Time to follow a more employee-centric approach to skills management?

Posted on July 29, 2022 at 12:42 PM


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There is much talk about 'future skills' - and skills audits of the current workforce. But these are typically HR-led exercises. As such, they can miss large pockets of skills and experience that are simply not known by the HR team. Isn't it now time for individuals to manage their own skills profile held within the organisation?  

The CIPD’s Winter 2021 Labour Market Outlook Report highlighted what we already knew.

Almost half of employers were reporting ‘hard to fill’ vacancies and 44% of those were implementing upskilling programmes as the solution. Couple this with the report that half of executives are concerned that their workforce does not have the skills needed to deliver and execute the business strategy and it is clear why there’s an imperative to link skills strategy and business outcomes.

The challenge is for HR leaders to understand current workforce skillsets and what is needed, but also to unleash those skills already held (but not yet known about) across the organisation. 

Each of us has a very individual and particular skillset. And yet, in any current role, we deploy only a small subset of this. Whether we are first jobbers, returners, part-timers or looking forward to retirement, we have access to skills and experience well beyond what we use regularly. Of course, we know this – but, somehow, we forget this and especially when, as HR leaders, we look at the employees within our own employee pool.

But it isn’t always like this.

We look beyond the 'here and now' when we recruit

When we hire, we scan the CV and look out for relevant former employers and make a note of the projects worked on. We’re looking for relevant and transferable skills and experience. Indeed, that all forms part of the decision to hire them, right? However, as soon as the onboarding is complete, it seems that all of that information is lost. It isn’t transferred to the talent management system and tends not to be recorded anywhere. It may be stored or scanned and sit somewhere in your ATS but rarely does this information get shared or referred to at a later time.

What a waste of information – and skills and experience – which could be so valuable when needing to pull together a specific project team for a specific project. Or when you’re looking at succession planning, when track record and skills acquired outside of the organisation may have a part to play in an employee’s readiness or suitability for the next step or opportunity. 

Pre-hire skills and experience is worth capturing. But so too are the skills and experience gained in-house, beyond that recorded in the performance conversation. Think about the cross-functional project teams, working parties and client projects that your people work on from time-to-time – all the while acquiring skills, experience and knowledge for themselves. Once the group has disbanded, the skills remain.

However, when a new team needs to be built, do you find yourself searching your memory for names or asking around your internal network for details of those who might contribute and bring a certain uniqueness to the new group?

If so, you’ll likely need a skills management system. However, institutional knowledge can only take you so far.

The skills audit: essential for knowing current workforce skills

Traditionally, skills management systems deliver audit capability for the skills frameworks within an organisation.

Such frameworks combine professional qualifications and accreditations, with job- or role-required skills. With this in place, you can then audit and plot the current skills landscape. In essence, they answer the question: what skills do we have within the organisation?

They also help to spot current compliance or essential skills gaps: what skills do our people need to do the job we are asking them to do? Is there a certificate or training course that needs to be updated or attended? Where are the obvious skills gaps?

And audits can take you further by highlighting the gap between the current skill set of, say a department, and where it needs to move based on the strategic plan for that department and the future skills needed. 

It is though all very ‘organisational centric’ – and HR-driven.

We ask: where is the room for the employee to contribute to the skills conversation in terms of what they have, what they want to develop and how can they best contribute?

And, in a world in which retaining, nurturing and engaging with your talent is crucial, this lack of employee voice must surely be a gaping hole in the current approach?

Imagine projects being curated for the skills management system not by the HR team, but by those who had the specific responsibility for contributing and delivering the projects' results. Imagine the team member being the one to input, flag and tag the skills utilised. Imagine being able to then search that skills database to find the person whose skillset you need right now or those who have worked on a specific project and/or at a specific time. And extending that, imagine being able to see who has relevant and prior industry experience that you can draw on.

The employee voice: promoting their own track record

While the talent leader is trying to understand the current organisational skillset and what action is needed to develop it further, the individual has an entirely different agenda.

They are concerned with three things.

One. Visibility – or positioning; to get themselves promoted or included in a project team they wish to be a part of.

Two. Seeking out a role that uses more of those skills they want to use and moving away from the skills they may have but are not interested in developing.

Three. They want to be recognised for the contribution they have made. Working on a project may not feature in their current goals or objectives so may not be talked about in the performance review. However, nonetheless, they want it to be known that they contributed to a project.

In short, they are keen to present their own version of the skills – and knowledge, and past experience – that they have that could be deployed elsewhere.

And they know that they bring with them past employer, past project and a range of away-from-work experiences, knowledge and skills that the HR team cannot know about.

Think differently about skills management

Your skills management system is valuable to audit the company, the function and the department. Advanced analytics mean that you can interrogate the data. Customisable skills profiles enable you to build up the most relevant view of the workforce. You can see ratings and also scores and gaps. However, you’re missing some of the finer, and perhaps softer, detail.

Perhaps now it’s time to think differently about skills management.

Handing over the keys to the skills management system to the employee allows them to be in control – and gives them a voice. Don’t just enable the individual to include their own information about the important projects they’ve been part of, or their achievements or their past employer experiences, but get them to own their skills profile. Link it with your succession planning actions, career conversations and development and coaching plans.

Check out your current performance management system. Can you do this?

If not, perhaps now is the time to switch and future-proof your objective setting and review process.

What might you need to support a more employee centric skills management approach?

- A readily-available, single online tool that employees can access and update whenever they wish.

- An easy-to-use system for HR and managers to dip into when needed and interrogate the system’s data.

- The ability to cut and slice the data in various ways, export it into reports and present it for different audiences.

- Configurability – so the system can adapt and flex as skills and priorities change.

- A system embedded and recognised as the ‘go to’ for skills information. 

Your next step

All quite obvious – and straightforward to achieve. So, why are not all organisations embracing this?

Take the first step to bringing this into your company and have a conversation about the next steps. Contact us today.

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