Jane Basson, Chief of Staff to the CEO at Airbus Group, has a hybrid profile. When asked why and how she developed her polyvalent managerial skills, she confesses that it isn’t strategic: she’s just always had a wide range of interests. “I don’t like being put in a box. I have an innate attraction to novelty and learning new things,” she says. “I studied English and Philosophy in University, then Nursing & Arabic, Journalism and Law. And, in my career, I developed core skills in communications before moving into leadership development.” Jane is just lucky then, because her kind of hybrid pro le is in increasing demand today across the board in business, and also, she con rms, in her chosen eld of aerospace engineering: “Cross-functional skills weren’t necessarily highly valued 15 years ago,” she says. “But now the ability to pivot from one function to another, learn new skills, and see connections that other people might miss is of more and more value, largely due to the speed of change associated with new technologies.”
Cross-functional skills gain value in the digital age
“On the scale of our company, there have been big changes around the kind of leadership behaviors we look for and how we identify talent,” says Jane. “In our assessment centers, we don’t just look at experience and business acumen any longer. We also assess for the ability to network and understanding of the overall strategy. Individual engineers no longer only have to worry about, for example, the safety, cost, and ease of manufacturing of the micro-piece that they are currently developing: they also have to see the big picture.” She goes on to explain that the rate of change in the eld of aerospace engineering is directly linked to technological developments – a rate of change that is expected only to increase in speed moving forward. “Past performance is no longer a predictor of future success,” she says. “Who you are has become far more important than what you do. We need people who can pivot and learn new skills. And we need people who understand the importance of networks to getting things done in the digital age.”
Mobility is one solution for developing hybrid profiles
To develop this new talent pro le, Jane reports a push for greater internal mobility, particularly on an international level. “We need versatile pro les. Exposure to di erent cultures and teams and ways of thinking is hugely important to developing multi-functional problem-solving skills and also to building stronger networks,” says Jane. “A team with a wealth of diversity and di erent forms of experience boosts agility by generating richer brainstorming and, ultimately, better solutions for users in any given market. This is why we have prioritized mobility.” In 2016, 10% of Airbus Group’s employees changed positions within the group. In 2017, 12.4%, or 12,000 individuals, changed positions. 1000 individuals changed divisions entirely.