22 February 2021

Skills & Competencies Q&A Call

Heather Gilmartin Adams
Senior Analyst

TL;DR

  • In this Q&A call Stacia Garr is joined with Heather Gilmartin Adams.
  • Learn how orgs are reconciling skills and competencies to tackle some of their biggest people challenges.
  • How are people relating skills and competencies to capabilities?
  • How can skills be accessed for proficiency levels?
  • Does a learning platform need to have skills and competencies defined before adding an internal marketplace solution?
  • How do you maintain the skills and competencies models that orgs are using today?
  • What system works best?

Q&A Call Video

TRANSCRIPT

Introduction

Stacia Garr:
Okay, now we are recording. So we're going to go ahead and get started now for those of you, I have not met I'm Stacia Garr I'm Co-Founder and Principal Analyst with RedThread. We have with us today for this Q&A call Heather Gilmartin Adams. And she is the one who has done much of the research here. So it's a good thing that she's on here. So for those of you who have not attended one of these Q&A calls before they tend to be pretty informal affairs. The whole point is for us just to give a quick overview of what we've learned in the research, and then to respond to questions that have either been submitted in advance or two questions that folks have here today. And so we really try to encourage this to be a discussion because, if we wanted to do a webinar, we do a webinar really is a Q&A call, to kind of have that discussion. That's the whole point. Heather, do you wanna go to the next slide?

How we help and what we do

Stacia Garr:
So for those of you who may not know who we are, I assume most of you do, but we are a human capital research membership, focused on a range of things most important for today, learning and career but also do performance and play experience, DNI in people analytics and then HR technologies. The work that we do, you can find on our website, which we have there at the top, which is a research membership. We also do advisory education. We have podcasts now, and actually we are as of next Wednesday, launching our new official RedThread podcast, and the first season is called the Skills Obsession. So that is probably going to be relevant for, for all of you here today. So so with that, I think Heather, let's move on to the next slide and I'll turn it over to you. So skills and competencies, so Heather, what's the deal?

What's the deal?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. So we started this research mid-fall last year and came into it kind of thinking there's all this stuff out here about skills and competencies in particularly the skills conversation as many of you are probably aware has been heating up for the last couple of years and it's become something that's, you know, more from, from sort of a OneNote conversation about robots taking our jobs and how are we going to deal with automation to a much broader conversation about you know, planning for the future, ensuring that employees are developing toward the future.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
How do we know what skills we have in the future? How do we know what skills we have so that we can identify the gaps so that we can fill those gaps. And then also a really big piece around agility, right? So organizational agility and being able to prepare, equip employees, equip the workforce to pivot to quickly changing environments. And so that was sort of the impetus for our research. We saw that the conversation was heating up and decided to look into it and ended up realizing that there was this, this conversation about skills, skills and competencies, and why what are the differences between them and why, why are those differences important and to whom? So it turned out that there was a lot of discussion and a lot of confusion, frankly, in organizations about what are skills, what are competencies, and then floating around there also, you know, what our capabilities and how are, how are they all different and how do you fit them together?

Questions that started our research

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
And so, we decided to start our research there and we started asking questions like, what are the difference between skills and competencies, do the differences matter and to whom, how are organizations reconciling skills and competencies. And importantly, we kind of came into this research with an assumption and a hypothesis that the answer for all organizations was to blend the skills and competencies that the differences really didn't matter. And that the, the conversations about how do we define the, how do we define the terms? And how do we help our employees understand the differences between the two that we really kind of assumed that those didn't matter and that the conversation really needed to focus on just the question of what do we have now, doesn't matter what you can call it. What can our organization do now, and what can our organization do?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
What does our organization need to be doing in the future? It turned out actually that we were wrong about that. The differences do matter, in certain circumstances to certain people. And so that's kind of what I wanted to share with you at first, what we found is that both skills and competencies do answer two very critical questions. What can our workforce do now and what will our workforce need to be able to do in the future? But they don't, they answered them from slightly different perspectives and with strictly slightly different strengths.

What did we find?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
And it turns out that those slight differences do matter to those of us trying to get skills, to sort of reconcile skills and competencies in our organizations. So so people who are in HR or who are in learning and development, who perhaps see that, okay, my organization has perhaps just as an example perhaps a legacy competency framework that we've been using for performance management. And now we're, we're incorporating a skills platform and how do we get those two things to work together? It turns out then that these differences are really, really important to people who are trying to answer those questions. They're not, the differences are not so important to employees or leaders who really just want to know, what do you need me to do? Like where do I need to go to get my development or my learning, or, or my performance management, what system do I need to go to? And what do you need, what information do you need me to put into it? And I don't really care what you call it is kind of the perspective that employees and leaders have.

