To state the obvious: HR is facing yet another transformation. The world has changed into a place dominated by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity– the VUCA world. And, again obviously, in the context of work environment this development causes a shift to more agile organizational formats – which results in consequences for everyday HR.  HR is now forced to operate within two mindsets: the classic and the agile organization of work. One buzzword of this transformational process is “skill management” – a new HR discipline that helps running agile organizations. But while buzzwords are easily coined, skill management remains a tricky task. Take a look at ‘packetized Joe’[1], a model employee being skill managed: His abilities are sliced and diced and then reapplied. But this employee is sometimes assigned “only for seconds”, to arbitrary locations and work contexts. It is difficult to imagine how, in this context, poor Joe could turn out to be a model for a happy and self-determined employee.
To smooth the edges, we developed a model that incorporates 9 instead of only 3 parameters that are vital if you think of remodeling your HR from simple people management to skill management. We can show that including those nine parameters in your HR strategy may yield a 9 % higher work productivity[2]. This model is being evaluated by twenty companies which have embarked on a co-creation journey to figure out how to master the task of converting people management to skill management. The journey is still ongoing, but we can already share some fascinating interim findings: – Find your own way: Prioritize your individual skill management roadmap by employing a holistic framework. Your checkpoints should be ‘expert proof’ indicators for maturity – Customer first: Start by looking at skills from the HR customer’s perspective. Use the speed and the customer-centric approach of agile methodology to find the right solutions.

Find your own way – a framework to remember

Our framework for skill management: Instead of relying on three solitary pillars we break the process down into 3 interdependent columns:
All building blocks are vital when implementing effective skill management: – Skill Transparency: You aim to work in agile organizational forms? You strive to react quickly to ever-changing tasks? You need to identify the skills that you have today and identify skills needed in the future. And, most importantly: These skills must be transparent for everyone involved, in real time. This requires involves a binding and universal structure and terminology for skills. We need a way to identify and evaluate skills and their proficiency today, but also in the future. – Work Skill Matching: You want to match demand and supply (skills, motivations, aspirations and work) in a sensible way? You certainly need corresponding technology. And you have to use digital platforms to create comprehensive talent profiles. To increase adoption, we need to introduce organizational rules for the matching need. And we need to define how work can be described and segmented (ready to match). – Skill-based talent management: Conventionally, all talent management processes are aligned to structures like job family, role or job. But that changes dramatically when you focus towards skills. There is no way around making some important changes to core talent processes. In an ideal employee world, all talent management processes are integrated and aligned with the skill marketplace. They provide the employee with the possibility to market his/her skills, develop those skills and being rewarded for skills. Don’t worry: If you ask yourself how on earth you can make this fundamental change happen – well, you’ re right it is not going to be a piece of cake. But you eat cakes piece by piece – and while undergoing this kind of transformation it is neither necessary nor important to do everything at once. To help prioritizing, we developed indicators for maturity for all our 3×3 boxes. These indicators help companies to answer two key questions when thinking about transforming to a skill management strategy: – Where do I stand today? – Which additional steps are important to evolve my business strategy? Just to get an idea of how these indicators could work – have a glance at the following box.
While checking off these indicators HR should never forget who is at the center of all our efforts and developments – our customers.  Our research shows, that as soon as employees realize that HR efforts are tailored to their needs, they will drive their engagement (employees or candidates), resulting in increased retention and workforce productivity. That alone should be enough motivation to zoom in on some of our most critical customer personas. After extensive research and expert discussions, we prioritized main customer personas for skill management: Shira, the progressive senior executive and Koshan, the eager graduate. Let’s see what they are up to!

