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Network Profile 

Name of Network:   ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet 

Number of members:   130 

Sector(s) covered:  Multi-sector 

Year established:  2006 


Please describe what your Skillnet Business Network does and how it came about? 

ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet was established in 2006 by leading companies that saw the need for a business network that demonstrated a commitment to the continuous improvement of people in the workplace. We are a knowledge-sharing network consisting of over 130 cross-sectoral member companies. 

The strategic purpose of ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet is to provide effective enterprise-led talent development and networking opportunities for companies so they can develop the skills and talent within their workforce. This helps prepare businesses for the political, technological, and competitive risks and opportunities that are already here, and for the future.  

In tandem with our promoting organisation, the Irish Centre for Business Excellence (ICBE), we are dedicated to helping fuel members’ growth and making Ireland a centre of business excellence in a competitive global marketplace. 

As a cross-sectoral, national Skillnet Business Network, we find that the diversity of our members – a mix of small, medium, and large companies operating in a range of industries and professions – allows for a unique cross-pollination of learnings, experiences, and knowledge. 

Can you outline one important way your Network impacts positively on your sector? 

ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet is an agile business network that partners with companies to develop the talent their business needs now and in the future – particularly in areas of soft/transversal skills, digital transformation plus the evolving area of big data. 

Our network focuses on the human skills of leadership, coaching and project management – which are essential for companies to succeed and keep pace with digital acceleration and transformation. 

The World Economic Forum has suggested that 1 billion people need to be trained in new and evolving skills by 2030 – not only specialised technical capabilities for working with new technologies, but also the soft skills necessary for collaboration and interacting with others, like team building, coaching, and developing strong company culture. 

We hear repeatedly from member companies that employees have excellent technical skills but are lacking in management and soft skills – and from our experience, this is true across the board. A key challenge for companies is to support people managers (who often have a technical background) to develop these very hard “soft skills.”  Leadership, communication, and other transversal skills are not always innate, but they are skills that can be learnt and developed. 

ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet has a strong record of running high-impact transversal skills training and is well-placed to continue helping companies and individuals at all levels to improve their management practices and people skills. 

What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year? 

The acceleration of globalisation has an enormous impact on Ireland’s small, open economy. And while globalisation puts pressure on our members to compete with companies worldwide, it also presents opportunities for companies in Ireland. 

ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet recognises the importance of driving Ireland’s global ambition and has partnered with several companies to develop a suite of Strategic Transformation Programmes. This helps empower leaders to have influence globally in their corporations as well as positively highlighting their Irish sites to HQ and to their boards. Being on the boardroom radar is critical to realising Ireland’s global ambition.  

Our network’s ambition is to support more companies in Ireland to step up to become centres of excellence and “lighthouse” sites.  

Our Future of Work research series complements our work in the area of leadership transformation and underpins our innovative Peer Networking Leadership Programme Re-Inventing Leadership Experience: A peer-based, developmental network for Leaders in Ireland, due to roll out later in 2023.  

What new trends do you see emerging within your industry? 

Many companies are moving towards building a coaching culture. This does not mean that everyone becomes a coach, but rather helps develop the coaching skills, particularly people managers and leaders, within an organisation.  

The premise of coaching is moving from performance to development – working on people’s potential, maximising their growth, and self-awareness, and building their sense of responsibility and self-belief. And the aim is to integrate coaching into everything, – so it is not a standalone item. 

In addition, companies are finding that the top priorities for many millennials are career progression and leadership style.  In less than 10 years it is projected that 75% of the workforce will be millennials – how are companies going to lead if they are not delivering what their workforce needs? 

A coaching culture is important for a company’s ability to attract and retain talent as well as its ability to have successors in place. 

How is your Skillnet Business Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes? 

Our network pivoted to 100% online training during COVID-19, and demand remains strong for online programmes and networking. While this may be an issue for some people, feedback tells us that when working – online training is much easier to access and fit in for many. It is interesting that people who work mainly or sometimes from home have a higher lifelong learning participation rate (17%) than the average in Ireland of 8.9%.  

Remote work was on our radar before COVID-19 through our partnership with Grow Remote. However, the pandemic and now the National Remote Work Strategy has brought flexible working to the forefront and work (and training) will never be the same again. 

While individual contributors, team members, people managers, leaders and organisations can all struggle with digital transformation and the transition to remote/working models,  upskilling is a key part of sustainability and continuous workforce innovation. ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet plans to continue offering fully online programmes. Although they do not suit everyone, we have found that live, interactive online programmes remain popular and many people prefer this new way of learning – shorter sessions spread out over a longer period allows participants to fully concentrate during sessions, plus reflect and take time for additional learning in between sessions. Not to mention, the benefits of reduced travel time and venue costs. 

What skills do you think are the most important skills for a small business owner/manager? 

Building your emotional intelligence (EI). This may sound wishy-washy to some – but it is especially important for those in leadership positions. 

Building your EI skills will not only help you grow as a leader but will also enable you to motivate and coach others more effectively which boosts morale, communication, and productivity. 

Empowering others is also essential. Are you interested in the process to achieve the outcome or the outcome? It is becoming increasingly important to respect people’s unique styles and neurodiversity – allowing people to come to the end in their own way, which has huge implications for personal development.  

This can be a significant mindset change – moving from supplying the solutions to a model where employees are empowered to provide solutions themselves. Championing and challenging people so they can reach their personal potential. 

Do you have any advice for a business considering joining a Skillnet Business Network? 

Just do it! With more than 70 Skillnet Business Networks, it may seem daunting to get started but this breadth is also the strength of the Skillnet Ireland community. The ecosystem spreads far and wide, while also having a depth of knowledge and experience in niche sectors and specific skills development. 

If you have a talent development need, a Skillnet Business Network can meet it – through subsidised, enterprise-led upskilling, knowledge-sharing with like-minded peers, collaborating to develop a solution and much more.  

Whether your company is small, medium, or large – there are Skillnet Business Networks that can help you attract, retain, and develop the talent you need to succeed. 

Learn more 

If you are thinking about developing the talent of your business visit the ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet website to see what upskilling and talent development opportunities are available.  

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