The differences do matter

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
However, like I said, to those of us trying to reconcile them in our organizations, it turns out that these differences that you see on the slides, on this slide become pretty important. And two that I would call out are that skills are a little bit more granular, whereas competencies tend to be a bit broader and that's important because it, it, the granularity of skills often makes them more transferable across functions or even across industries than competencies, which tend to be more tied to how I do a particular job in a particular context. Also one thing that we found was that skills tend to be owned by the employee. You know, I, I, as the employee, I'm responsible for, for completing my skills profile and for keeping that updated as a way of marketing myself internally to the organization. So that maybe I can be noticed for, for gig work or for side projects or developmental opportunities like that. Whereas competencies do still tend to be owned by HR, meaning that the frameworks are the definitions and the frameworks are decided, written and updated by, by someone in HR.

Stacia Garr:
Sorry, sorry, Heather, maybe let's pause there and see if anybody has any questions or thoughts on this one. Does this align with how you're seeing this difference between skills and competencies? Is there anything in here that's surprising.

Speaker 1:
I think what's interesting to me is with IEEE and open skills network once calling them rich competency definitions, and one's calling them rich skill descriptors, and they mean, their doing the same thing to standardize the transfer of this information from tech platforms and tech platform. So they wanted to use a single data standard from a technology perspective, regardless of what you want to call it, pick the cap of what they're calling them.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah.

Stacia Garr:
And it seems inevitable though, right? You have to fix something, some word that we have used in the past, that roughly aligns, even if it comes with a bunch of baggage.

Speaker 1:
Uh huh

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, Great thanks!

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. It's interesting. I think one of the things that came out of this research, and we'll talk about it a little bit later, is the importance of at least deciding within your organization, how you're going to call things. And then, you know, hopefully the idea is that eventually it'll, it'll become sort of a cross-organizational or industry standard. Hopefully those two and IEEE and will reconcile themselves at some point. But that's also one of the powers of of skills ontology is, is that you don't have to have quite as much rigor in your definitions. If you're, if you're a technology is able to kind of group things, regardless of labels, any other questions on this or comments, observations?

Speaker 2:
I think that ownership aspect what's what's the, what's kind of interesting. So, right now we have, let's say functional and core competencies, and we want to move into that skills area. And our thought was that maybe we can actually make the functions, the owner of those kinds of skills, because also we are of course, trying to see, okay, how can we, how can we manage that big universe? Right. And this is where I really liked this thinking about ownership, right? Because I think now in the future, yes, we as HR or we as a corporation, we will, we will still own the competencies. But to be honest for skills, I would really love, love for the functions to actually take this over, because it's actually getting too granular. And also in terms of updating, right, I mean, skills you need to update every year, or maybe even, let's say within the year and for competencies, I think of course you also need to update it, but they are, as you are pointing out, there are far more aesthetic. So I found this a very nice trick of forethought.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah, that's great. And one of the things, the powers of a lot of the skills platforms is that they're continually updating you know, if you're messaging to employees that it's, beneficial to them to keep their profiles updated, then you can kind of rely on the skills that are in your system to be, to be continually updated.

Speaker 1:
And we touched on this a little bit yesterday, in terms of the, is it the skill that's being, what's being updated? Is it the proficiency level evidence of something you've done with that skill? It's not necessarily adding a binary net new skill every day or every week or every month.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Right.

Speaker 1:
And that's always where the devil is right, in the nuances of that.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
For sure.

Speaker 1:
I'm not sure how Speaker 2 you pronounce your first name, but I think that's exactly the kind of conversation who owns the dynamic nature of that.

Speaker 2:
Exactly, exactly. That is actually right. I mean, we've had, let's say all our experiences in the past with, for instance, we've used Taleo in the past, right. We switched to Workday and in Taleo, we had a thing called talent profile. And of course we always ask people to fill out those those kinds of talent profiles.

Speaker 2:
But to be honest, if you are trying to push this from a, from a corporate point of view, your impact is of course limited, but once you push it down to the businesses and to the functions, then you actually see those let's say populations really putting in their, their skills and competencies and development plans and those kinds of things. So, but I think that's a, that's a great slide to think about. Okay. How do you want to structure your governance around that.

Speaker 1:
And that's an HR department that will let go of that control because they want to own it?

Speaker 2:
Exactly.

Speaker 3:
Yeah. I would like to add one more point it's about competence has been steady. I think competencies as well as skills that are quite dynamic, just because, you know the behaviors change all the time and the situation that people working they're changing really fast. So, you know, positioning competencies aesthetic for me sounds a bit problematic, but other than that, it looks pretty good. So thanks for this summary.

Speaker 4:
Yeah. All right. I actually had the same comment. I was looking at this slide and I think the one that I feel like the, ,it shouldn't be split the way it is, is the skills and competencies for dynamic and study, because I feel like both skills and competencies, can actually go by both descriptions so we can have skills being dynamic can be convenient, continually updating them, and they can also be static at every point in time. So maybe not, not quite split the way everything else is kind of laid out.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Hmm. That's interesting.

