demands more adaptability and for that you need people who can adapt themselves to the situation. The answer lies in T-shaped workers.


The fact that talent development is vital to business growth is already well established. However, today, it’s not just enough to equip a workforce to meet the current business demands. Organisations need to think beyond and enable workforces to adapt to future business changes as well. The future demands more adaptability and a workforce that’s learnt how to adapt well, is more equipped to innovate, without which there’s no survival in the rapidly-transforming times ahead.

That said, the ideal worker of the future will bear T-shaped virtues. Now, what makes a T-shaped worker? The T-shaped worker is an expert in at least one field, but has a working knowledge and can converse in the language of various other disciplines as well. In simple words, a Jack of all trades who’s also a master of one, fits the future worker expectations. There are various advantages to having T-shaped workers.

A whitepaper by Skillsoft explains that the T-shaped model for talent development helps organisations develop master problem solvers and innovators. Since they have deep functional expertise in a single field, the T-shaped employees maintain a high level of proficiency in their domain, along with being able to adapt to and expand into various other areas with a range of significant capabilities.

Developing a T-shaped workforce solves the challenges involving talent mobility and business sustainability. The ability to adapt and understand a variety of functions and domains, is what defines future leaders.

Gear up for the future of work. Read this whitepaper by Skillsoft to know more about T-shaped workforce, its benefits, and how to build one.

Achieving the T-shape

Teaming up for T-shape

The T-shaped model may initially have been just about an individual employee possessing the virtues that define T-shape, but it is more effective with well-knit, collaborative, high-performing teams. With team members coming together for a shared vision, the diversity of experience and ideas results in great outcomes, which in turn ensure sustainable growth. Successful organisations are those that encourage the idea that every project is an opportunity. They focus on developing digital dexterity to optimally gain from the same, by drawing upon the skillsets of each team member. This, combined with supporting a mindset to learn new skills further strengthens the possibilities of a successful outcome.

De-centralising decision making

Doing away with the traditional corporate ways, where only the top management is responsible for most strategic decisions, the T-shaped culture encourages distributed decision making, where leaders at all levels participate in the process or at times even take control of the decisions. The traditional decision making is plagued by delayed information flow and stringent approval systems, especially in organisations that follow a top-down, hierarchical approach.

Team leaders across verticals have a better ground-level understanding. Hence, they are able to quickly understand what ideas resonate, which products work and that increases the overall pace of innovation. The employers with T-shaped workforces encourage collaboration, democratised leadership and adaptability. With T-shaped employees having the autonomy to make decisions, they are able to affect change immediately.

Enabling leaders at all levels

Innovation thrives in an environment where talent development involves encouraging and enabling leaders at all levels and not just at the executive levels. Democratisation of leadership yields great results, as it acknowledges individual employees who are leaders in their own capacity, leading projects or programmes. They may not have the titles or formal designations but they are the ones who bring in business benefits and should be supported for honing their abilities and growing their own strengths and style to drive business impact and innovations.

The T-shaped philosophy, when put into practice across levels, will help organisations scale up for growth in the volatile and dynamic times ahead. By implementing the T-shaped framework for learning and development, organisations will never have a shortage of those ready to step up and take the reins.

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