08 August 2022

Skills: The Linchpin to the Future of Work

Lauren Caddell
Research Analyst
Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • Our recent roundtable brought together industry leaders, and practitioners focused on using skills in their organizations.
  • There were 4 distinct takeaways from the discussion including the importance of proficiencies, building in opportunity for human observation, balancing 2 distinct perspectives on skills, and how managers can impact skills.

In our most recent roundtable, we brought together leaders and practitioners from various industries and organizations to understand their experiences with using skills, including what they've learned and what they're still trying to figure out.

Key takeaways

We centered our conversation around 4 topics: Use cases, Systems, Adoption, and Culture. Below are 4 key takeaways and quotes that reflect essential themes for how participants and their organizations think about and use skills.

Measuring skill proficiency allows leaders to gain insight into their organization

Measuring skill proficiency allows organizations to understand their workforce and make informed decisions. Participants talked both about using skills to define job levels and move employees around the organization. Many kept coming back to the idea that getting clear on employees’ proficiency is critical to applying skills in their organization.

One leader described how they measure proficiencies to understand what people know and determine where they can grow. Others talked about how they’re thinking about the purpose of skills first and measuring skill proficiencies second.

"Skills for development is a tough nut to crack – we need to tie to proficiency levels – this allows us to be more future focus vs. only thinking about the mobility piece." – Roundtable Participant

When using tech to identify and assess skills, build in opportunities for human observation

One major piece of advice we heard in our roundtable was to layer in opportunities for human observation when using tech systems to assess and identify skills. Participants called out the need for balance between the insights gained from tech and the insights gained from human interactions and conversations.

Many mentioned that there is a big difference between someone self-identifying that they have a skill and seeing how it is being applied. Human observation provides a level of oversight in verifying skills that systems may not be able to provide.

"As we put systems in place, [the] HR/leader role is changing, and so are the conversations around skills. It becomes, "Hey, you learned this skill, and you assess yourself at X level; tell me about it; what does that proficiency mean to you?" It puts more weight on people than in the past, making it a much more collaborative conversation." – Roundtable Participant

Organizations are balancing 2 perspectives on skills: the enterprise and the individual

Many participants described how their organizations are balancing enterprise and individual perspectives on skills. Organizations may see skills as a way to enable quicker decisions on succession plans, career mobility, and even who to hire. Individuals may see skills as a concrete way to develop their careers in a particular direction. The challenge is trying to find common ground between these 2 needs.

"The organization is defining skills for a specific role, which is different maybe from me as an individual choosing, defining, and deciding where I want to go and how to grow. There is a question of how you harmonize both of those together." – Roundtable Participant

Managers are in a unique position to impact whether employees use skills

Often, managers are the key driver of employees adopting and using skills successfully. For example, participants talked about how managers should help employees make time for new skills to be used and developed, provide opportunities to use new skills, and have open conversations about how employees would like to develop. To do this successfully, there may be a need for manager training and education about skills.

"Managers are communication linchpins (around skills)." – Roundtable Participant

A special thanks

Thank you to all who participated and shared their experiences. We welcome your suggestions, thoughts, and feedback at [email protected].

 

 

Lauren Caddell
Research Analyst at

Lauren is a research analyst at RedThread Research. She has experience in various HR roles where she’s contributed to onboarding, performance management, and employee engagement initiatives. She's passionate about using the intersection of data and storytelling to help make organizations better. She holds an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Baker College and a BS in International Business from Northeastern University.

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

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