The Biggest Highlights from Skills Day 2023
Everyone is talking about the value of skills. But how can you go from intention to action and get started?
Earlier this week, we hosted the world’s first Skills Day to answer that exact question and more.
Watch Skills Day 2023 — or check out top takeaways from the event below — to discover real examples of companies using skills, learn how to choose the right tech based on your unique needs and aspirations, and uncover a proven approach to unlock the breadth of skills data that can revolutionize your workforce.
Plus, get your complimentary skills snapshot for a robust analysis of your organization's roles, skills, and progressions!
1. Be a leader, not a laggard, when it comes to adopting skills technology
Skills are critical for every enterprise, across all industries. Between the rise of innovative technologies entering the job market and demographic challenges posed by aging populations and declining birth rates, the workforce is getting tighter across the globe — and there is a growing talent gap.
According to our CEO and co-founder Mahe Bayireddi, “We have to be a leader, not a laggard, in terms of how we adopt technology in these areas.”
Fortunately, technology and data are richer and better than ever. “Good technology will make a huge difference. Offering this to our talent pools, especially our employees, can reduce the cost of the product for our customers and make our employees more productive and fulfilled with what they’re doing. HR has to move toward becoming a skills-focused enterprise.”
To do so, organizations must consider how to bring technology and talent to the forefront of skills. The best way to do this is by considering the entire organization — from your employees (and their skills, abilities, and motivations), to your company culture, to your structure and jobs.
“What are the jobs they really do? What roles do they work on, what competencies do they have, and what skills do they possess? All of these things should come together," Bayireddi said.
With roles, competencies, and skills constantly changing, we have to begin shifting the way we think about work, and change the perception that AI is putting people out of a job. Savvy businesses need to consider human and AI skills to identify:
What work humans do best
What work can be automated
What human work can be augmented with AI for better output
“When you really have a clear agenda about what you want to do, that is a continuous evolutionary process,” said Bayireddi.
Doing everything manually is no longer sustainable. “You have to use tools to help you dynamically do things in a hyper-personalized format, and automate where you can," he added. “There is a lot you can automate and make more intelligent — and you can deliver experiences in a much more personalized format than ever."
But it can't happen if departments and teams operate in silos. “To make skills work for a skills-focused organization, there’s a magic triangle of alignment: how you can bring employees, HR, and people managers together into the same ecosystem so they can work from the same set of data based on their own requirements — and that’s what Phenom delivers.”
2. Skills have become the currency of work, but they’re only the beginning
So why the big focus on skills?
According to Cliff Jurkiewicz, Vice President of Global Strategy, they’re a core part of our human nature and a foundational building block of society.
“From our first childhood memories, our parents taught us the value of building skills to praise our successes and learn from our failures,” he stated. “They’re the first tangible things we learn to help define our place in the world, so they become a common language.”
As a result, they’ve naturally become the currency of work. Skills have a marketable value, and can be accumulated, exchanged, and transferred between roles. We can invest in skills, and they will appreciate over time. Skills are an indicator of professional health and are the essence of context and culture. Most importantly, skills provide a sense of personal agency.
“We start with skills because the depth of knowledge and connection we have to them is well-established, but it will not end there,” stated Jurkiewicz.
But most people are not hired on skills alone. There are so many other considerations we make, like our competencies and behaviors, our values and goals, our connection to culture, and even our attitude and aspirations.
“When we look at this bigger picture, all of these qualities make up our story,” added Jurkiewicz. “It gives us a sense of meaning and direction, where we are, and where we want to go. People deserve to be looked at through this whole lens.”
Phenom skills technology has not only evolved over the last 10+ years, it has been refined through rigorous challenges and persistent innovation. This journey has endowed us with the profound expertise and invaluable insights that we put to work for our customers. Combine this collective experience with people and technology, and together we can extract, organize, and label skills, building a trustworthy AI foundation.
3. Skills are everywhere — across both talent management and talent acquisition
Skills exist in every corner of every organization. We just don’t always realize it.
John Harrington, Senior Director of Product Marketing, said, “The problem for most organizations isn't processes lacking skills — it’s that the processes that exist are siloed. Most organizations lack visibility, utility, and consistency.”
And unless change is embraced, the consequences are real: “Your organization is missing out on tremendous value if it doesn't have a well-thought-out strategy and supporting technology,” he added.
So where can you find skills?