Stacia Garr:
Maybe, maybe to kind of dig in a little bit there. I feel like we haven't necessarily picked on the point around enabled and maintained by tech and versus manually built change, which is immediately above. And I think that nature is actually kind of what's driving that comment or that bullet around dynamic versus static, because if something is manually built, it is by its very nature going to be more static.

Stacia Garr:
Just because we don't have, you know, time and energy and the like; versus what we're seeing with skills, which is this continual updating this whole concept of an ontology versus the taxonomy that we've used in the past. And so I think for at least as we looked at it and what we heard in the interviews, that's kind of what drove that distinction.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah.

Speaker 5:
Yeah. And then I think we're still, you know, the, the whole industry, you know, in HR and learning and development were still struggling with their definition of competencies. There is no, you know, generally, you know, overall agreement on how we define competence, right. So that is why, you know, when we come from different point of understanding and defining the thing, then definitely we will have far different descriptors for that. So, yeah, depending on their context, probably we'll go with static or dynamic. My preference will go for dynamic for both, just because of the nature. You know, people are evolving all the time, but I don't understand for the assessment perspective, you probably need to have something in a static mode so that you can, you would be able to assess and do revelation.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. Yeah. And actually there's no agreed definition for skills either, or for a lot of the other terms.

Speaker 1:
And maybe that's, that seems to be where we're all focusing on, right. Is the description of what the skill is from our kind of dictionary perspective, but then what people are able to do. If I, I can be always improving my critical thinking, but that's more of a strategic competency. And I forget who it was, who said, strategy can be fairly static, but how you execute that can be really dynamic. And so the definition of problem solving or critical thinking is not going to change at the same rate of how you do cloud engineering, whether it's with Amazon or Azure or whatever those things are going to be in definition, more dynamic from version 10 to version 11. And it's, it's the proficiency of the person. And so I, I don't know if there's a way to describe that or kind of summarize that, that there's this, the definition, that's one thing. And as a scale definition could be static because it's something that's not changing gap accounting doesn't change every week. That's just not the technical static skill or set of skills, but something else could be very rapidly changing.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. I think as we're talking, I think one clarification that I, that I'm realizing in my head is that yeah, these, these definitions are not, or these descriptions

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Are not actually meant to describe the word skill or the word competency they're meant to describe sort of how skills frameworks or skills platforms show up or are used today and how competency frameworks show up and are used in organizations today. Speaker 1, if you're not familiar with…

Speaker 6:
Maybe if I, if I may just, just to be a little bit provocative, it's interesting because we, we, we've been discussing about this, this slide now for about 10 minutes, but we don't have an agreement and everyone is somehow, you know, bringing its own, I know, vision on definition. I just would like to have maybe a provocative thought on that. How, how it sounds so great upskilling race killing it wouldn't be so trendy to say upcompetency recompetency, for me this has to do not really with the content but it sounds to me, again, an older type of let's call it marketing, marketing, you know terminology that in a certain sense, we need to come up in order to be able then to define the different products that where we ask for sheeting today. But this is totally, this is totally you know provocative. So then we would probably learn by listening to you and going to the next slide.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yes. Thank you. I actually, yeah, we were, Stacia and I were back channeling a little bit about, Hey, let's let maybe move on to the next slide. So thank you for that Speaker 6 I think you're right though. There is a decent, there is a marketing angle to this, right? The, some of the skills platforms are just trying to distinguish themselves in the market. That's just a frank element of this.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. And thanks to, you know, for actually making, making that comment. I think that's a very good one because I mean, right now I'm talking, I think it's three or two or three or four different vendors for a competency and skill framework. And of course, as you say, I mean, skills are trendy. They are, they are of course trying to push it. Right. But at the end of the day, I think it's, it's it's really hard to make your, your choice as a company. So thanks for that thought. Nice one!

