Maggie BleharAugust 5, 2023
Topics: Employee Experience

Skills Jargon: Demystifying the Workforce Intelligence Word Web

Dynamic skills architecture. Skills-forward approach. Workforce intelligence… The jargon of talent intelligence can be overwhelming, distracting, or, even worse, misleading — especially when all you’re trying to do is help your employees find their next role internally instead of looking at other organizations.

On this episode of Talent Experience Live, directors of Product Marketing at Phenom, John Harrington and John Deal, discussed the words and phrases that are defining the talent management space, and how HR leaders can get right to the point of what’s needed for an effective planning and engagement strategy.

Ditch the corporate jargon bingo and watch the full episode below, or read on for the highlights!


Talent Agility Vs. Talent Mobility

Agility and mobility are key concepts in HR Tech language that focus on talent management and organizational adaptability. “Agility — talent agility specifically — is the ability to adapt to change and to do it in a very proactive and organized way. Not in a reactive, bootstrap way,” said Harrington.

It emphasizes the need for quick and confident implementation of steps to stay ahead in the dynamic business landscape. Strategizing talent agility involves identifying the existing skills within the organization and determining the skills required for specific scenarios, enabling effective and timely deployment of talent where it's needed the most.

“Mobility is more about who you have in the organization and what you’re doing to make it possible for them to move into different roles,” Harrington explained. This involves understanding the skill gaps and identifying where these skills can be best applied. By providing employees with clear insights into the opportunities available and the reasons why they are being considered for specific roles, organizations can foster a supportive environment that empowers employees to embrace change and take on new challenges confidently.

Related reading: Empowering People, Driving Success: The Impact of Skills Data in Modern Organizations


Evaluating the Workforce With a Skills-First Perspective

In order to truly understand who your people are, Harrington and Deal recommend looking at them from the following lenses:

  • What skills do they possess?

  • What jobs still need to be done?

  • Is our org chart up to date?

  • Do we have all the right skills to accomplish what we need?

These should be top of mind not just for talent management, but for talent acquisition (TA) teams too. When you think about jobs and the titles associated with those jobs, you need to consider how those jobs and the people filling them fit into your organization.

“Skills make the execution possible. Knowing what skills are needed today to be able to effectively drive value and impact and what will be demanded of people in the future is equally important,” stressed Harrington.


Skills-Forward Terminology

“Organizations' approach to skills is not one size fits all. There are different ways that skills are understood, there are different ways [skills data] gets documented, there are deviations on how that information gets drawn upon for inferences, and, at the most basic level, how it is captured in a database.”

So, what are some common skills-forward terminology you’re likely to hear?

  • Skills Database: the place where skills data is stored, accessed, and updated

  • Skills Taxonomy: building categorization on top of skills data to understand what skills apply to which roles

  • Skills Ontology: taking a taxonomy to the next level by identifying relationships between skills and the strength of those relationships

  • Dynamic Skills Architecture: automated technology that connects skills, roles, jobs, learning content, and people — and updates in real time so decision making and gap analysis can help teams inform and apply change effectively.

Implementing the right type of skills architecture is important. When you leverage AI, for example, you help your teams save time. The technology is making inferences and semantic matches that humans may not make because they can’t comprehend the large volume of data like AI can.

Related reading: Futureproof Your Workforce: The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling


Workforce Intelligence

What is workforce intelligence, what does it mean for organizations, and what is the benefit of using it to make decisions?

According to Harrington, it is a strategic approach that leverages data, context, and AI to make informed decisions about employees and their development. It involves ensuring that employees are provided with growth opportunities, nurtured, and exposed to career-enhancing opportunities, ultimately fostering their success and strengthening their connection to the organization's brand. By using workforce intelligence to make decisions, organizations can gain valuable insights into their talent pool, identify skills gaps, and create personalized development plans for each individual.

A crucial step in implementing workforce intelligence is establishing a talent marketplace, which allows employees to engage with various gigs, explore career paths, and access learning and development resources. “This is a really complementary component [to] employee relationship management. You’re getting a go-between to use the data, context, and AI to make recommendations,” said Harrington.

Workforce intelligence brings together employees, managers, and talent management, creating a trifecta that collaboratively makes real-time decisions on an ongoing basis, with a direct impact on performance. This personalized and transformative approach ensures that employees receive quality recommendations tailored to their unique needs, maximizing the benefits for both the individual and the entire team.

Related reading: What Every Company Needs to Know About Workforce Intelligence


Employee Engagement

In many cases, the term Employee Engagement is “super nebulous jargon,” says Deal. Why is it important to engage the employee, and what is good and bad for employee engagement?

When employees aren’t engaged in the company, they often detach, they don’t feel connected to the mission, and they may look elsewhere for opportunities. There’s a huge cost that comes with that. Think onboarding, enabling, and the knowledge acquired and shared throughout their time of employment.

But, Harrington warns, “more is not necessarily better. There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. More pizza parties, for example. That’s engagement, but is that going to save someone from leaving a company?”

The answer is probably no, which is why talent management teams need to engage employees in a way that makes them feel like they’re learning and making a difference at your company. Employees today demand personalized engagement that’s catered to who they are, where they are, and what they aspire to do.

Implementing an automated outreach system can help facilitate these interactions efficiently, ensuring that employees are continuously updated with relevant information and receive timely recommendations for their professional advancement. The dynamic skills architecture also plays a key role in keeping employees up to date on open job opportunities and ensuring that engagement efforts remain aligned with individual and organizational needs.


Walk Before You Run

When implementing changes related to skills and employee engagement, it's important to remember that everything doesn't need to happen at once. Instead, outline a clear direction and take manageable steps toward your goals. Change management plays a crucial role in navigating the complexities of skills jargon and technology, and simply starting the process is the best approach. By building upon initial efforts, organizations can gradually evolve and improve their strategies for long-term success.

Be proactive when it comes to creating an employee experience that retains talent. Download the Definitive Guide to Employee Experience to learn more!

Maggie Blehar

Maggie is a writer at Phenom, bringing you information on all things talent experience. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. 

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