For talent acquisition, skills are already being applied and leveraged when:
Creating job requisitions
Reviewing job descriptions and ideal candidates during intake meetings
Candidates are applying to jobs
Optimizing interview processes and job descriptions
Identifying whether to look internally or externally to fill open roles
For talent management, skills are being applied and leveraged in areas such as:
Learning and development
But here lies the challenge: with skills existing in so many places throughout an organization across every role and department, there are multiple tools and technologies being leveraged behind the scenes. And unfortunately, they don’t often talk to one another.
“The critical piece that is missing here is the connective tissue,” said Lindsay Mareau, Vice President of Strategy. It’s the holistic system that can take all of these really meaningful inputs and use them to build a comprehensive skills and role architecture — and then uses that architecture to drive the best recommendations for candidates, recruiters, employees, and managers.
“And we're not talking just about a centralized resource, but instead a system backed by intelligence to surface the most comprehensive story for each individual in an actionable and meaningful way,” she added.
4. Good news: You’re already 70% of the way towards your dynamic skills architecture (or could be)
Collecting all of the skills and the correlations between them, as well as mapping them throughout your organization, is an extremely time consuming and laborious process for most companies — one that can easily take two years for a 20,000 employee organization. As new skills are being introduced and others are becoming outdated, the constant maintenance of updating a skills database can quickly get out of hand.
Technology can help. But with so many vendors, it can be difficult to assess the options and invest in a solution that will be lucrative in the long run — and ensure you achieve the experiences you're looking for.
Kumar Ananthanarayana, Vice President of Product Management, shared three questions to ask when evaluating solutions:
Will it provide not just a sample set of data to predict skills for your roles and employees, but also provide deterministic data?
Will it keep up with new and emerging skills associated with your enterprise?
Does the technology fully represent your entire organization?
The Phenom skills ontology is designed to not only simplify the process of getting started, but it was designed with our AI and technology to consume and normalize your data, while adding the context of your organization to become your ontology. And it doesn’t depend on input from your employees to function; you get value immediately.
Sean O'Donnell, Director of Product, shared how it works in five simple steps:
Step 1: Phenom Out-of-the-Box Data. You’re not starting from scratch on Day 1 with Phenom. Instead, you’re drawing on nearly 15 years of industry data and learnings about skills, titles, locations, context, and industries across the entire spectrum of work.
Step 2: Identify Sources to Add Your Context. We identify the data sources where we can get context from your organization and industry, including career pathing details, employee data, competencies, learning materials, and more.
Step 3: Your Data, Our AI. Taking your organization’s contextual data, we format it, normalize it with our machine, and apply our intelligence. Then we determine the proximity and relationship strength for identified roles, skills, and proficiencies, and begin mapping them to roles.
Step 4: Collective Validation. We provide you with the ability to validate the data by making it available in places where subject matter experts at your organization can easily make changes directly to the architecture, which flows immediately to the Talent Marketplace and other parts of the platform. If you see something that needs correcting, you can quickly adjust and provide feedback — this tells our AI to update your roles, skills, and ontologies in parallel.
Step 5: Continuous Learning. At this stage, it’s no longer our AI — it’s our machines and models, but it’s your data and it continuously changes with your organization as a result of human-in-the-loop feedback. No organization will stay the same over the next 10 years, and neither should your ontology.
RELATED BLOG: Learn more about skills ontologies >
5. There are real-world examples of companies currently using skills to hire, develop, and retain talent
Skills aren’t only being applied to develop and retain your employees. A skills-forward approach can be leveraged across talent acquisition and talent management to hire, grow, and mobilize the right employees — while enhancing experiences.
Here are a few examples of how to use skills to build, borrow, or buy talent as needed to meet your talent strategy:
Help employees grow
Let's say you have a high-performing employee looking to grow in their career. With an AI-powered talent marketplace that’s driven by skills and curated recommendations, you can easily keep that employee in-house. Your employee can go into their profile and:
Add, edit, delete, or update skills they have in order to position themselves successfully for future jobs. These skills can be added manually, but most are recommended automatically by the platform.
Send automated requests (and thank you messages) for skills validation from managers or colleagues to help build their skills arsenal.
Once that’s complete, the employee profile becomes much more personalized with recommendations of what that employee can do in the system to continue growing in their career, such as finding or becoming a mentor, joining an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that connects them with like-minded coworkers, or taking an online course.
The marketplace also enables employees to build their personalized career path with suggestions on next steps to take, while considering all the things they’ve done so far at the company.
