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Skills, Skills, Skills


Welcome to the second installment in our recap of the recent webinar Navigating Uncertainty, Emerging Effectively. Today's topic is one that has certainly been top of mind for many of us: Skills.

  According to a recent survey by PWC, 79% of CEOs are worried about having the skills they need for their organizations to be successful in the future. That number is just staggering if you think about the downstream implications if this challenge isn't met - missed goals, missed revenue, and more reactive layoffs. All of these to the detriment to the organization, its people, and their long-term chances of success.
The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ian Bailie : A lot of what we have heard people talking about [in relation to layoffs] has been focused on cost. And we know that people are one of the most significant cost factors for a company. But there is so much more to it than that. There is the value component, Chris. And as you're both just talking about, there has been this increased interest recently, not just across HR, but more broadly as well, in looking at skills. But we haven't really heard that come up in the conversation around layoffs or any of the announcements. There's been nothing really around, our business is shifting from this to this, and therefore we need to reskill or need to change these jobs. It hasn't really been any of that that I've seen. It has all been about cost, and so I'd love to dig into this topic of skills and explore it a bit more.


Skills Journey

Interestingly, and probably not surprisingly, the majority of people were either talking about it but haven't done anything just yet, or are starting to move to towards it. Very, very few people have fully implemented, but also very few people actually not started yet, which is encouraging. But I think this is probably representative of of where a lot of organizations are at the moment. You know it has been something that we've been talking about for a while in the industry.

It is quite a daunting and tough thing to get started with as well, and so not surprising that a lot of people are in that process of getting started. So if if we think about that journey that people are on Chris and and Alicia a term that I heard recently which I really liked. There was a podcast where the CHRO at Standard Chartered Bank was on, and she was talking about sunrise and and sunset jobs, and how at Standard Chartered, they're thinking about roles in this way when they think about this need for upskilling and reskilling that's going on in their industry. And they're seeing certain jobs going away. So those would be the sunset jobs. They're seeing new jobs coming in. Those would be the sunrise jobs.

  And I think we're hearing a lot about how companies are thinking about this and about how to navigate it. It's not really as simple as all the roles going away and a whole load of new roles. There's some mess in there as well, with some skills carrying over, new skills coming in, some skills going away. What are your thoughts on how business should be thinking about this? And and how does it relate to to workforce planning?
  Alicia Roach: Yeah, it's. It's a great question. And you know we touched on it earlier. There has definitely been a bit of a skills frenzy recently where it's definitely the buzzword, I think, in HR circles, and rightly so. And it's also getting the attention of our broader C-Suite and that skills pressure is giving HR a great time to kind of harness some of the impact that this stuff actually has on the organization's ability to do what it needs to. So I love that it's getting this attention, but it is a little bit of the shiny key syndrome, and what happens is people get very caught up in the frenzy, and distracted by stuff that maybe isn't going help them. And what I mean by that is, there's a lot of great data out there around skills, but it's not necessarily useful for the organization itself. It's not actionable.

We always see a lot of organizations spending a lot of time and effort and money in trying to create the perfect skills ontology, and they've got two-year programs to do that. And certainly, we need to get some of that fundamental stuff right, but also we can't wait two years to answer these questions and understand what our critical skills are, and what critical roles, and what's going to be a show stopper for our business .In the face of all this change, we can't lose sight of that and wait two years to get the perfect ontology, the perfect data and the perfect processes. 

With the external data. You know the labor market insights. That is great and interesting, but it's very outside in. You know what we always say in in analytics is, "So what what does it actually mean for us? And now, what what are we going to do about it?" And the outside in view will not do that for you, because it's not going to actually get to the business problems that you need to solve for the the questions that your organization needs to answer. And I think that's the missing piece, and that's what strategic workforce planning (SWP) really does. It makes that connection, as I said earlier, of the workforce and the skills to the activities the organization needs to to be doing, and gives that real clarity for an organization on where they need to focus. And the other thing that I I often say, and I, I laugh about skills because, you know you can get on Linkedin, or you can get an email, and it's always got: these are the top 10 skills by 2025. Everyone needs resilience and active listening, or whatever, but the skills themselves aren't free floating units. What do you do with that piece of information? You don't just go to your talent acquisition team and go hire me 600 resilience and I need 359 active listening and 25 leadership.


They're not free floating units that we can just go out and procure. They're attached to a human. 

Skills Quote_Alicia-1
They're also attached to a role or an activity or a task on the demand side. So we need to understand both of those moving pieces of the puzzle to be able to do something with this information. With the skills data, we need to understand how the skills attach to our value chain and how they attach to people.

Fundamentally, we need to make sure that we're able to deal with skills-based talent management across the employee lifecycle.


We can't just go, "Here's this interesting bit off information, but we're not equipped to do anything with it." So there's a whole piece that needs to come with that. And for us, we obviously believe SW.P paves the way to navigate that and create that connection of the skills insights to actionable intelligence.

Chris Hare: Alicia, you have such a great handle around this complex area of skills and skills versus roles. I'd love to hear more from you, if you don't mind, just around this combination of things coming out of what you just said.

