Blog post

Talent management tips from Spotted Zebra’s Skills Leaders Network event

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Senior leaders at Spotted Zebra’s exclusive networking session shared their advice on delivering skills-based strategy success.

Spotted Zebra recently hosted its inaugural Skills Leaders Network event at the Ivy in Victoria, giving senior enterprise professionals a unique platform to discuss skills-based talent strategies.

An exclusive cohort of skills leaders gathered for the session, where they learnt the latest skills insights and shared their experiences. 

We asked attendees for tips on delivering skills-based talent management programmes.

#1 Have clarity about your goals

Clarity about the main objectives of your skills-based programme is crucial. By detailing what you hope to achieve, success criteria can be established, and the programme’s contribution can be demonstrated more easily.

For instance, if the goal of a skills-based hiring programme is to improve Quality of Hire, success criteria may include new hire performance metrics, hiring manager satisfaction ratings, and turnover/retention metrics. 

“It’s really important to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve and why,” said Sophie Holmes, Group Head of Future Skills Development at Sky.

“The skills challenge isn’t going to go away and we all need to start thinking about how we’re going to respond to it. So know what you’re shooting for and then start small and build over time.”

#2 Garner organisational support for reskilling

Reskilling is a relatively new concept for a lot of businesses. This means some change management is needed to get stakeholder buy-in. Lloyds Banking Group outlines how: “You have to bring the business with you,” noted Stephanie Pitts, Global Head of Resourcing at Lloyds Banking Group. “This is not something that HR or the people function can do alone. You need some really, really good sponsors in the business.”

Anna Bowles, Skills Infrastructure Lead at Lloyds Banking Group, suggested this is particularly the case if you’re implementing reskilling for the first time. “The most pivotal part is getting all leaders on board,” she said. “Maybe do a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the quality of the product, and so you can see successful colleagues making that journey. But then display that to your leaders to really get buy-in to the process.”

#3 Be data and insight-led

Data is the backbone of a skills-based organisation. Collecting insights into existing capabilities and future skills needs enables organisations to make data-led talent management decisions. 

Catherine Chatfield, International Talent Acquisition Leader at Paramount International, recommended that skills leaders always focus on the data piece of their skills-based programmes.

“If you want to engage the right talent, if you want to meet your future demand, you can’t ignore the data,” she said.

#4 Work to understand your skills and skill requirements

Spotted Zebra Co-Founder Nick Shaw introduced the concept of skills depth vs breadth at the event. Breadth refers to the use of tools to infer skills supply within your organisation or the market. Depth solutions, however, provide a granular and validated understanding of skills and their proficiency at an individual level. 

Depth solutions are therefore more effective for high-stakes talent decisions, such as reskilling and hiring. Because breadth solutions are not so accurate and don’t measure proficiency, they are best used for low-stakes decision-making, such as the use of internal marketplaces to assign talent to projects. 

“If an organisation is looking to become much more skills-based, take those first steps in terms of grabbing the breadth of skills,” advised Mark Jackson, Head of Future Workforce at Nationwide Building Society.

“Understand why you need skills in the first place. If it’s coming down to key decisions like hiring, that’s where you might need the likes of Spotted Zebra to help you with those depth decisions on skills.”

#5 Don’t just focus on skills-based hiring

Simon Perry, Head of Resourcing at AWE, has witnessed some dramatic skills-based hiring results - read AWE’s case study here. But the benefits of skills-based practices extend beyond just recruitment.

“We’ve got 7,500 employees inside AWE and whilst my primary focus is around growing the business, there’s a load of work we can do to assess and gauge the skills we’ve already got, and how we utilise those skills and reskill people. Some of that will reduce the amount of hiring we have to do, so we become more efficient.”

#6 Start with a proof-of-concept and scale up

One tip that surfaced time and again was that organisations should ‘start small and scale up’.

With specific reference to reskilling projects, Anna Bowles said that the benefit of starting with a proof-of-concept was that it could demonstrate results more quickly.

“You don’t necessarily need to have everything in place in terms of the holistic view across the whole organisation of where the growth roles are and where there are pools of people you can recruit from. You’re able to deliver much more quickly and then you can refine the approach each time you do it. So it’s a very agile way to demonstrate value quickly.”

The importance of networking 

The launch of the Skills Leaders Network represents an important milestone in the development skills-based practices. By creating a community around skills leadership, Spotted Zebra is connecting like-minded professionals, and facilitating the sharing of best practices, case studies, and trends. 

The sessions provide members with a trusted, high-quality source of insight that benefits the delivery of their skills-based strategies and their own professional development. 

Attendees of the first event told us that it enabled them to:

  • Learn from eachother. “It’s great to build a network of people in similar roles,” said Sophie Holmes. “It’s great to have a chance to talk about real-life examples, and see where people are coming at it from a slightly different angle. It’s always good to take a step back and consider what we’re doing, are we going in the right direction, and learn from others.”
  • Challenge their ideas. “It’s good to broaden the mind,” noted Catherine Chatfield. “I love what Spotted Zebra do and the insight they can bring in terms of challenging your mind about how you can start implementing these things. Hearing about other people’s perspectives, how they’ve used it… it’s great to hear. It’s still developing at such a fast pace that we really do need to keep challenging our own minds.”
  • Share advice and real-world stories. “Picking up some of those little tips in terms of what others are doing, and hearing some of the case studies, has been really important.”
  • Build a community. “We wanted to bring together a group of thought leaders to help understand what the challenges are, to give them some of the research that we’ve done, and also to build a network,” said Carys Law, Head of Sales at Spotted Zebra. “It allows them to share ideas and actually start building a community of leaders in the skills-based world.”

If you would like to learn more about the Skills Leader Network and become part of the community, click on the link below.


1. How do companies effectively measure the success of their skills-based talent management programmes, and what are some common metrics used for evaluation?

Companies typically measure the success of their skills-based talent management programmes by establishing clear goals and success criteria. Common metrics used for evaluation may include new hire performance metrics, hiring manager satisfaction ratings, turnover/retention metrics, and overall alignment with organisational objectives.

2. What are the primary challenges that organisations face when implementing reskilling initiatives, and how can they overcome resistance from stakeholders within the company?

Primary challenges when implementing reskilling initiatives often include gaining organisational support and overcoming resistance from stakeholders. This may require change management efforts to ensure buy-in from key sponsors within the business. Starting with a proof-of-concept can help demonstrate the value of reskilling initiatives more quickly and garner support for scaling up the programme.

3. What are the key differences between "breadth" and "depth" skills intelligence platforms, and how can companies determine which approach is most suitable for their needs?

"Breadth" solutions involve inferring skills supply within the organisation or the market, whereas "depth" solutions provide a granular and validated understanding of skills and their proficiency at an individual level. Companies should consider their specific needs and goals when deciding which approach to take. Breadth solutions may be suitable for low-stakes decision-making, while depth solutions are more effective for high-stakes talent decisions such as reskilling and hiring.