By the end, they have a solid path in front of them to work toward.
Help employees move internally or change career paths
Here’s a slightly different example. Let’s say a company notices that they need more employees for a specific role in order to increase ROI or due to a change in market dynamics.
An HR business partner (HRBP) can go into the platform and begin a campaign that automatically sends an email to all employees notifying them of the open role and what skills they’re looking for to fill that position. They can also send a message to managers that encourages them to endorse their employees for specific skills in order to get more matches for the position.
As this information rolls in, the system automatically creates talent pools of “top performers” and “consistent top performers” for the HRBP to sort through. Details for the pool include what skills employees have, how long they’ve been at the company, whether or not they are interested in moving internally, what learning and development opportunities they’ve taken advantage of, and so on.
In the end, the HRBP gets a handful of qualified internal candidates they can begin interviewing for the position.
Help employees learn and adapt
Let’s consider an energy company where the business is focusing on transitioning from traditional energy to a sustainable strategy. How do they accomplish this? By upskilling a portion of their workforce.
Using Employee Relationship Management (ERM) technology, you can view any department within the organization to narrow down on specific areas of the business you’d like to upskill. The dashboard highlights which employees already possess certain skills, where there are major skills gaps, and who is actively engaged in learning opportunities related to a specific area of focus.
If enrollment in learning activities is low for a critical skill, you can kick off an initiative to drive better engagement within particular teams and promote dynamic upskilling opportunities.
Managers have the ability to view initiatives to determine how they can be personalized for team members to maximize engagement, ensure the topic gets added to any upcoming one-on-ones, and make notes depending on the conversation surrounding this new upskilling opportunity for each employee.
As a result, HR leaders can quickly and easily stay up to date on the progress of each team to take action as needed in preparation for the company’s transition to new business strategies.
Help talent leaders better prepare for the future
There are three challenges when it comes to futuristic hiring at any organization:
1. The need for critical skills in today’s environment
2. The fact that upskilling existing talent takes time
3. The complexity of determining the best fit based on the two previous factors
For this example, we’ll look at opening a Marketing Manager position. Once a new position request is made, there are a couple elements to review within the platform that can provide useful context for your HR leaders and hiring teams:
How many employees are currently employed as Marketing Managers within the company?
How proficient are they in the top skill sets that are commonly attributed to that specific role?
How engaged are they in learning opportunities that are aligned with their future career goals?
All of this data is available within the platform, highlighting any skills gaps within the current group of Marketing Managers that might need to be addressed. Now that you have a better understanding of the current landscape surrounding that role, you can look at existing employees that might be a good fit.
You can also view which employees are ready to take on the new responsibilities that come with a Marketing Manager position, making them an ideal successor for this role. If current individuals are not yet prepared to make that career move right now, then you can feel confident that looking externally for a candidate is the right next step.
With these insights, hiring teams can open up new role requisitions that target specific skills that aren’t currently available within their workforce. This creates new opportunities for learning, giving your existing teams access to knowledge that can help them acquire new market skills quickly, while preparing them for that next career milestone in the future.
CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: See how this enterprise is leveraging skills >
6. Skills data can be overwhelming, but now is the time to get started
You’re already using skills in the workplace — so how do you take what you’ve already been doing, scale it, and automate it to solve some of your biggest hiring and retention problems?
There is no single silver bullet that will make implementing a skills-forward strategy easy. Based on our experience working for over a decade with 600+ organizations, John Deal, Senior Director of Product Marketing, recommended a few suggestions to make it more manageable:
Stop worrying about your data. Look for a partner that can work with your existing data in whatever state it’s in.
Start with small wins and a focused effort. Choose the people and solution that gives you flexibility to start with part of your organization, and then scale appropriately as it begins to get traction.
Lay out a comprehensive communication plan that goes beyond your go-live date.
Leverage on-demand resources for continued learning outside of dedicated learning sessions.
Address the elephant in the room by being transparent with key stakeholders about leveraging AI and technology for greater experiences.
Take charge of your transition to skills
Context is king. To understand the future of skills, you have to look through the lens of your organization — and then you’ll be able to envision the possibilities.
To help you take next steps, we’re offering a complimentary Skills Snapshot. We’ll conduct a robust analysis of your organization’s critical roles, the skills associated with those roles, and progression details. A Phenom expert will review your skills data, and discuss how to go from a snapshot to a full-blown career architecture.
Interested in discussing skills at your organization? Let’s chat!
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