Forward-thinking orgs are reconciling skills & competencies by…

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yep. All right. So what the research found then is that organizations are reconciling as so, as you mentioned, Speaker 6 there are lots of organizations are grappling with this, right? We have, we have competencies. We are thinking about adding skills. How do we bring, how do we put those two together? And we found in the research that there are three things that organizations are doing to, to help, help them work, work well together. And it doesn't necessarily mean that they're making them the same thing, or that they're bringing them into the same system. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they, don't the things that they're doing to help them work better together are first leveraging their strengths. So understanding a lot of what we just talked about on the previous slide and using that to to tackle whatever business challenges or whatever people challenges are, are most pressing for their organizations.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So the four that we, the four business challenges that sort of popped up the most in our interviews and round tables were employee development, career mobility, performance management, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. It turns out that both skills and competencies have strengths that they can offer to help, to help with those business challenges. And I didn't I don't want to dive into exactly how that happens, but we do have an infographic on our website that, that briefly describes how skills and competencies can support each of those business challenges. So we'll drop that into the chat here during the Q&A. The second thing that organizations are doing are considering, and using as much data available as possible. So, there are, you know, there's a ton of data available in a skills database.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
There's a ton of data available in competencies frameworks, there are also, there's a lot of data outside of that in you know, like LinkedIn and GitHub and job descriptions and all of these other sources that are both internal to the organization and external to the organization. And they're really forward thinking organizations are, mapping all of that out and seeing, okay, how can we, how can we bring this data together, and leverage it as best as possible. So one, just as an example, that data doesn't all have to live in the same system necessarily. Although there are lots of vendors now who are, who are doing a really cool job at bringing as much data as possible together into the same system. But one organization, for example had a lot of skills data in their skills platform, but the skills platform for some technical reasons, wasn't able to capture proficiency information and they wanted proficiency information.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
And so they kept that in a spreadsheet that was available to all employees. And so that wasn't, that's not like their ideal or long-term solution, but it was a solution that allowed them to see everything that they wanted to, at least in the short term. And then the third, and this kind of gets to a lot of what we were talking about. The third thing that organizations are doing are as crafting clear and consistent messaging. So even as we are, are grappling with the distinctions and the definitions, and how are we going to bring all these things together? How are we going to conceptually bring the things together? How are we going to bring the data together? The messaging to employees and leaders needs to be a lot more simple than that. And so what we're seeing, what we've seen is that some organizations, these are just three messaging strategies that we know that there are more, but the, I think these are really good examples.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Some organizations are just saying, we're going to call everything skills, even if they're actually more competencies. And we're going to think about them as competencies within HR, we're going to talk to employees about, about their skills. And, that works well for some organizations, particularly if, if for whatever reason competencies has kind of a bad name in the organization, as you know, sometimes, competencies, just the word, the term has a negative connotation in some organizations. And so those organizations do well by calling everything skills, then some organizations do make it, they, they make clear definitional distinctions. So Johnson and Johnson for example, is one organization we talked to and they talk about competencies at a functional level and skills at a specific job level. And they very clearly say, no, we talked about competencies here and skills here.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
And, and that helps employees understand, okay, this is when I use competencies. This is when I use skills and managers: this is when I use competencies, this is when I use skills. This is how skills ladder up to competencies. And, they make it sort of very clear when employees should do what. And then another approach is not use any terminology at all, and just talk about, Hey, what can you do? What do you need? Leaders, what do you need to be able to do, and have them talk through what they need to be able to do, and then kind of categorize back on the back end, if you need to the. The biggest, biggest learning there though is just to be just pick something and be consistent.

How are people relating skills & competencies to capabilities?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So then this is, you know, the Q&A part of the Q&A, or well the Q part of the Q&A. So these were the questions that we had submitted. The first was how are people relating skills and competencies to capabilities? So kind of going back to what we were just saying about clear and consistent messaging, it differs from organization to organization, depending on what they've chosen for their messaging. Broadly speaking capabilities tend to be talked about as sort of the biggest umbrella and often you'll see skills and competencies as part of the definition of capabilities. Capabilities being the most broad descriptor of what we can do is that, does that jive with what the rest of you are seeing? Any sort of comments on that?

Speaker 5:
I think capabilities is about, more about ability to learn and perform in the future rather than in the moment. So you have skills, competencies and capability for growth, yes. For performance today, as well for growth. At least this is the type of description that we, I use and my colleagues use in our discussions and difference between skills and competencies and capabilities.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
That's interesting. Thank you. Other insights on that,

Speaker 2:
I would tend to agree with that, right. I mean, that capabilities is somehow, let's say a little bit of a higher level. Maybe it just, I mean, maybe I would say that this would coincident with like 70% of the list of the literature that I have read over the last three or four. I think what, what I really liked about your research is that you are pointing out that this might be interesting for HR employees to engage in. And I think this is what was really nice to read because we also have, I mean, I cannot even recall how many hours we've had yet at the trying to distinguish this, but I think also I believe that yes, that may be interesting for us, but for our end to our employees and leaders, I mean, yeah. I mean, they, they might really get, okay, I need this for development, or I need this for hiring or whatever. But let's say for this, for those granular differences, I think, yeah, that is that's not too much of an interest for them. I think that was, that was a great point that you made there.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Oh, thanks. Yeah. It was interesting. You, you mentioned reading articles that was what we found the, the literature that is less focused for an HR audience tended to just sort of use all of the terms as synonyms, right. So you would see sentences that said skills, competencies, capabilities, abilities, knowledge, you know, and they were just using them all interchangeably. Whereas when you do get into the literature, that's more focused on an HR audience. That's when you start seeing distinctions being made. Other, any other sort of questions or insights or comments on this question of how are people relating skills and competencies to capabilities. Okay.

Speaker 1:
I think the capability question is that tends to broker the gap between HR and business or it invites that conversation. It's not necessarily always had or well-defined, but as we start using that, and it's, I've started to see it somewhat confused with the, the interchange of capacity, which is kind of forward planning, but are you capable to do what the business needs to do today? So it can be both now and forward-looking, but the capacity to take on new projects in the future, I think is more, as we think about the kind of operating model or supply chain of skills to take on new R and D or innovation or pivot to new lines of business that's capacity as well as capability. That's interesting.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Okay.

