Using a taxonomic approach to build a skills-driven organization
Many in HR, as well as those at the top of the business, are feeling the present need to deliver skills as well as mitigate against the future ‘skills crisis’ that is brewing. This is being driven, as roundtable attendees noted, by increased competition for skills, employees demanding more from training and development to build their careers (as well wanting to be shown more non-linear career paths), and the acute need to create more 2022-adequate leadership skills, as well as the requirement to replace the skills of individuals who are aging out of work.
On the surface, these different factors can seem like an unwieldy, insurmountable mess that might be impossible to pull together into a clear taxonomic framework – giving HR a helicopter view of what the state of skills in their organization is – let alone create a strategy from. However, as one talent development lead laid out to roundtable attendees, creating a jobs and skills taxonomy and framework, supplemented with internal skills measurements and market data, can help organizations understand what their skills gap and needs are, and be the first step towards creating skills-driven workforce planning, which can help attract and retain top talent in a way that helps a business keep ahead of competitors.
On paper, this might sound almost too simple. And, yes, at a structural level, this approach is simple: understand what the desired target state of skills at your organization is, measure the current capability, and then figure out how to close the gap and move towards a true skills-driven workforce. However, there are complications in the ‘real world’. Of course, this is wrapped up in the employee experience of work – what do they want out of this; what is in it for them – and the need to deliver on culture and DE&I as well. Supporting technology – what is the HR tech stack actually able to do and can it effectively link with other organizational technology? – is also an issue that needs consideration. As one attendee noted, although the technology can help supply data on the state of skills at your organization, a multi-system tech stack is often difficult to align as providers often use different philosophies, architectures, and foci.
Yet, as one talent leader said, although creating a skills framework can be “arduous” it has rewards. As they described, after 18 months of work identifying where their industry is going to head, what’s driving that, and what skills are currently necessary, and will be necessary, to keep their organization successful within that direction of travel, they were able to simplify their talent needs, find commonalities between roles and improve their skill-building process and delivery on what employees want – helping both the individual and the organization.
This work was supplemented by AI, data, and research as well as a skills analysis process guided by managerial assessment, performance management, self-assessment, digital tools, and a good sense of where they wanted to go. As they noted, it increased individual awareness of what their skills are, helped them understand skills proficiencies, broke down skills siloes, promoted development, and allowed the organization to leverage skills that might’ve been previously missed. It also helped build an internal skills marketplace, something that is especially important in an environment where some skills are hard to come by.
Simplification and delivering for employees
It is undeniable that right now power has shifted, if not completely, towards employees in the employment marketplace. As a result, there is increased pressure on organizations to deliver skills development to these individuals so they can grow their careers and progress at work, and so the organization can retain them. Roundtable attendees seemed to agree that the best way to do this would be by creating suitable programs to access development from their employer. It would also entail creating a progression roadmap for them, so they could see potential opportunities and even non-linear career paths.
What this means in practical terms can change from organization to organization. For one talent professional, they described how their organization has made the proficiency level of the skills needed to be successful in different roles – all the way from entry-level to Vice President – more transparent in order to showcase different pathways for employees and also galvanize their will to grow and succeed.
A key part of this was making language around the skills and proficiency requirements for roles, even roles that might seem to be outside of an individual’s expected linear career progression, more accessible, plain, and uniform. Yet, in the world of skills, many skills professionals know this can be difficult. Skills, competencies, behaviors; the language around skills, as one attendee noted, often don’t line up, but there are fixes in this area too. One attendee talked about how they’ve created badges and gamification around development, so managers can see who their potential next hire is and the organization can better track the skills it owns.
This simplification is seemingly what the talent professionals attending wanted. One talked about needing to translate a simplified, or centralized, approach to skills onto a single HRIS. Another wanted to clarify competencies in order to deliver on the non-linear careers that workforces increasingly expect – something especially apparent in younger demographics. It’s something that isn’t just a skills issue but something that needs cultural management too, another added.
The conversation also moved on to a discussion of the increased expectation around personalization of work: employees want their managers to help them translate the skills they have and the aspirations they hold into tangible job and development opportunities. Something a clear organizational skills taxonomy, noted one attendee, can support. Yet, reminded another attendee, whilst a taxonomy can simplify the internal skills landscape, underpin a skills strategy, and showcase opportunities to individuals, it must be supported by leaders, who can make or break any initiative.
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