Blog post

Introducing: Spotted Zebra and skills-based organisations

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4 minutes

Becoming a skills-based organisation can improve your talent management, enabling your employees to perform at their best and have more fulfilling careers.

Today, it almost seems bizarre to consider a person joining a company thinking their future career path would be mapped out for them. Instead of constantly moving up, it's now more commonplace for people to move around. They frequently change companies, industries and roles. Look around you – it’s extremely rare to find someone who goes through a linear career path in one firm.

This new reality is ushering in the era of the 'skills-based organisation', where employers are starting to embrace skills-based practices to ensure people in the organisation can perform at their best. In this era, employers are realising that degree qualifications are not the best indicator of present or future success, and that sourcing for skills expands both the internal and external talent pool significantly.

By focusing on the skills required for a role and then aligning these to a person’s skills, employers are also bringing down unwanted attrition statistics, either by allowing people to retrain and learn new skills instead of leaving the organisation or by providing more fulfilling opportunities for people on entry into the organisation.

We also see employers starting to understand that skills-based decision-making represents the most authentic route to equality of opportunity. In most cases, a focus on skills will demonstrate a sincere organisational commitment to social mobility, as well as several other forms of diversity at the candidate sourcing stage.

Why is reskilling so important?

Skills-based decision-making also opens up the conversation on workforce reskilling, a form of internal mobility that is fast becoming an important tool for employers to retain loyal and capable people in the organisation.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the executives surveyed in the “2021 Global Human Capital Trends” report said that the ability of their people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles was one of the most important factors in their ability to navigate future disruptions. Employees worldwide should be thankful that employers are adopting these practices – the World Economic Forum further predicts that 50% of all employees will need to reskill by 2025 to respond to advances in technology.

As skills begin to take the stage in employment, it’s important that leadership recognises their power to transform the organisation's productivity and sense of wellbeing. In a recent article from McKinsey, hiring for skills was cited as “five times more predictive of job performance than hiring for education and more than two times more predictive than hiring for work experience.”

The study also found that leaders who chose to create their workforce based on skills-based decision-making are more likely to achieve higher performance overall, reduce the inherent biases in teams, engender a higher trust in management, and find themselves with a better company culture – all of which are by-products of people feeling successful in their role.

What are skills?

No surprises – we still separate skills into hard and soft skills.

  • Hard skills are job-related knowledge and abilities that employees need to perform their job duties effectively - i.e. knowledge of web analytics.
  • Soft skills are personal qualities that help employees really thrive in the workplace - i.e. emotional intelligence.

What is interesting, though, is that research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.

Most people fail in their role because their soft skills are not aligned to the role and company. This is something employers most likely sense but have historically struggled to quantify because their decisions have been largely made on other features of a person's profile, other than their skills. In other words, skills haven’t been properly codified into the organisation's decision-making capability.

But skills-based organisations have the insight to understand the blend and granularity of soft/hard skills required for success in a role as well as the behavioural qualities that make them a good fit for present and future success within the business itself.

How do you become a skills-based organisation?

Becoming a skills-based organisation is a process of developing the ability for people in the organisation to make skills-based decisions when planning another person's future.

Crucially, it is not a top-down directive where management steps in to make decisions for people – rather, to make systemic change throughout the organisation means giving people a model where they make the decisions themselves, for the good of the individual they are considering, and the company within which they are operating.

When presented with a person, the choices made about their future should be made almost entirely based on their skills.

What are the common characteristics of a skills-based organisatiion?

We have put together some of the common characteristics in a skills-based organisation:

  • Ensuring close alignment of people and organisational values. A skills-based approach demands that given the rapid pace of change, individuals should be closely aligned with organisational expectation. This ensures that when jobs and tasks change, the way in which they are completed will remain aligned with the culture.
  • Embedding skills-based assessment across the talent lifecycle in a consistent way, so that the technical and behavioural skills that are important for success in the role are identified and measured from the recruitment process through to performance management. This requires a flexible but comprehensive way of describing roles and skills that can be embedded within each stage.
  • Providing managers with the tools they need to identify, measure and manage the skills that are required for success in a role. This will enable them to take a more objective approach and to make skills-based decisions, which by definition will move them away from less relevant criteria for evaluating role performance.

In essence, creating an organisation based on skills is about iteratively remodelling the frameworks and conversations people have about other people. Each of these decision points become inflexions where the future success of the company and person is decided upon based on correctly identified skill sets and their suitability for the role requirements.

About Spotted Zebra

At Spotted Zebra we open the door for everyone in the organisation to make these skills-based decisions. We have designed our products and applications so that each stage of the talent lifecycle (sourcing, developing, retraining and retaining) can benefit from decisions that are based solely on the skills that are right for the role and company.

We have been able to make these products and applications by taking the expertise of organisational psychologists and combining them with the ingenuity of software engineering. The results so far are incredible. We are showing that giving people a powerful but simple decision-making model empowers them to create teams and cultures where people perform at their best – benefiting everyone involved.

If you'd like to review your strategic workforce plan, our experts are available for a Skills Strategy Lunch and Learn. Click here to learn more and reserve a session for you and your team.