Speaker 7:
One thing I just want to add as for the competency and capability, those tend to be talked about both at the individual level and at the organization level. I don't think that's true as much for skills. It's usually tied to like individuals, but people talk about, you know, we have these organizational capabilities or organizational competencies, and then, you know, in the next breath they'll be talking about individual competencies and,

Speaker 2:
Hmm. That's a great insight. Yeah. Thanks, Speaker 7.

Speaker 7:
Pleasure.

How can skills be assessed for proficiency levels?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So the next question was how can skills be assessed for proficiency levels? So this was not something that we included in this report that just came out. And so we've done, we'd done a bit of looking into it. It's something that we plan on looking into a little bit more. So I'll just give kind of a, an initial swag and would love to hear your comments as well. So what we're seeing thus far is that there are some really cool vendors doing some cool stuff to use latent data or data exhausts data that's, that's created sort of in the course of doing business to infer proficiency levels for skills, but we're seeing it happened mostly on the technical skills side.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So for example, there's a company that they work with a lot of healthcare organizations and so they plug their platform or they plug their tech into the employee electronic health records system. And whenever a nurse logs procedure, it infers that that nurse is skilled in that procedure and is getting more skilled in that procedure. Another example is a company that sits on top of project management software, like Jira or Asana. And whenever you complete a task in the, project management software, it will give you sort of credit for having the skills that are associated with that task. And then the more, you do that skill or the more you do that type of task the more it assesses, it gives you credit for proficiency.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
And then that particular software also we'll send a note to the people, the other people associated with that task and ask them to kind of give feedback on your, your skill level at that task. So, so there's some really interesting approaches. So far though, like I said, they're not getting into, Speaker 1 is what you were saying, that the more durable skills or the softer skills, the human skills, whatever you want to call it we're seeing it more on sort of the, the things that are really hard and observable. What are you guys seeing?

Speaker 7:
The other thing I'll add to that is there are some systems also that look at like social data and email, and then they basically identify topics and then tie that to skills and proficiency levels. So if they see you're getting a lot of inbound email on a topic, they'll equate that to a skill and say, you must be you know, you must be very proficient because a lot of people ask you about this.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
That's interesting. Do you, can you share the names of who we should be looking at for that kind of thing?

Speaker 7:
Well, I think Microsoft Viva is taking that approach. And then the other one I am aware of is Starmind Starmind. is doing it well, and actually Viva too. It looks like more of a knowledge management kind of place, or they turn that into like expert location. So you're looking for people with expertise on this topic, and it'll, it'll just show you a list and, Viva at least in a demo of it. It, it does the, it'll look at your organizational content on that topic and give you a list of that as well.

Stacia Garr:
I think Speaker 2 to your, your question in chat around basically data privacy these, from what we've seen organizations are handling this in a couple of different ways. One is by allowing folks to either opt in or opt out of having this information collected on them. The second is by also providing information back to them that could be useful. So, you know, in this example of saying, you know, you, we think your, your top skills and proficiencies are our competencies are X, Y, or Z. Or you're looking for some help with X, Y, or Z. Here's some folks who might be able to help you. And so making sure that that information doesn't just live behind, you know, the, the wall with HR or with a certain subset of leaders, but actually is much more accessible to others. There's some really good research that Accenture did, I guess now about 18 months ago that showed that folks open this to having information about them collected through digital exhaust. Their openness is much higher if they get some value in return for that information being collected.

Speaker 2:
Oh, great. Thanks. Thanks much. I think it's really important to us. I think as we are embarking on this, I mean, I'm residing in Germany and I am, I can already envision that from those conversations with our Vox councils on GDPR. But I think once of course, you give this in opt in and opt out option and of course, making that kind of value proposition, as you say, I think that's a, that's a really promising no, thanks. That's, that's great input. Thanks a lot.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah and I think, you know, in general, so I do most of our data analytics research and in general, we see these things much more slowly adopted in Europe, obviously because of GDPR, but you know, here in California, we've got the CCPA and we've got some other things potentially going down the bike as well. So I have seen a dramatic increase in the carefulness of vendors in terms of thinking about everyone now thinks about, okay, well, how are we going to get this through GDPR? And or how is it going to be GDPR compliant and how will we get it through the works councils? It is much less likely, I think then, you know, three to five years ago where people would just say, well, you know, we'll just focus on the American market or the New Zealand Australian market, and, you know, whatever for Europe we'll deal with it when we, when we need to.

Stacia Garr:
But the tenor has shifted so dramatically that there's just a much higher degree of awareness and we're starting to see technologies get through the works councils that we thought again, like three years ago. Wouldn't so things like organizational network analysis based on passive data collection. So based on digital exhaust, we're seeing that start to get through with much higher frequency in the last 18 months or so. So I think that there is a future here for some of this work in Europe, but there, it may take longer than in the U S and there certainly will have to be all those accommodations.