Customers first – introducing Shira and Koshan

Shira: ‘Our company needs to be more agile’ Shira is a senior executive, highly regarded in her field, seen as a visionary leader, excellent manager, and consistently delivering outstanding results. She is comfortable leading day-to-day operations, as well as turn-around situations, and has shown an ability to identify and seize high-growth opportunities. Shira is in her late-40s to mid-50s, married, with three children who are in college or working and considers herself a global citizen. She has lived in four countries, goes on business trips frequently. At home she engages in three different non-profit boards and enjoys horseback riding. When trying to identify her specific needs regarding skill management, our co-creators boiled their findings down to this list: – Benchmark Shira’s future skills needed to be competitive – Work towards complete transparency of her current and future skills – Measure the gap between Shira’s target & current skills – Empower her to drive her own career The persona description and process to identify needs and pain points will help us to identify suitable solutions for similar employees and increase the general adoption rate after implementation. Helping Shira to match supply and demand  One solution that has been discussed is an open talent marketplace that creates full transparency of current skills and incurring work and helps to map the two. A platform like this was implemented by one of our co-creators: HERE technologies. ‘Hitch’ enables the “Gig Inside”: Talent sharing across boundaries unleashes the full potential of the organization, and the individuals within. After employing the platform for a couple of years now, HERE is planning to include additional talent management components: they aim to support people with discovery linking skills & aspirations by offering them additional training options, adding a social recognition mechanism to foster transparency about skill quality and feedback.
Koshan: ‘I want an exciting task’ Koshan just graduated from university. During his studies he completed several internships – in different countries. He is now eager to enter the working world and is dedicated to spending his next years working hard and building a career. During Koshan’s various international internships he learned that his knowledge is valuable. And his university fostered his self-esteem by instilling a sense of unlimited potential. His outgoing personality and his strong interpersonal and intercultural skills, have endowed Koshan with tools that can facilitate a rapid rise to leadership positions. Thinking about his specific needs regarding skill management, co-creators prioritized the following list of needs: – Find exciting & global projects for Koshan, enabling him to prove himself – Keep him constantly informed about his career path options – Encourage self-analysis & make ‚super power‘ visible to others – Provide transparency for skills in demand that he Koshan might have – Support him by introducing him to a strong network community – Develop his leadership skills For Koshan the same logic as for Shira applies: If you want a critical persona to strive and develop you must make his/her needs visible. In visualization lies the path to a solution. Helping Koshan to be the owner of his career In the case of Koshan, we discussed an interesting solution implemented by AXA. They developed a virtual career assistant  by combining the tools of a number of technology start-ups. It works by answering questions employees have about their careers, including: ‘Will a robot do my job?’, ‘How suited am I for internal mobility?’, ‘What other job options are there for me?’ and ‘What’s the best training for me?’ AXA’s solution is addressing a rising demand for transparency of opportunities, coupled with a growing demand and need for career advice and coaching. Employees like Koshan will be first movers when it comes to using these types of technologies since they experience an immediate benefit. Their positive feedback will in return allow HR departments make a case for these types of investments. The persona approach is an ideal methodology to identify needs and expectations towards your skill management solution. We recommend starting with only 2-3 personas, and apply in-depth analysis to them (by leading interviews with persona representatives or conduct surveys). As important as the right skill management solution or tool, is a customer focused journey (see more insights here: Effective HR = Customer Experience of HR). For Shira, we would advise to re-design the journey: ‘I plan my team’, for Koshan we would rather focus on ‘ I plan my next step’ (see extract from our CxHR Design tool below).
This customer centric approach to skill management enables us to focus on the right needs and pain points and prioritize solutions that really matter to our clients.

Bottom line

Buzzwords like “skill management” are so broad it’s tough to know where to start. But as this co-created approach shows: having a clear assessment of the company’s situation helps enormously when trying to accomplish the critical shift in HR approaches. A clear and direct focus on the customer will build a solid foundation for skill management success. But all these efforts would be stalled quickly if we lack advanced matching technology. As a next step, the co-creation group will further specify customers pain points and start to develop solutions. In line with that, we will complete market research on the newest technologies in the field. Stay tuned! [1]Source: Andrew Karpie, The Research Platform, MGI 2015 [2]Source: BLS, company annual reports, MGI, TI People analysis   Learn more about State of EX Study 2022.