Blog post

From insights to action: What is skills intelligence, and how can it be used?

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4 minutes

How are skills intelligence platforms helping HR leaders to address their skills challenges?

'Skills' might have been lauded as one of the hottest topics in HR in the past 12 months, but interest has been growing for years.  

"Skeptics of the recent skills hype will say, 'We've always been talking about skills!' and that is true," says Betsy Summers, a Principal Analyst at Forrester. "Even before the World Economic Forum warned about skills shortages because of ageing populations and increased rates of technological advances, skills has been an important conversation. 

"But the catalyst for the recent interest is the increasing rate of skills shortages and broader talent shortages and the availability of technology that can help manage skills in a way that technology could not before."

Enter skills intelligence platforms. These platforms have experienced dramatic growth, fuelled by an urgent business need to understand skills better. 

Summers continues: "Beyond the common cry 'we can't find people with the skills we need,' organisations are having trouble with even knowing what skills they need, especially with emerging technology or transformation projects. 

"They also don't know what types of talent to source with those skills to fill those skill gaps - like should we hire this talent, or should we upskill people internally, or should we rely on on-demand labour like freelancers or contingent gig workers, or should we rely on consultancies?"

Skills intelligence platforms promise to deliver those answers. 

What is skills intelligence?

Skills intelligence constitutes all kinds of skills data that can be accessed and surfaced, including the likes of:

  • Skills assessment data. 
  • Labour market data. 
  • CVs. 
  • Performance reviews. 
  • Manager/peer feedback. 
  • Employee surveys. 
  • Skills inference data. 

Skills intelligence platforms collect any combination of the above to understand:

  • Technical (hard) skills - Specific abilities and knowledge required to execute a task, such as programming, data analysis, graphic design, or operating specialised machinery.
  • Behavioural (soft) skills - Character traits and interpersonal skills that support relationships, such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities. 
  • And potentially transferable skills (versatile skills that can be applied across different industries and roles) and adjacent skills (technical and transferable skills closely related to a primary skill).

How do skills intelligence platforms benefit HR?

By collecting, analysing, and categorising this data, skills intelligence platforms enable organisations to:

  • Understand their skills demand. Skills intelligence platforms create taxonomies determining which skills are essential for a given role.
  • Understand their skills supply. Skills intelligence platforms enable organisations to understand the skills their employees possess. When aggregated, this can provide a view of the skills supply across the organisation. 
  • Make data-led, skills-based decisions. Skills intelligence platforms enable organisations to improve decision-making throughout the talent management lifecycle. 

Broadly speaking, skills intelligence platforms can benefit HR decision-making in 3 ways:

  • They can help identify skills gaps in the workforce and determine how to fill them. 
  • They can help organisations to source, screen, hire, and reskill employees. 
  • They help organisations to make learning and development decisions.  

What are the different types of skills intelligence platform?

With no single platform able to deliver all of these capabilities, the skills tech market has become fragmented, characterised by a number of different categories. The most prominent are: 

  • Hiring. These platforms verify the technical and behavioural skills required for success in a role and then enable employers to identify best-fit candidates. Platforms that enable skills-based hiring include Spotted Zebra and TestGorilla. 
  • Talent sourcing. These platforms assist recruiters by using AI to scan and analyse CVs, extracting relevant information about candidates' skills, experience, and qualifications so that job matches can be made. Eightfold and Beamery are examples of platforms that enable talent sourcing. 
  • Development. These platforms identify career paths for people based on their skills and interests, and/or identify upskilling paths and succession opportunities. Platforms that support skills-based L&D include Degreed. 
  • Reskilling. These platforms enable organisations to match people to opportunities based on skills. As individuals will be retrained in the technical skills required, suitability is gauged by behavioural skill alignment, adjacent skills, and motivation. Spotted Zebra is a platform that enables a skills-based approach to reskilling
  • Internal marketplace. Talent marketplaces use AI to match employees to projects, gigs, and full-time roles within their organisation based on skills. Gloat is an example of this kind of platform. 
  • Workforce planning. By inventorying current workforce skills, and having insight into their skills pipeline, organisations can identify current and future skills gaps, allowing them to source, hire, or develop talent to fill those gaps. Platforms that facilitate skillsforce planning include TechWolf. 
Skills intelligence platform marketplace

If the market wasn’t complicated enough already, just wait until you get under the hood of the various platforms. With a variety of different approaches to data collection and deployment, there are a dizzying array of options. 

Understandably, buyers are crying out for clarity!

The good news is that Spotted Zebra is here to help. We’ve published a new report that provides a simple explanation of skills intelligence platforms and how to identify what is the best fit for your requirements. 

Download your copy to demystify skills intelligence - and start solving your skills challenges. 


1. What are skills intelligence platforms and how do they differ from traditional HR systems?

Skills intelligence platforms are specialised tools designed to collect, analyse, and manage data related to the skills of employees within an organisation. These platforms go beyond traditional HR systems by providing comprehensive insights into both the demand for and supply of skills within the workforce.

Unlike traditional HR systems that primarily focus on administrative tasks such as payroll, benefits management, and employee record-keeping, skills intelligence platforms are specifically tailored to address the challenges associated with understanding and managing skills within an organisation.

2. How do skills intelligence platforms gather and analyse data, and what types of data do they use?

Skills intelligence platforms utilise various methods and data sources to analyse employees' skills comprehensively within organisations. These platforms gather data from skills assessments, labour market trends, CVs, performance reviews, manager/peer feedback, and employee surveys. They may also employ advanced algorithms to infer skills from job roles and interactions. 

Analysing this data with techniques like natural language processing and machine learning, these platforms generate insights into skills demand, supply, gaps, and development opportunities. These insights empower organisations to make informed decisions regarding talent management, reskilling, and workforce planning, aligning internal skill development efforts with external market needs. 

3. How can organisations determine which skills intelligence platform best suits their needs among the various options available in the market?

Organisations can determine the most suitable skills intelligence platform by categorising options into 2 camps: breadth platforms and depth platforms. Breadth platforms focus on identifying skills, utilising inference and aggregation methods to quickly cover a wide range of skills. They are suitable for low-stakes HR activities like internal talent marketplaces and L&D recommendations. Depth platforms, on the other hand, verify skills with granular accuracy through methods like online assessments and manager feedback. These platforms are ideal for high-stakes HR decisions such as hiring and reskilling. 

For an effective HR strategy, enterprises often require a combination of both types of platforms to cater to various needs. Understanding the strengths and applications of each platform type is crucial for making informed decisions regarding skills intelligence tools.