November 11, 2023

Becoming a skills-based organization - An approach

A skills-based organization is characterized by an active role for an employee’s skills in key talent management processes ranging from hiring to performance to career progression.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to becoming a skills-based organization. This is because of the varying business context of different organizations and the outcomes they want to achieve by becoming a skills-based organization.

In this article we propose one possible approach to becoming a skills-based organization. 

There are 3 elements to be implemented in this approach:

  1. Build an active skills directory and baseline expertise
  1. Generate actionable insights for employees, managers and talent teams 
  1. Embed skills in the organization’s project and job landscape

Build an active skills directory and baseline expertise

To establish a skills framework for your organization, you can either use existing readily available frameworks or create a customized version to suit your specific needs.

This initial step is crucial as the skills framework will significantly impact the implementation of the subsequent elements and its usefulness for employees. If your organization hasn't actively utilized skills in staffing and performance discussions before, consider starting with a straightforward framework. This approach increases the likelihood of employees embracing the framework and eventually reaping its benefits.

Once the skills framework is in place, it's essential to baseline the skills of all employees. This can be automated by selecting skills from the framework based on an employee's role and then associating those skills with the employee. Ideally, this process should consider not only their current role but also take into account their previous roles throughout their career.

Finally, enable searching across the organization with the following functionalities:

  • The ability to search for specific employees and view their skills.
  • The ability to search for skills and find employees who possess those particular skills.

Generate actionable insights for employees, managers and talent teams

Once the skills baseline is established, the next level involves leveraging this valuable information to provide actionable insights to employees, managers, and talent teams. This approach focuses on understanding employees' career aspirations and helps them identify relevant resources within the organization to achieve their goals. Whether employees seek vertical progression in their current career path or want to explore new roles laterally, the provided resources, such as projects, gigs, secondments, mentors, and training, are geared towards practical skill application and feedback.

Additionally, talent teams benefit from insights into the skills landscape across the organization. This includes identifying the most in-demand skills based on job openings, internal gigs, and projects, as well as understanding employees' career aspirations for vertical or lateral mobility. These insights aid talent teams in evaluating the sufficiency and relevance of learning resources available to facilitate the growth and development of the organization's talent pool.

Embed skills in the organization’s project and job landscape

The culmination of this approach lies in leveraging the skills framework to make informed hiring decisions for jobs and staffing decisions for projects and gigs. With the skills framework in place, every job opening or project/gig role automatically aligns with the required or desired skills. These essential skills are made visible to potential applicants during the job or project posting process.

Hiring managers gain valuable insights by being able to view the skills ratings of all applicants and filter them based on multiple relevant criteria. This empowers them to identify the most suitable candidates for the roles. Furthermore, hiring managers can conduct searches within the organization to identify employees who possess the necessary skills and could be an excellent fit for the position, even if they haven't applied for the job yet.

By utilizing this comprehensive approach, organizations can strategically align their hiring and staffing decisions with the skills and expertise required, ensuring the right talent is placed in the right roles for optimized success and growth.

The above approach serves as a guide for organizations embarking on their path towards becoming a skills-based organization. There isn't a perfect target state - hence, the key lies in implementing the outlined steps while adapting the details as per the organization's specific needs and context. The ultimate goal is to create a skills framework that is user-friendly for employees, fostering continual progress and growth.

By adopting this approach, organizations can make significant strides towards optimizing their talent management strategies. Even if the journey is a work in progress, implementing the framework will undoubtedly lead to positive change and better outcomes than the existing status quo.

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