It's probably fairly clear to people, although I I think, for some kind of at the start of talking about getting into skills, they're not actually really sure what the differences between a talent marketplace and a talent inference, and what strategic workforce planning does. But I think there's a sequence here.

And there's another element to this, too, around how skills are important, and you talked about them not being detached things, but how skills fit against roles, and therefore bring both those things together.

Your views around strategic workforce, planning where it sits in the sequence, and why, is helpful for people to hear.

Alicia Roach: Yeah, absolutely. If if you fundamentally don't understand what your organization needs from a skill perspective, the rest of it's kind of, "so what". What I mean by that is that we really need to be demand-led. And so we need to understand:

"What's our organization trying to achieve? What's our purpose? What's our strategy, and what skills are required to enable that?"

Alicia Roach


That gives us the context for why we need to care about what skills we have internally and why we need to care about what's going on externally with skills supply and demand in the market.

If we don't have that demand-led view, the rest of it becomes irrelevant. We can go, "Everyone's hiring for these skills that competitors are hiring for." But actually, when we look internally, that's not part of what we're trying to achieve with our strategy. We're not heading in that direction.

Or maybe we are. Maybe that kind of feeds back into our direction. But again we need to bring that back through our strategic lens, and then that becomes the demand-led basis.

If we just look at this talent marketplace, and we've got an understanding of what skills we've got in our workforce today, and what skills we need in our current state of open requisitions, that's interesting. But again we're in that short-term kind of view, and we know that you can't click your fingers and materialize these skills overnight. They've got lead times. They take time.

So we need to have that longer term demand-led view of what skills we need, what's critical for us, so that we give ourselves time as an organization to get those skills in place. Then we can see that our talent marketplace is showing that we've got the skills we we know that we need next year. What have we got today? We can see that from our talent marketplace, but we can see that there's a gap here.

What skill do we need? To what level of proficiency, and when? We need all of those parts to be answered. And the external data is a lagging indicator of what's being hired up to today. So it gives us a good sense of how things are shaping and trending, but it's a lagging indicator, and you can extrapolate that and forecast it, but again, we're missing the context of the organization and what it needs for the future. We can only do that with strategic workforce planning.

Chris Hare: Then there's two key components here, and when we think of skills and how to integrate skills. One: you need a demand-based view to drive the context for which skills you actually care about, and two we fundamentally believe, strategic workforce planning sits at a role level, not an individual level. We need to understand, though on a role basis which skills apply. How important is that skill, and what level of proficiency are we trying to move to?

Ian Bailie: So it's skills, but it's skills embedded against roles?

Chris Hare: Yeah, we need to be able to see that and have that clarity, and that really helps us to set that forecast and get that context and to decide what we're going to do about it.

Ian Bailie: And and I think what's interesting in my experience of where people get kind of stuck in in this, it's often that isn't it? It is quite daunting to try and think about as you just described it. You should, on both the supply side and the demand side, think about your entire workforce. All of your roles. To do all of it at once is practically impossible.

There's a few things that I've seen people do that have been been helpful. You know one is, do you really need to know the skills of absolutely every role and every function and every person straight away? Probably not. Does it really matter how good your Finance Department skills are right now? Well, maybe it doesn't. If that's not a critical thing for you from a strategy perspective. So what are those critical roles? What is that hot area for your strategy that you're really focusing on?

Is there a certain business unit or some certain key roles that you should focus on? And then within that, are there certain key skills as well, and so really narrowing that in maybe finding an area to start with from a pilot perspective, I think, can be really helpful. And then I think the fact that you mentioned external data as well. Yes, it is lagging, but it can be incredibly helpful to get people started. If you know what you have, you don't have to ask people what skills they have. Skills they should have, because they're in that role, and that can get you started a bit as well. And so I think that's part of the puzzle here as well.


Alicia Roach: Inference can be useful, and we certainly do that in our platform when our customers import their work for supply, it infers what skills are attached to that, and that's useful. I guess what I meant more by external data is the labor market's doing this and hiring this and that can be useful for me when you are getting to the action planning stage and you're going. Okay, how are we trying to close the gaps? How can we source this? What decisions do we make around Build, Buy, Borrow? And how do we make those more effectively? But in and of itself as a starting point, just going the market's hiring this and that until you again contextualize it back. That's kind of where I was more coming from.

  Chris Hare: And I think what you said around drilling into crucial workforce groups and critical skills. I think that is a way to drive the conversation, so I totally agree with that approach, particularly on the demand side, to contain the conversation, have that properly strategic conversation. However, I do also think that on the supply side it's useful to have a map across the organization of where skills sit in our supply, so that as we're getting to that kind of action plan, we can find pockets in areas that may have 60, 70, 80 of the skill, base hiding in, and interesting pockets that are less crucial. That then helps us when we can think two or three years down the road. How do we scale them up and shift them out and and bring them in?
Alicia Roach: It's just incredibly complex, and I know everyone will be dealing with this in in in their own kind of specific way Join us back here next week as we continue the discussion around strategic priorities and how strategic workforce planning plays a critical role in ensuring the success of an organization's strategy. If you'd like to watch the full webinar, watch now on-demand

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