Speaker 4:
If I may, I, I surely share, of course Speaker 2, being of course in Europe, but what is extraordinary here is if I think that, you know, a couple of years back, and unfortunately I've been around now for a while, but it was, it was simply saw out somehow to just surface and manage, you know, the skills. How many times we said, we exactly don't know what type of human capital we have. And this is probably because there was a certain stringent company tenancy system that was, you know, driven by the organization without effectively surfacing the talent, the real talent, most of the time, the real talents are the secondary maybe job of people and not maybe the job description they haven't been hired for. So what I found extraordinary is this is for sure going to unleash skills that we are even not aware of.

Speaker 4:
Second point is more, how are we going to us as the proficiency for that? That's to me the validation point, it's something that, of course it's still an open and open evolution again, because of course it can go from how many likes, do I get from my, you know, teammates, if I just say that I'm a good singer or properly, you know, proficiency validation that then can be, of course use it also at the benefit of the employee, because somehow, you know, we don't need anymore. I don't know, validation authority that will tell me how good I am with Excel, but this could also become a vehicle for my whole evolution in skills development. So this is absolutely for me you know, extraordinary, of course we will see, but with regulation, something that that will come next for now the ability to unleash this, this is what I believe we should, we should continue to talk about.

Does a learning platform need to have skills and competencies defined before adding an internal marketplace solution?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Very cool. All right. Next question is, does a learning platform need to have all skills and competencies defined before adding an internal marketplace solution? So, Stacia and I were talking about this yesterday, and there's sort of a principle answer and then a logistical answer, or a tech, a tech bounded answer. So the principle answer is no. We don't think so. Depending on what your goal is for the internal marketplace, if you're looking to help people connect with one another on specific topics or even if you're trying to help them find you know, gigs or opportunities that can be done with you know, either partially defined skills and competencies, or you know you could launch that kind of thing and just have it be a place for people to connect. Stacia. Do you want to, you had a good point, you had a good thought on that. Do you want to elaborate on that at all?

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, I mean, I just think that it is, you said it just depends on what your purpose is and having an internal talent marketplace. And so if you're trying, for instance, to increase people's networks and their access to other folks as a result of the internal talent marketplace, as one thing, you know, if you're, if you really are much more concerned about getting skills built and less about measuring them and is the analytics person that of course makes my heart go, but there's also reality. If, if that's the case, then, then, you know, I don't think that you need to have all of this mapped out. I mean, I think we can sometimes get in our own ways as we're trying to kind of get all the details versus just having a minimal viable product that we can use for folks.

Stacia Garr:
But I think to, to Heather's point, you know, from a lot of the tech vendors are requiring that you have this mapped from, at the beginning obviously there's more power and longterm power, particularly if you think about trying to having big data set from which to train your algorithms and to refine what you're trying to do. There's a huge need to have it all mapped in, in the beginning, but you know, we all live in the real world. And so I would say it's not necessary. But it is certainly desirable.

Speaker 6:
Can I ask a slightly different question? Can a learning platform have all skills and competencies defined?

Speaker 6:
The answer's no, I don't think that's a problem that you can solve completely for anything more than a moment in time.

Stacia Garr:
I think that's the beauty of some of the automation and the technical capabilities is that they can get a lot closer to defining a much broader percentage of the skills and competencies that are out there given the technical capabilities and the machine learning that we have in the deep learning, ect…ect… But I think you're absolutely right, Speaker 6, like, are we going to be able to identify every skill in the entire world? Absolutely not.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. I think that's a great point, Speaker 1 and I, and I think with a little bit of a foot in each camp, really, as a skills kind of advocate, but also on the other side, I mean, I'm defining them as, as one thing. I think the precision of surfacing, the nouns that we them with is what a lot of the AI is doing. So they're not defining them. They're just cataloging the nouns that we're using to evolve or described skills and resumes and profiles. And that's not defining them as listing vocabulary. And, and so I think those, it goes back to the previous question, defining proficiency of the skills. That's a whole different that's a whole different beast. So I think that the precision is actually important in how you ask or answer that question.

Speaker 6:
Yeah. I think that definition would like to suggest you have to name it and then you have to scale it. So you have to say, what is what is highly proficient versus, you know, beginner or whatever your scale is. And then I think the other element of it is the context in which that can be demonstrated. And I, yeah, I think just getting the first two, just the definition, just the name and the scale has proven to be pretty difficult. And then when you layer in the context of, you know, what's data analysis for an accountant versus you know, for a product manager or project manager but yes, the tech or the tech is very good at getting that salt, you know, partially salt and you know, it'll get better

Speaker 1:
And you, and you used the word Stacia purpose, right? It depends what your purpose for the marketplace is, which if you take the other side of that, it depends on what your purpose for being in the marketplace is if I have aspirations that are not based on my skill set, but I am incredibly motivated to go do customer service. That's not how I entered the company, but that's what I want to go do. That's more purpose than skillset. And so there are opportunities in the marketplace to connect in that way. Because motivation is a, is a huge factor in performance and desire to learn in some of those static competencies, but are, I want to develop and grow but I have an aptitude for, and that's, that's where I want to put my, my purpose. So, yeah, I think, I think the question's been answered is they don't have to have them all, but the marketplace needs to be looking needs to be able to facilitate non skill based kind of collaboration or connection or promotion or competence giving in those aspects.

