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I used to stand in front of a room and teach classes in person. It was the foundation on which academia was built. We’re all encouraged to get a four-year college degree, sit in a classroom and learn, and then we’re all omniscient and ready to conquer the world — right?
Not exactly. Studies show that while a skill used to last 15 to 20 years, the shelf-life of any skill is now only 3 to 5 years. The one-size-fits-all approach to learning is no longer going to cut it, even if the system we grew up in is telling us otherwise.
Learning can’t be one-and-done. It should happen over the course of our lifetimes. This requires a new level of agility to learn, unlearn and relearn multiple times throughout our careers and an entirely new operating model for businesses.
The processes and methodology underpinning human capital management as well as the set of assumptions behind them — namely, that people live in a static hierarchy and have defined roles, report to one individual and do one type of work over the course of their career — are broken. The world of work has changed in a profound way, and we can no longer live in an old paradigm.
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We also know that employees do not stand still or remain stagnant; their role in an organization constantly changes, given their personal and professional experiences along the way. Further, all employees are capable of contributing to their company in a bigger and broader way.
Companies don’t stand still, and the market doesn’t stand still — and therefore, jobs shouldn’t stand still. If leaders accept this new reality and believe in making people more dynamic, they will reap the benefits with better productivity, efficiency and employee experiences.
Research shows that internal talent mobility programs have a positive impact on employee retention, with a 60% reduction in attrition when a talent marketplace is used by employees.
This means we need to break our old assumptions and accept learning and development with a focus on skills.
Skills are the foundation for 21st-century learning
Companies that move away from a static job architecture to a skills-based architecture can understand those skills needed to drive a business strategy forward and identify opportunities to grow and develop talent. Unfortunately, many don’t have the skills, strategy or technology in place to do so.
Companies struggle to capture the holistic view of their skills supply chain (the skills they have and the skills they need) and many lack the technology to automate the process of surfacing skills and delivering training and learning opportunities. Businesses that adopt a skills-centric operating model empowered by technology can dramatically increase their ability to manage the supply and demand of skills. Ultimately, this makes organizations massively more productive.
This is where skills mapping and intelligence come in.
Skills: Workforce gold
In a nutshell, skills mapping is matching skills to roles, titles and the type of work that people are doing to help find, hire and grow talent. Skills mapping is even stronger when underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) to map people with the right skills to the right projects and learning opportunities (both on-the-job or online courses) at the right time. This also helps ensure that talent decisions are based on data and insights, not biases or assumptions.
Another way to think about skills mapping is to think about skills as workforce gold and technology as hydraulics. Right now, companies are mining for gold (skills) across different systems or manually using spreadsheets and email, which makes data and insights hard to find. Applying hydraulics (technology) accelerates our ability to find and match skills, and ultimately point people to the right work and training opportunities to grow themselves and the business.
Skills mapping is a complex shift to accept, but once understood, it will be a massive uplift for all organizations. It will help employees continue to learn and grow while helping businesses execute their strategy.
Understanding the value of skills mapping and skills intelligence
Let’s use the analogy of skills matching and intelligence to a math equation. In algebra, we try to solve for X — or the common denominator. In a job, we don’t have a common denominator. We put out a general job description which we know can’t live on or capture everything a person is doing.
If we use the X to represent a skill and we can tie intelligence to that skill, we can get much more targeted and specific. We can now, down to a common denominator (the skill), make a more personalized and customized offer to an employee and know exactly what work we can point them to.
This is game-changing for leaders at every level. From a C-suite perspective, building a scalable skills strategy will help employees evolve at the speed of the business while gathering critical data and insights that inform workforce planning. HR teams can use intelligent skills mapping to help foster a culture of continuous learning, delivering the right resources to employees at the right time. Managers can better understand their team’s skills to provide better coaching, and employees are given the personalized learning opportunities they need to be successful.
Skills are the new currency
Most employees today won’t stay in a role for more than 3 to 5 years, and often this is because they crave new learning opportunities. At the same time, many organizations are grappling with a talent gap, whether due to the great resignation or the recession. They know they either need to build capabilities internally by upskilling or reskilling, or find new talent on the open market.
These factors make skills the new currency. It’s critical to understand who our employees are and give them clear pathways for growth to contribute. When leaders maximize the investment they make in employees, employees maximize their investment in the business in return.
To succeed in this new normal, businesses need to have equal pillars of people, processes, and technology. As leaders, we must deviate from the standard way of operating — it might be uncomfortable, but it is worth it.
When skills mapping is enacted, the business outcomes are huge. Journeys become more complex and personalized, employees have an opportunity to explore various careers at one organization, and ultimately the business continues to thrive.
Leaders, it’s time for you to decide: Do you want to remain in the status quo, or do you want to evolve to meet your employee and business needs? The choice is yours.
Kelley Steven-Waiss is the chief transformation officer at ServiceNow.
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