Why you need to adopt a skills based talent management strategy

Talent management is the full scope of HR processes to attract, onboard, develop, engage, and retain high-performing employees. This means that talent management is both aimed at a) improving business performance in the current state and b) enabling a targeted approach for future growth and overall evolution.

Since 2020, we have seen a more agile approach to these key processes with a specific focus on skill insights becoming the nucleus used by the above processes.

As technology continues to cause disruption equating to planned and unplanned need for change, we have seen an urgent requirement for organizations to get a better understanding of their greatest asset; their people. The new currency is skills and this has only accelerated through the pandemic, emerging technologies and the shift towards a remote workforce. Innovative technologies are causing change at a record pace and as a consequence, an ability to adapt and lead the way forward is wholly dependent on the skills of your people. Technology skills are also becoming essential for people across all disciplines of work, not just IT.

The Ancient Greeks had a saying “Know Thyself” and only upon asking this question can we open up an exciting world of opportunity to assess who we are and plan for who we want to evolve into. Understanding your people’s skills is no longer a nice-to-have on a CV or document. In today’s fast paced world, skill insights are critical because they are dynamic. Innovation is happening by the minute and this in turn is enabling people’s skills to evolve through on the job learning.

If there is no plan to assess, review and use these skills then chances are that your Talent Management strategy could be at a high risk of failure. The ability to capture and use your skill insights will enable the key pillars that exist within Talent Management to truly come to life.

Using a skills based approach to enriching Talent Management Practices such as Talent Acquisition, Talent Retention, Talent Allocation and ultimately Talent Development Programs means those organizations that understand their skills are in a highly advantageous position. They can plan for the current, future and transitional states they want to achieve whilst assessing progress and adjusting as the need rises. Any effective Talent Management Program must have an agile capability and skills insights will enable this to occur.

Let the truth be told – do you know your greatest skills gap? Have you done anything about it?

The ultimate test which can expose the key threat to success is this real life scenario where a group of Executives who lead a variety of Departments are asked one game changing question;

“What is the greatest skills gap within your Department that will impact your ability to succeed against your key success metrics?”

  • Answer 1: We do not know because, we do not measure skills,
  • Answer 2: We have a generic, high level view of competencies,
  • Answer 3: HR might know,
  • Answer 4: How are we supposed to know?

The answer to that question is an eye opening realization.

We cannot reduce risk if we cannot see the risk.

At this very moment, you realize that the one variable you can control is the one variable you have lost control over.

If we do not have skill insights underpinning our Talent Management strategies then we are in turn unable to assess the value of our skills and the associated skills currency we possess or aspire to develop. Success and failure at every level is dependent on having the ability to understand, measure, and act on skills.

Below are some tips with reference to how skills insights are aligned to Talent Management.

Talent Acquisition

Recruitment is costly, and time intensive, but can be good to fill gaps quickly. But what gaps? Outsourcing work can be cheap, but how do we know that we’re filling the right skill gaps, with elite talent?. Skills based insights for talent acquisition doesn’t just enrich your ability to better align external investment requirements, but gives you the ability to invest in the people that matter most. 

By developing internal candidates also provide the indirect benefit of retaining the core domain knowledge that’s learnt on the job. Something that might take months, or years for new hires to get a grasp on. 

A scenario using a skills based approach to talent acquisition might follow these sequential steps:

  1. What are our skills gaps and which success factors are dependent on them?
  2.  How do we know that we are lacking a specific skills gap as opposed to a role that assumes these skills exist in a candidate?
  3. What is the impact the specific skills gap is having on our people, department or organization?
  4. Do we have anyone internally who has the required skill at the required level and is suitable for the role / project / team?
  5. Do we have enough time to train anyone who is interested & near qualified internally? 
  6. Do we Outsource this workflow or role based on a specific skill requirement?
  7. Do we recruit with a targeted skills approach?
  8. How will we evaluate that we have successfully recruited the required skill?

Talent Development

Developing internal talent is an important aspect of building a positive work culture, and improving employee experiences. This is because career stagnation is never a good thing. 

A skills based approach to talent development is focused on clearly understanding your peoples current skill gaps, and strengths and then acting on these insights in an active way. If a skills gap exists, what training opportunities exist in the business to close that gap? Who exists in the business with elite skills that could mentor or coach an individual?

In addition to acting on those insights a skills based approach also provides a powerful data source to determine what training is working, and what isn’t. If ten people are finishing a course, with no improvement in skill level and competency, is the training working? Very quickly L&D teams and department heads will get a better grasp on ROI and be able to better allocate training investment. 

Here are a few questions a skills based talent development manager might ask:

  1. Are we developing the skills of our people in alignment with our current skills needs?
  2. Are we developing the skills of our people for future skills / roles?
  3. Do we have skills based career plans?
  4. Are people getting promoted internally?
  5. Do we have Talent Development Programs that are aligned with the skills gaps we need to develop? (This would include current / future roles however it would be inclusive of the following programs – Leadership Programs, Secondment Programs, Training Courses, On Job Training, the creation of specialist teams). 
  6. Are Programs driven by a need to deliver ROI that is measurable?

Talent Allocation

Not only can you better understand a teams’ skill gaps, but individual skill strengths and interests. This has significant value in being able to complete work and tasks in the most effective way, but also provide the most value to customers. 

Let’s say that you have a high value customer project coming up. You want to know who in your organization has the skill strengths to deliver. Rather than just look at people and their CVs, you are looking at the underlying skill competencies to build that project team.

Another situation could be that an individual has shown significant interest in applying new skills or knowledge. By not just utilizing skill level insight, but augmenting decisions with skill interest, you can empower your people, and give them work and tasks that enrich their experience. 

An organization that has completely embraced a skills based approach and using skills as a currency, can bypass the antiquated vertical business model, and instead focuses on true internal mobility of people within an organization.

Talent Retention

Retaining talent is becoming one of the most important parts of any talent strategy. A skills based approach is truly about building trust between employee and manager or employee and employer. By focusing on granular skills data that is transparent and accessible gives everyone a shared ownership of the employee experience. 

Performance reviews can become collaborative and a two-way conversation. Remuneration can be linked to actual skill development. Career pathways can be mapped and agreed upon. Training can be measured and managers can be held accountable. 

Any talent management strategy needs to be thinking about how to understand, measure and act on skills. It is no longer a nice to have, but an essential component to any organization. This wave is happening around the world, across all industries, and functions of business. Now is the time to get serious.  

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