Posted: 04 Nov. 2020 5 min. read

Human capability management

Driving organizational performance through talent development

As technology becomes more pervasive and the pace of change due to market disruption increases, organizations need to cultivate enduring human capabilities (EHCs) in their workforce even more than in the past. Complementary to skills, EHCs enable workers to apply their shorter-lived skills across contexts to weather disruption of their roles.1 The term “enduring human capabilities” is increasingly replacing “soft skills” because it more meaningfully describes observable human attributes that are needed to adapt technical skills across contexts.2 This focus on EHCs allows organizations to create “new value” that they were unable to create before; this new value goes beyond the financial realm to those of customer and worker experience, brand, social impact, and others.3

Source: Workforce reskilling enduring human capability POV and approach:

As highlighted by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, organizations are asking these questions related to EHCs:

  • How do enduring human capabilities drive organizational performance?
  • How can organizations cultivate enduring human capabilities at all levels?

To the first question, cultivating EHCs can help organizations:

  • Enable new value creation by identifying the capabilities necessary to achieve strategic vision now and in the future;
  • Develop a workforce that can continually adapt and acquire needed skills; and
  • Access the right talent and engage the workforce in continuous development.5

To unlock the power of EHCs, organizations should aim to cultivate them at all levels. To do this, they must start with the end in mind and identify the work outcomes necessary to address their business needs and the cultural characteristics they want for their organization. Organizations can make this process concrete by identifying the workplace behaviors that will lead to their desired work outcomes and culture. These behaviors are tangible, observable manifestations of EHCs that can be demonstrated in any environment that requires the use of the capability. The behaviors are not static—they are malleable and can change over time with coaching from a manager or supervisor in the flow of work.

Source: Workforce reskilling enduring human capability POV and approach

IMGH case study

In early 2020, Deloitte partnered with a Texas-based nonprofit, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (IM), to help the organization improve talent management.6 Jennifer Leone, IM’s chief financial and administrative officer, and Bonnie Weisman, IM’s vice president of human resources, had set out to tackle IM’s challenges of attracting and retaining talent while providing impactful learning opportunities for their employees.

While IM initially focused on skill development, they quickly realized that EHCs provided them greater opportunity to build their desired talent experience and culture. As Weisman highlighted, “You can teach skills, but if someone is missing the underlying enduring human capability, then they will not get very far after the initial teaching. EHCs are foundational because the skills are built on them.” Expanding on this, Leone saw EHCs as the key to leveraging skills, stating, “Critical thinking and creativity means you can take accounting skills and apply them in a way that is more impactful for your business. Without that foundation, you are just regurgitating information, and you are not applying it, thinking about it, and adapting it for your area of work.”

Leone and Weisman also felt that a focus on EHCs would align with their organization’s values and build the kind of learning culture that they wanted for IM. According to Leone, “We don’t just need bodies. We need people with the right skillset and EHCs, and this [cultivating EHCs across the organization] is how we will get to the outcomes that we want. This will take time, but we are going to build our people in addition to hiring the right people—build them into better individuals and a better organization of individuals.” Based on this mindset shift, IM decided to take a capabilities-first approach to develop its workforce.

To do this, Leone and Weisman first determined how EHCs manifest themselves in different roles. Employees across the organization—managers, business developers, and caseworkers—could only make EHCs a part of the organizational fabric if they understood how to demonstrate them. For example, business developers could demonstrate creativity by identifying unique revenue streams and untapped sources for volunteers, donors, and services. Similarly, office administrators could display their critical thinking by providing recommendations for improvement to existing processes with clear justifications.

To deliver and reinforce a continual learning culture that cultivates EHCs in the flow of work, Leone sees managers playing a critical role. “We’re going to lean more on the middle management team for developing EHCs through informal coaching of their teams, having check-ins around capabilities, and recognizing high performers using the language of enduring human capabilities. The process of defining behaviors for capabilities has given us some excellent information that the managers can use in conversations with their employees (e.g., “you showed creativity when you did X” or “you demonstrated a lack of critical thinking when you did or did not do Y”).”

While Leone and Weisman believe that organizations can adopt much of what they have learned around EHCs, they urge organizations to choose capabilities from Deloitte’s list that fit the needs of their business, their people strategy, and their desired culture. After reviewing the list and determining the need for each EHC in the future, IM identified creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking as the key to their impact with clients. As their employees become more creative, they may think of additional ways to offer services and programming to the community with their limited resources. With more curiosity, their employees may learn of a new best practice or an alternative that could improve a process or system. By thinking more critically, IM’s employees would be able to understand clients’ numerous problems and find solutions to benefit their lives. In Weisman’s words, “It is important for every organization to look at the EHC list and understand that the ones they pick will be different and customized to their business, workforce, and community. Our chosen EHCs reflect the populations we work with and the workforce we need to work with our stakeholders. An organization’s approach to focusing on enduring human capabilities should come through their vision or mission and the customers they serve. Each approach should reflect the type of workforce they need in their employees and the behaviors they want to see.”


How to approach cultivating enduring human capabilities

  • Identify the work outcomes necessary to address your organization’s needs and desired culture.
  • Identify the EHCs and underlying workplace behaviors that will help lead to your desired work outcomes.
  • Create a plan to cultivate these identified EHCs across your organization.

For more information, please reach out to:


Michael Griffiths is a partner with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice in North America.

Colin Emerson is a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Organization Transformation Consulting practice.

JR Fujimoto is a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Organization Transformation Consulting practice.


Kira Gerbron is a senior manager in Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice.

George Perrotta is a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Learning & Leadership Consulting practice.

Thresa Skeslien Jenkins is an analyst in Deloitte’s Cross Consulting Group (CCG) practice.


5  Ibid.

 6  IM has been a leading force in bringing together people of all faiths to serve people in need in the greater Houston area through Meals on Wheels, providing services to refugees, interfaith relations and community partnerships, and Volunteer Houston. In just the last year, they have helped more than 29,000 people in the Greater Houston area through their programming.

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Michael Griffiths

Michael Griffiths

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Michael is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP with more than 20 years of experience, working with organizations on key transformational programs. Within the Human Capital practice, he leads the Workforce Transformation offering, helping clients with learning transformations, workforce planning, workforce experience, becoming skill based, in addition to other workforce-related issues. He is well published in the field of learning and talent, and is the leading market voice on becoming a skills-based organization. He is an author for Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends research and report, co-leading the report in 2023 – the largest global report, of its kind, in market.