In our ever-changing world, skills are taking centre stage as a solution for businesses and their workforces to keep pace with new disruptions.
We are living through history; a yet-unshaped era of work, and HR and L&D are at the helm of many advances.
Key among this is skills data – collection, analyses and action based on its insights. Skills data is powerful, promising to create a more equitable, agile and resilient workplace.
Skills are reaping benefits
Results so far from early adopters of skills-based approaches show that 41% of organisations have increased financial performance, while 33% have increased retention.
Furthermore, 26% have an enhanced ability to anticipate future disruptions, 26% have more agile workforces and 26% are more innovative.
Yet, to reap these benefits we need employee buy-in. Why? Because they will be consenting to each and every use of their skills data and can therefore make or break a skills-based organisation transformation.
Results so far from early adopters of skills-based approaches show that 41% of organisations have increased financial performance
The right way to use skills
Critical to gaining employee trust in skills data is having clear governance around its use and using it to benefit the organisation and employees in a balanced way.
Skills data can benefit someone’s career. By taking a skills-based approach in workforce decisions, a lot of unconscious biases can be removed.
Hiring, promoting, upskilling/reskilling, and numerous other decisions can be made based on tangible skills, instead of someone’s connections or a manager’s ‘gut feeling’.
Decisions are also made based on more timely and accurate indicators of someone’s ability, compared to a degree or other credential that they completed decades ago.
When the skills align
When skills are populated in a skills profile (also known as a passport in some circles), individuals can connect their skills and learning to real-world career growth opportunities.
Better still, when those profiles also contain career goals and interests, employers can be more aligned with what their people wish to achieve long-term and offer more relevant L&D based on this.
This creates more meaningful careers, boosting retention and employee satisfaction and enhancing productivity.
Skills data can benefit someone’s career. By taking a skills-based approach in workforce decisions, a lot of unconscious biases can be removed
Keep your approach person centred
The worst thing you can do with someone’s skills data (apart from failing to secure it effectively) is use it ‘against them’ and tie it directly with firing or renumeration discussions.
We’ve seen the backlash that the unethical use of consumer data has led to. If employers go down this route, there’ll be significant internal and external consequences.
Navigating the 100-year career
Skills profiles become ever-more relevant when you consider the longevity of someone’s career today and the many disruptions that someone will have to navigate through.
Some people entering the workforce today will have careers spanning over 100 years.
They’ll live through automation, artificial intelligence (AI), 6G, quantum computing and numerous other advances – and their skills will have to adapt time and time again to keep up.
It makes perfect sense, therefore, for them to begin collecting a record of their skills now and refresh this record every time they update their skills.
Jobs won’t be able to keep pace with the many changes on the horizon, and more organisations are splitting it into its component parts (aka skills).
Having a skills profile that follows you from project to project, employer to employer, is the only way to ‘speak’ the language of the new skills-based workplace.
As an employee begins to benefit from sharing their skills data, they’ll buy into the opportunities more and may even champion skills with their peers.
The worst thing you can do with someone’s skills data (apart from failing to secure it effectively) is use it ‘against them’ and tie it directly with firing or renumeration discussions
Collecting, storing and using data
Trust, by definition, hinges on reliability and honesty. For skills data, that means people understand clearly what their data is going to be used for, how it benefits them, the protections in place and who is ultimately responsible for its governance.
Skills data needs to be secured. The collection and use of skills data should be transparent.
Many will be tempted to use AI to sift through and analyse data, but these algorithms and their results should always be clearly explainable.
The accuracy and timeliness of data also needs to be considered for the most reliable results – and processes need to be implemented to reduce any potential bias in the AI and the data it is being fed.
Senior oversight is needed
Ideally, someone in a leadership role – a chief skills officer or similar – needs oversight on all collection, use, privacy, and actions derived from skills data.
Collaborating with data privacy, legal and compliance teams will also help to keep you on the right track when using skills data.
Work with them to develop the right policies, protections and mitigations so that you can focus on collecting and using skills data for the benefit of your workforce.
If we are going to use skills data for the good of employees, we also need to collect only the data that’s needed for each initiative.
Don’t simply collect as much data as possible on people, and never sell it on for recruitment or career development purposes. You may get short-term rewards from such a tactic, but long-term your use of skills data will crumble as employees withdraw their buy-in and consent.
We are taking steps today that will have long-term ramifications for people and employers generations from now. Our actions and decisions need to feel that weight
Always be people focused
Putting individuals at the heart of all your skills data use ensures you’re treading the right path in responsibility and ethics.
Start with your people first, and profit and market growth through using skills data will surely follow.
We are taking steps today that will have long-term ramifications for people and employers generations from now. Our actions and decisions need to feel that weight.
Millions of people are relying on us, as HR and L&D leaders, to find the right way forward in using skills data. Let’s not take a misstep.
If you enjoyed this, read: Skills for success: The 10 most in demand skills today