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Why and how to implement a skills-based approach in your organization?

Today, only a solid and universal basis linking jobs, skills and training data can effectively solve HR challenges within organizations. Focus on the skills-based approach and on the essential steps for its implementation.



What is the skills-based approach? 


From one organization to another, and even within different departments of the same organization, the elements on which HR processes are based are generally very heterogeneous. For example, job A in department X of one company is likely to have a different name in another department of the same company, and even more so in another organization; similarly, the structure and content of training descriptions are likely to vary between a training catalog Y and a training catalog Z.


However, in order to obtain a clear vision of an organization’s HR challenges, it is necessary to find a key to harmonize and link together the various elements on which its key HR actions are based. This is what skills allow us to do.


Indeed, if we consider a job as a set of skills to be mobilized, and training as a means of acquiring a set of skills, it is possible to link together three fundamental components of talent management: jobs, skills and training.


This approach, which consists of using skills as the key to understanding all HR processes is also called “skills ontology”. Using this common language makes it possible to interconnect the organization’s HR actions, to compare more objectively the elements that make them up, but also to rationalize them in order to gain relevance.



Good to know

Within the framework of an ontological approach, there is no inherent hierarchical relationship between the concepts studied; each concept can become central depending on the application concerned. Thus, within the framework of the ontology of skills, there is no hierarchy between jobs and skills; the actors who use it can be interested in it through the prism of one or the other. For example, a training organization may focus on the skills that a person in a particular position needs to acquire to achieve his or her professional goals, while a recruitment actor will focus more on the professions, using the skills they require to consider the possible bridges between them.


Related: Matching jobs and skills: the unsuspected opportunities



What HR issues does this common reading key address? 


By linking jobs, skills and training, the ontological approach makes it possible to respond to key HR issues for organizations.


→ Recruiting 


The skills-based approach makes it possible to standardize job descriptions. In the context of recruitment, it thus allows:


  • to identify more easily the skills held by the organization’s employees in order to highlight the skill gaps that exist with the company’s needs, and which require the recruitment of new talents.


  • to gain relevance when selecting candidates by ensuring that their skills really correspond to those required for the position to be filled.


On the other hand, the skills ontology allows the organization to refine its recruitment strategy by using, for example, data on emerging skills or on jobs in demand in the market concerned.



→ Learning and development


Implementing an ontological approach based on skills makes it possible to better understand the skills that employees have, and consequently to offer them adapted training paths, making it possible to meet both their needs, and those of the company. Whether in the context of upskilling or reskilling, this precise knowledge of the employees’ skills and the company’s needs enables tailor-made recommendations to be made. In other words, whether the employee is looking to improve his or her skills in job A, or to move to job B, this approach optimizes the actions implemented, both from the point of view of the learner’s experience and the company’s performance, because the more appropriate the training, the more it optimizes the ROI of its training strategy.


Converting training content into standardized skills also helps to optimize training catalogs by ensuring that the key skills needed by the organization are covered and that any duplication is limited.



→ Internal mobility


The skills-based approach makes it easier to identify potential job mobilities within the organization by highlighting the bridges that exist between its different professions. Indeed, if we consider the jobs as portfolios of skills, it is possible to establish areas of occupational mobility by studying the proximity between the skills required to occupy different functions. The organization can thus build more relevant and objective career paths.


In addition, the skills ontology makes it possible to highlight the missing skills needed to move from one job to another, in order to anticipate the most relevant training approaches to be put in place to facilitate the assumption of duties by employees in the context of professional mobility.



How can you set up this common language? 


One of the critical success factors for implementing this skills-based common language is the standardization of data and its translation into skills.


These steps can be done manually, however, they are extremely time consuming, quickly obsolete, and can be biased. Therefore, it is recommended to rely on technology to translate the desired elements into skills and to be able to exploit them within an ontology.



→ Standardizing the company’s jobs and skills 


Standardizing the company’s jobs and skills and structuring them helps gain clarity.


Like any normative approach, this process consists of collecting, harmonizing and structuring the organization’s jobs and skills data by associating them with already standardized databases such as those of the ILO (International Labor Organization), the ESCO (European Classification of Skills, Certifications and Occupations) or the WEF (World Economic Forum) for example. This approach makes it possible to group similar data and limit potential duplication in order to facilitate the analyses that the organization wishes to conduct.



→ Translate training content into standardized skills


To define the skills covered by a training catalog, it is possible to use artificial intelligence, and more specifically semantic analysis or NLP (Natural Language Processing) algorithms, to automatically translate training content into standardized skills.


As with the jobs and skills, this approach makes it possible to obtain an inventory of the skills covered by the training catalogs at a given moment in order to limit content redundancy and to highlight any gaps that need to be filled in order to meet learners’ needs.


These structuring and translation approaches thus make it possible to obtain a set of interconnected elements for HR actions in order to better understand the issues and interdependencies. Thus, using skills as a common language to solve HRM challenges brings another resonance to the strategic thinking of organizations and is one of the keys to success in carrying out their projects.

Find out more about jobs and skills ontology:

Discover Boostrs’ approach

Illustration credits: https://www.istockphoto.com/fr/portfolio/MarinaSolva