Speaker 2:
Because if it is skills only, that's not good either. I mean, I think you and I have talked about women will apply for jobs where they have a super high percentage of skill fit. And even if the tool tells them, you're a 90% fit, that might not be enough of a competence factor, whereas my gender will apply for jobs that were 60% fit for. And so there's other elements of de biasing the marketplace based on some of those kind of social things that we know.

Speaker 2:
And I think that, that other point that you just mentioned, Speaker 1, I think it's also something that, that I did not yet have on my radar, but I think you're very right. I mean, if those marketplaces of course are looking to what skills I mean, that's, that's of course also a very biased view towards things because oftentimes your competencies are far more important than let's say to, to actually go and embrace a new solution.

Speaker 2:
Right. I mean, I started in finance and to be honest, when I moved to HR, I had none of the skills that they did that, you know, is actually required in HR. I mean, they were basically hiring me based on competencies, right. So if I know going to that internal marketplace, I apply for that HR position. I think I'd be filled out immediately. Because I just don't have it. I think that's a, that's a, that's a great point that you are making, and I did not have that on my radar screen yet.

Speaker 1:
That's how many of us have ended up in this field, Speaker 2. Including myself.

Speaker 2:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It could be because as you say, Speaker 1, I mean, it's important is what motivates you, right. What's driving you where you want to develop, how you want to learn, how you take on change, all those kinds of things, right?

Speaker 6:
Yeah. I mean, by far the most common hiring criteria is your experience doing the exact job we're hiring you for which, you know, it doesn't really explicitly relate to the, the skills or to the potential.

Speaker 1:
And also to the desire, you know, I think that's the danger we get ourselves into with some of these things is the algorithm is going to assume, you're going to want to do the thing that's like what you've always done as you just said, Speaker 6, and we know how many of us go into a new job wanting to do exactly what we just did in our last job or a new gig. You know what I mean? That's, that's pretty rare. So you know, it, I know we didn't explicitly talk about this, but, you know, in addition to data ethics concerns that I have with some of this, my, my concern is are forcing people into a box that is not the box they want to be in moving forward. And so we have to make sure that these systems enable, you know, folks to not just say this or, or have captured, but this is what they were good at, but these are the things they want to become good at and make sure that we're using assistance to provide those opportunities. Should we move on?

How do you maintain the skills & competencies models that workers orgs are using today?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
How do you maintain the skills and competencies models that workers orgs are using today?

Speaker 6:
You get all the good ones

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So we touched on this a little bit actually in terms of manual maintenance versus tech maintenance. And I think that's perhaps the most relevant difference, right? Is how do you maintain these? Well, right now it seems that skills frameworks, are more heavily based on tech and therefore more dynamic and more continually updated competencies are maintained largely manually by someone in HR, but as we've discussed, like it doesn't have to be that way. It is just currently the way things are set up. Insights on that?

Speaker 2:
Yeah. I can, I can actually only talk to what competencies I think, because they are, let's say fewer numbers and they are owned by us as a, as a corporation. I mean, I'm referring them every couple of years and typically, I mean, if you're not making changes to the overall, let's say naming of the competencies, we do actually sometimes update the behavioral anchors that we, that we put in place. For instance, if we want to make this more inclusive if you want this more digital, more learning oriented, you know, then, then we might also want to tweak some, some of those things down, but for four skills, I would be interested to hear from the group, because this is probably one to move to. And, and I guess that's the bigger maintenance activity.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. One of the things that came out of the research was this question of, okay, if you're going to, if you have a skills platform that requires employees to input their data in order for it to be maintained and updated. So it relies on employees to say what skills they have and sometimes give, give an estimate of how, of their proficiency level in that, in that skill. And sometimes then it requires even the manager to go in and verify that skill in that proficiency level. So then, then it's a question of sort of change management and motivation and how do you, how do you get people to, how do you incentivize people to to, to do all those things, to provide that information? And one of the things that, and we've touched on this a little bit in this conversation is the importance of sort of demonstrating the benefit of, of doing so.

