A business is defined by its skills. Almost a quarter into the millennium it almost feels too obvious to say it, but it still needs to be said. While there still may be pockets where organizations known for their corner shop traditional approach mark them out for simply being local and friendly, most modern economies have shifted to a core focus on skills, knowledge workers and the value of service.
But operating effectively in the new skills arena is not simply a matter of checking job applicants’ resume or making sure an organization offers some annual training courses. The new skills playing field is defined by how well a business can assess its skills base, how competently it can capture and quantify its skills mosaic and how it can use that skills ‘knowledge of knowledge’ to strengthen its foundation as a skills-based organization.
A universal skills ontology
Using a platform-based approach to skills management, retention and development is a business essential for the modern age. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the tectonic forces of disruption still unsettling labor markets across Europe, the Americas and the rest of the world, we need to reassess how we consider skills as an operational business mechanic.
By adopting a cloud-based skills platform management approach, organizations can embrace a universal skills ontology.
By adopting a cloud-based skills platform management approach, organisations can embrace a universal skills ontology. This is the point in a Human Capital Management universe where we go beyond ‘simple’ skills vectors that might classify employee A (or team B) as a good communicator, or even handy with a spanner. We have moved to a more sophisticated cloud platform approach to skills.
This is the use of machine learning (ML) to underpin graph-based technology that maps the interrelationships between people, jobs, workflows, customers, the market and the wider economy at large. Crucially here, this platform-centered process enables an organization to map one set of employee skills to another; a process that opens the door to skills interoperability and the ability to ‘deploy’ people to new work functions as part of a skills-based people strategy.
The cloud skills company
Why does any of this matter? Well, nobody has to go to business school to understand that people skills matter, but what’s going on here at a deeper level is quite fascinating. As organizations use the breadth of the cloud to develop their skills substrate, they become a cloud skills company. But there are some key lessons to be learned first.
The toughest aspect of skills management is often not skills management itself, it is skills analysis and discovery. Knowing who is good at what isn’t always obvious. When an organization can actually work out where skills lie, the process of tracking, monitoring and developing those competencies is all too often lost. Even tougher is the process of seeking out skills suggestions and inference i.e. because worker B is numerate, interpersonal, over 35 and good at logistical problem solving, we can infer that they would be good at X task, or suit Y team and so on.
We should remind ourselves here that running any skills cloud business is a two-way street. As much as the focus is on applying people (and let’s remember smart machines too now) to specific cross-functional applications and roles, there is also a pressing need to deliver personalized career recommendations to employees. Depending on the level of openness an organization chooses to adopt, those recommendations might be restricted to in-house roles, but they could extend externally (or at least to partners) in some instances.
Building a cloud-based skills business means opening up to the value of data at both a foundational and holistic level.
Skills data is foundational because it serves to encode professional and interpersonal competencies and drive the business towards more meaningful talent management and employee experiences. Skills data is also holistic when approached from a platform level i.e. industry-standard sets of training data (appropriately anonymised of all personally identifiable information) are now available across millions of industry-specific roles.
Skills data interoperability
As the cloud skills business organization moves to exploit the full use of the platform functionalities available to it, the business can develop a wider ability to not only ingest skills data, but also to exchange and even trade in it.
Nurturing career growth has never been more closely tied to business agility and an ability.
This act of skills data interoperability is cloud-scale information exchange at its highest level. Using data from third-party systems, leveraging the power of machine learning and the intelligence of graph-based logic, a business is able to orchestrate its skills ecosystem in new and more expansive ways for the collective good of people, profits and the planet.
This is the shape of a skills-based talent strategy and the functions described here are prerequisites for being able to succeed in a world that demands business agility as we’ve never seen before.
With access to real-time cloud-based skills data, organizations can understand what skills their workforce has (and the skills it needs to develop) and so be able to respond to business needs. Nurturing career growth has never been more closely tied to business agility and an ability to make data-driven decisions related to talent, staffing, people and skills in every sense of the word.
First-line on a company CV
Looking back again to the disruptive effects of infection, invasion and inflation, while also considering the great resignation, the rise and expectations of Generation Z, the reality of increasing retirement ages and the need for reskilling, workplaces are continuously changing and organisations skills functions need to follow that same continuous cadence.
Businesses today are still essentially defined by their products and people, but it is the skillsets that empower those people to make and deliver great products and services that we now need to firmly move into the information age of digital dynamics. Skills are still something a company has, but an organization’s first central skill now has to be the ability to harness a cloud platform-based approach to skills data.
If companies themselves had to have a resume or CV, skills cloud literacy would be listed before any university degree or other level of higher education. Now then, tell us about your hobbies and interests.