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The Rise Of The Chief Skills Officer?

As we move towards the Skills Economy, more and more organizations are turning to ‘skills’ as the key unit of measurement in talent management – requiring Skills Intelligence to make better, faster decisions around sourcing, hiring, promotions, reskilling and redeployment.

There are several hurdles to getting the right talent data and Skills Intelligence into the business. But even those that are solving the challenge around skills visibility can still struggle to use these insights effectively, and turn their workforce into a competitive advantage. The problem of skills gaps still exists… and it’s accelerating.

So why is that?

Well, like most challenges that go unsolved, it’s usually down to execution, direction, and measurement (or a lack thereof). Skills issues today are generally being solved by line managers, a mix of various tech platforms, and myriad operational fixes – with no singular corporate vision, just a broad HR agenda to ‘improve’ how things are done.

There’s no one person leading the charge on skills-based transformation, with direction, accountability, targets, and a clear mandate and focus.

A good place to start? The creation of a new role: a "Chief Skills Officer". This new role would be someone who is tasked with ensuring total Skills Visibility for an organization, and who is myopically focused (and measured) on ensuring that the skills being brought in and developed in the organization are aligned to corporate goals, both in the short and long term and measuring the skills data outputs across the organization in real time.

Why a Chief Skills Officer?

The lack of a singular skills focus and vision is fairly self-evident in a lot of organizations. Speak to any CEO or COO, and they will confidently tell you their corporate vision… but press harder on how this is going to be achieved, and what skills they will need versus what skills they have today, and things get pretty muddy pretty quickly.

When asked “who is solving this for your organization?”, they will generally say “HR”. But what part of HR? Is it Talent Leaders? HR Business Partners? L&D? Workforce Planning leads? Organizational Design teams? The CHRO? The answer is a mix, and usually they are not acting in tandem.

Vision and accountability are needed to address this issue, but there isn’t a single role that has this built into their core KPIs or OKRs – nobody’s performance is being measured against the path to a skills-first talent lifecycle.

Companies don’t typically have a consistent figure within any particular line of business tasked with ensuring that skills – their acquisition and development; their deployment – are planned, supported, and consulted on. The job is typically split between business leaders in ways that aren’t audited or tracked, and are certainly not unified. This creates confusion and competing priorities that diminish the result.

Companies serious in solving the skills economy challenge, and embracing skills-based transformation, should be looking to create a new senior and highly strategic role that centralizes this issue and thinks holistically on the impacts, and remedies organization-wide – that of a Chief Skills Officer (CSO).

The CSO would be responsible for guiding skills-based talent-related matters broadly within an organization, and would be essential in translating the top line business strategy from the C-Suite into planned Skill/Talent Strategies within HR/Learning/Internal Mobility/Talent Acquisition.

What does a Chief Skills Officer do?

Essentially: they mitigate business risk.

They would provide guidance to senior leadership on what risks there may be to the business, in particular around diminishing or rare skills. They can help answer: “What skills are leaving us most?”, “Do our competitors have a skills advantage?”, “Do our existing employees have the skills needed for the coming years plans?”, “Is our L&D strategy enough to de-risk this?”, “What happens if we don’t have X?”, “What’s our plan B?”.

The CSO would be responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive skills strategy for the organization. This strategy would include identifying the skills that are needed for the company to achieve its goals, assessing the current skills of employees, and developing a plan to close any gaps.

The CSO would of course work closely with other executives to ensure that the skills strategy aligns with the overall business strategy.

They would also be responsible for identifying and developing new talent sources, strategies, and partnerships that could help the company fill gaps in its workforce proactively.

What does a CSO need to become the Skills Guru?

As with any senior strategic role within a business, the CSO will need backing: politically, financially and technologically. The C-Suite needs to understand that the lack of singular vision and control when it comes to “skills” is a massive issue – one that has introduced unnecessary risk – and that investing time and resources to solve their skills challenges will provide a massive strategic advantage.

The CSO will also need a window into real-time skills data, allowing them to act quickly and effectively. This platform needs to be fast, flexible, and take in data from all over your existing HR tech stack.

Bringing skills data together and applying explainable AI creates real-time visibility of your people’s current skills, key skills gaps, and Job Architectures (the home where skills belong) – and shows the supply/demand of skills across internal and external talent and market data. Seeing what is trending gives you a faster, more accurate solution for one of HR’s most complex challenges – and helps with every aspect of talent management, from sourcing and attracting candidates, to keeping or moving employees into the ideal role.

The skills gap is a real problem for businesses today: the competition for talent is fierce, and the skills required in any given role are changing faster than ever. The Chief Skills Officer would be the single internal lead for all things skills, and align internal stakeholders to achieve skills-based talent management throughout the lifecycle. This person could come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from L&D to Workforce Planning and Org Design, from Talent Leadership to Consulting.

With a Chief Skills Officer, companies can ensure they have the skills they need to achieve their goals, stay ahead of the competition, reduce business risk, and succeed in today’s increasingly competitive talent landscape.

Read more about the steps to Skills-Based Transformation.