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
So Stacia mentioned this a little bit in, in when she was talking about the opt in opt out. But it turns out just in general showing the what's in it for me. So sort of helping employees see view their skills profile as a marketing tool for themselves, right. Sort of the way that they would use LinkedIn more broadly. But if they, if they use that as a way to demonstrate to the organization, the skills that they have and the opportunities that they would like to take advantage of the sort of there has to be, there has to be a sort of a cultural element built into it around this. This is what's, this is, this is how you grow in the organization is by marketing your skills and making yourself available for opportunities. That was one of the really, really interesting things that we found when we were talking to people.

Stacia Garr:

Great we have just 4 minutes left. So are there any questions we didn't get to that folks want to try to slide in here before we call it good for today?

What system works best?

Speaker 2:
Sorry if I take some time here. I mean you're, your research is really great that you're saying, okay, skills and competencies, our hypothesis did not work out. Right. We need both. What I'd be interested to hear from the group here is, I mean, how do you think about this working out system wise? Right. Because to be honest for us, we are working with Workday, right. And I think if now, if I take this competency and skill approach and say, okay, they are both relevant. I mean, I just have a big concern that our employees are getting confused because they're all, those are different elements. And yes, of course I can explain it, but I think still to be honest, I already have a different position. That's a setting that kind of internally in HR. So I just wonder what the group could contribute there.

Stacia Garr:
Any thoughts, anybody involved in both things?

Heather Gilmartin Adams:
Yeah. I mean, I'll take a shot. So I think to, to put a little bit more nuance into the findings of the research some organizations are just saying we're going wholesale with skills. I think it was important for us to to highlight that that's not the only route and that for lots of organizations, maybe that don't have a platform like Workday that meshing the two together in a way that makes sense for their organization was what we wanted. That was what we wanted to highlight. It is the case that, you know some of the people that we talked to are making a wholesale push to go towards skills. What they're, what they're encountering though, is some resistance in their organizations to the people sort of standing up and say, Hey, we have this competencies framework. Like, why aren't we using that? And why do we need to replace it with skills? And so then it's a sort of a change management and messaging play.

Speaker 1:
That's a great point, Heather, I meant, or observation in my experience, a lot of those people who are like, Hey, hold on, that's a job. Well, my job is to build that competency framework. And you're about to steam roller it reinvent it, but that's my job. I'm an IO psychologist. I've got a PhD in writing that stuff. So how do I know let's get into the detail, let's have the argument about skills versus competencies and all of that, which would be of a three point scale or a seven point scale, and just take years. And it never goes anywhere. It's, it's unbelievable.

Speaker 3:
I will try to answer the question for Speaker 2. In my experience working with organizations, you know, there were some cases when definitely, you know there was like skills profile, but then there were organizational competencies and they were applicable to everyone within the company.

Speaker 3:
And let's say, the company says, in order to be successful within our business, you need to be able to develop it, to have those type of competencies. And they are, you know, and again, we spoke about that before it could be individual competencies or organizational competencies. So if you look from the perspective of our organization, you know, the question is, you know, why and what we are doing you know, let's say skills profile or competencies, frameworks, and then how do you apply them? What are their overall goal of the competency framework? Is it performance only for specific you know line of business, or it is related to the whole business? In my case that I described to you, there was distinction between skills profiles, and then organizational competencies for everyone to be successful within this organization, it could be, you know, cultural leadership and so on and so forth. So it definitely depends on the task that you are trying to achieve and on their solution that you are trying to find. So my, my 2 cents,

Speaker 2:
No, thanks. Thanks, Speaker 3. That is great input. Thanks much.

Conclusion

Stacia Garr:
Well, I think we are, we are at time and, and Speaker 2 let me know that the invitation did actually say 9:30. We usually only go an hour, so I think we're gonna cut it off there. And if you were planning on 90 minutes, you'll have an extra 30 back in your day. But I want to say thank you very much to everyone for the energy and the sharing of thoughts. And this is exactly what we want from these sessions. This is just the first of what will be many work pieces of work on skills this year. As I mentioned at the beginning, we are putting out the podcast starting next week on the skills obsession, and then we will be doing a number of different pieces this year on skills. So skills vendors is going to be one of them.

Stacia Garr:
And, and we're going to look at that from both the learning and the people analytics side. And we have a number of other ideas skills and diversity, equity inclusion, and belonging being one, and skills and mobility. We've written about both of them separately, but not together. So those are just a few of the ideas that we have for the year. So if anything particularly resonates, let us know. And in the meantime just keep on coming back. I think actually Heather had the slide that just shows our next Q&A call is in two weeks. You don't need to show it, but it's on DNI tech. And so if you're able to join us for that, that would be great. And if not, we will see you on another Q&A call in the future. Thank you so much for the time today, everyone.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Gilmartin Adams

Heather is a senior consultant at RedThread Research. Trained in conflict resolution and organizational development, Heather has spent the past ten years in various capacities at organizational culture and mindset change consultancies as well as the U.S. Department of the Treasury. She holds a masters degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelors degree in history from Princeton University. She has lived in Germany, China, Japan, and India and was, for one summer, a wrangler on a dude ranch in Colorado.

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