Why you need to understand skills technology

What are the skills HR and learning and development need now to ensure future organisational success. Simon Haines reveals the research and some answers

Leading organisations in the field of HR are standing out by prioritising specific market-leading skills. These organisations, which KPMG refers to as ‘Pathfinders’, make up the top 10% of HR functions and possess qualities that enable them to outperform their peers.

Using leading global labour market data to conduct an international benchmark analysis to identify ‘winning’ skills used by these leading organisations to achieve success in their respective markets, we are able to understand and outline the skills for companies to gain top positioning in their market.  

Why skills and capabilities are the ‘new currency’ for success.

Skills and capabilities have become the new currency for HR and people functions to gain success, as the global skills crisis deepens due to the pandemic and exponential technology adoption. With changing work patterns and skill shortages, reskilling and upskilling are now top priorities for the C-suite.

To survive and succeed in the face of this disruption, companies must determine what critical skills their workforce needs and how to fill the gaps

Leading practitioners and their department are challenging the crisis by breaking down silos, experimenting, innovating, failing, learning, and continuously improving. Moreover, these leaders are intentionally focusing on rebuilding and reskilling the workforce in a digitally employee-centric way.

To survive and succeed in the face of this disruption, companies must determine what critical skills their workforce needs and how to fill the gaps effectively while maximising the employee experience. Many companies have found the answer to this challenge in ‘skills tech.’

Why skills tech is the hottest new solution

According to industry analyst Josh Bersin, skills tech is one of the hottest markets as it helps businesses to categorise, assess, manage, and improve skills in the workplace. While the scope of skills tech varies from one provider to another, it covers more than just creating skills frameworks or ontologies.

Access to the right data is crucial since many learning and skills departments and business leaders have lost sight of how competitors and the market have changed during the pandemic. However, for those aware, up-to-the-moment data and insight are available on competitor and market behaviour, giving them a distinct advantage.

According to KPMG: “Organisations have [access to] a goldmine of data and Pathfinding HR organisations understand how to use it most effectively.”

This talent intelligence enables organisations to compare themselves against their peers and competitors, and the choose to emulate the most successful or differentiate and take a different path.

What are the new skills for this new world of work?

After analysing 900,000 HR job postings in seven major markets from 2017 to 2021 the research found over 200,000 references to future workforce planning and related skills.

The research found that skills such as workforce planning and problem-solving are now considered mainstream in HR, while digital transformation skills are emerging among leading organisations HR functions. There is also a “long tail” of ultra-specific skills such as design thinking or data and visual storytelling that are rare in the market but signal truly disruptive behaviour.

This analysis enables aspiring leading organisations to identify the skills that matter most for their business strategy, benchmark against others, and identify critical skills gaps. The same data can be used to drive action and make informed build or buy decisions to close skills gaps.

Where to find leading organisations or ‘Pathfinding’ HR skills 

The analysis showed that around 70% of the skills deployed by market-leading HR functions are skills most typically found outside of the HR function.

This finding has significant implications for businesses. First, it means that if you’re running your HR function on ‘traditional’ or long-established HR skills, these are unlikely to be the skills that make the biggest impact on your business. Second – and here’s the good news – it’s highly likely that many of the most valuable skills you need may exist already in your business today, just not in HR. You need data analytics – visit IT. You need customer experience – visit marketing.

Reports on leading organisations supports this approach, stating that they are questioning HR’s strengths and exploring ways to work better with other business functions to shape the future workforce using data and analytics. Therefore, businesses that rely solely on traditional HR skills are less likely to make a significant impact.

How do you become a leader?

The analysis clearly shows that being an effective leader requires moving away from traditional skill sets and embracing innovative practices. Here are some ideas to help organisations to determine which skills are necessary for success and where to find them.

  1. Translate business strategy into underlying capabilities and skills – identify the skills needed to achieve financial and customer metrics that define future success.
  2. Benchmark against the best – compare your organisation to competitors, disruptors in your industry, and leaders in fields you want to excel in.
  3. Track emerging, declining, and forecast growth skills – understand which skills will become redundant and which will drive future growth.
  4. Use AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to estimate the skills across your workforce and identify critical skills gaps and investment priorities.
  5. Use AI tech to evaluate build or buy decisions – pinpoint career development opportunities and evaluate hiring potential using market supply data.
  6. Prioritise closing critical skills gaps – balance important and urgent needs and explore skills development opportunities, which can be 4 to 6 times cheaper than hiring and retain organisational knowledge.

By following these steps, you can identify your company’s winning skills and develop a strategy to leverage them to lead in your market.

Simon Haines is CEO of Simply Get Results

Simon Haines

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