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When Digital Transformation Drives Skills Transformation with Booking.com's Oliver Drury

by Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr | February 21st, 2024

When Oliver (Ollie) Drury joined Booking.com, they dove into digital transformation by simplifying their tech stack—and reducing variables—using a middleware to stitch everything together. That enabled them to have a simpler set of variables from which to create their skills ecosystem. Their driving goal was to solve skills for the entire organization. In this conversation, Ollie shares how they’re working to accomplish a skills-based transformation by first focusing on digital transformation. 

 

Why they focused on digital transformation first

When Ollie joined Booking.com, they wanted to understand what was needed to help their employees progress their careers. Ollie grouped skills to figure out what was needed for certain job families. However, they lacked some capability around the technology supporting the talent. They quickly realized their efforts needed to be centered on technology to scale. 

Ollie points out that skills data is unique. It can flow across all of your talent decisions. To do that well, you need a solid data architecture. You need an aligned set of information around skills in every place. 

Secondly, to do this at scale, they leverage artificial intelligence to generate skills profiles, based on what a company needs and what the employees themselves need. Courses you’ve taken, jobs you’ve done, promotions, etc. are taken into account.  

They pulled a project team together and started researching a vendor that could support their skills journey. The priority was to have technology enable the capabilities to identify skills.

 

How they’re building for reversibility

The capabilities of AI are relatively new. Because of this, they knew they’d take some gambles with technology. They had to look at where they could experiment without worrying about breaking something. Middleware allowed them to build integrations to connect other applications while limiting what could be broken when they removed an application. It’s central to their architecture. 

Vendors all have the capability to provide a taxonomy. But you have to choose what’s important and then choose a vendor that offers those things at the core of their product. Ollie recommends prioritizing vendors that have had successful integrations with other applications you have. Do your due diligence to avoid disappointment.

 

Why employees own the skills data

How are they ensuring employees own the skill data? Their marketplace is a recommendation engine—not a decision engine. When you go into the marketplace, skills are suggested but you have agency over whether or not those skills are selected on your profile. If things change, the employee is the one that changes them. They verify the skills they have and want to build. The company owns the skills taxonomy.

Because they’re still piloting their marketplace, they haven’t made many decisions off of the backend. For talent acquisition, they’re about to run a skills-based hiring pilot. They’re choosing the critical skills and focusing on competency-based hiring. The recruiter and hiring manager decide which skills are the most critical. Validation still has the human component. They aren’t yet focused on proficiency levels.

 

Connect with Oliver Drury

Resources & People Mentioned 

 

 

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