25 February 2020

3min

Recognition of ones expertise as opposed to status is providing the platform for employee freedom

Discover an excerpt from the opinion column by Matthieu Fouquet, HR Partner and General Secretary of Onepoint published in Le Cercle des ‘Echos’.

Company after company, sector after sector, the logic of statutes and incomes is losing ground. Organisations are becoming more horizontal, employees are moving into lifelong learning, and digital technology is proving to be a powerful factor in the emancipation of the individual.

Lifetime positions, statutory scales, and index progressions have become markers of a bygone era. What the twentieth century has patiently built up with statutory stability will not be able to withstand the digital surge.

Gradually, expertise replaces status, and is constantly reinventing itself. After 18 to 24 months, there is no more ‘comfort’ expertise. Cards are being reshuffled at the rapid pace of technological acceleration.

A new criterion for internal recognition, an obvious lever for external competitiveness, expertise has become a new asset for companies.

TRANSITION FROM COMPETENCE TO EXPERTISE

At first glance, competence and expertise seem to be used interchangeably. Yet expertise differs from competence in at least two ways. The first difference is the individual themselves.

Competence is a set of skills taught and then validated by an exogenous authority.

It is granted to the individual once and for all. After the period of investment and effort to acquire this skill, the individual may become passive. He has received it, he has been declared capable of exercising it, in a predictable and often fixed environment.

On the other hand, the expert faces complex and changing situations. He acts by intuition and in a personalised chain of reasoning. Expertise is an endogenous or inner conquest. His knowledge is never procedural. Because it is a permanent quest, it can only resonate with the values and personality of each individual.

Each person chooses and manages their own expertise, over the years, by aligning situations and learning in relation to their own driving forces and interests. The legitimacy of the expert is not obtained definitively, it arises thanks to peers, it exists because it is solicited.

No educational institution graduates ‘experts’. One does not measure one’s expertise by a validation of prior learning, but by one’s own attractiveness within and outside of a collective.

With expertise, the individual no longer has the luxury, nor the risks, of passivity. They embody and deepen their expertise as their game and technique are honed, long after the team has finished training.

The second difference between expertise and competence concerns the link between the individual and the entrepreneurial collective.

By its nature, competence is a matter for collective and standardised teaching systems. It can only ever be incomplete and regularly overtaken by technical and economic reality. Whether they apply for training or employment related to their skills, the individual is subject to the system and the organisation.

They place themselves at the service of a group by trying to respond to what it asks of them, with increasing discrepancies between the validated competence and the nature of the need, at the risk of losing all confidence and all sense of their action. The question of fulfilment can then only be relegated to the background of the project.

By cultivating their expertise, on the contrary, the individual does not seek to respond to a demand. They want to be a permanent force of proposal within a collective that they have chosen like their peers.

The expert does not have a submissive relationship with the company, they are an asset that the company must make productive. They then become primarily responsible for their expertise and employability. For example, upon joining the company or a new team, it could be up to them to configure their learning and interaction environment.

Matthieu Fouquet

HR Partner and General Secretary