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Why The CIO and CHRO Partnership Is Essential In Skills-Based Transformation

It’s never been more important for the HR function and IT function to work closely together. As employee and business expectations evolve, where is that collaboration most vital?  

The context: the talent landscape today

Businesses are facing numerous (evolving) talent challenges. One obvious challenge is the “new normal” of hybrid working, and how that affects employee engagement and productivity. Creating a winning experience for employees depends more than ever on how you can make collaboration possible across the world, and how wellbeing and engagement are prioritized.  

Today, businesses are still struggling to keep up with understanding shifting employee needs (consider the experiences they now enjoy as consumers, as a result of innovative new technologies), while also facing economic headwinds that make it difficult to recruit and retain the talent they need to meet their goals. 54% of leaders told us that “increasing skills shortages” is a current challenge; over half of the workforce plans to leave their jobs in the next 12 months. 

In 2017, WEF reported that the “half life of skills” was around five years: that is, every five years, that skill is about half as valuable as it was before. That half life is accelerating. Our jobs are changing at a rapid pace. 

Add in to that the huge acceleration and adoption of technologies like (generative) AI, and the growing demand for transparency, inclusion and diversity, and it’s clear that organizations have some big challenges (and opportunities) in ensuring the right people are performing the right roles (particularly, it’s worth noting, within technology). The goalposts continually move: the need for agility has never been greater. 

Powering positive change

Across every industry, CEOs are starting to notice that business challenges are, by nature, talent challenges. And businesses need to be much more proactive around solving those, because the skills they need tomorrow are ones that barely exist in the workforce today. They need to be prepared for changes that are happening faster and faster. 

Technology plays a huge role in this quest for business agility. As the panel on a recent CIO webinar discussed, it lays the foundation for a move to a skills-first approach. With skills at the heart of talent strategies, companies can address the myriad challenges around productivity, agility, fairness and engagement. 

But a mindset shift across the whole organization is also crucial; and one team can’t make that happen. From workforce planning to industry-leading employee experiences, the HR and IT functions need to find ways to jointly win over hearts and minds throughout the organization, as well as rethink their approach to data, to purchasing the right technology, and to ensuring a smooth and successful implementation. 

Collaborating around skills intelligence

81% of our respondents in our Navigating The Changing Talent Landscape report agreed that skills-first hiring can better align the needs of employers and employees, making work work better for everyone. Centered on skills, the future of work will give organizations richer insights around their workforce, a better employee experience, and – crucially – greater business agility. 

To achieve this skills-first vision, HR and IT teams need to work together closely to ensure that the whole business has the data it needs to make decisions based on skills, across the whole talent lifecycle. 

The latest forecasts from the World Economic Forum suggest that, within the next five years, at least six in 10 people will need to reskill or upskill, just to stay in their same role. Part of what employees expect now is that organizations will help them understand what that really means. What are their skills today, and what skills could they develop next? 

Organizations need to give better visibility to employees, but they also need to offer better visibility to managers. How do they guide their teams on where to grow, where to develop, and where the work that their teams are doing is leading? 

All of this comes from a centralized, joined up and well communicated approach to skills intelligence – and this is where IT and HR need to get on the same page.

The disconnect between HR and IT

According to a 2022 IDC survey, IT and HR leaders are not looking at HR challenges in the same way. When HR and IT leaders, who are involved in HR decision making, were asked how they would characterize their organization’s HR practices and use of tech, there was a clear gap in perceptions. HR really believes that they are leading over their peers when it comes to the use of HR tech, while more IT leaders believe that HR’s practices and use of tech are lagging. For organizations to get to the next stage, they need to understand and overcome those differences of opinion. 

In that same survey, HR and IT leaders were asked to identify how important or critical certain challenges were to the organization today. There are a few areas where there was general agreement, such as around productivity and how companies deploy hybrid working models. But the HR team is much more interested in, for example, internal mobility; onboarding; diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Meanwhile, IT is way more concerned about compensation and equity, managing contingent labor, and impending reductions in force (which makes sense, as this is a department that does struggle to attract, and retain, technical skills).

Bringing tech and talent together

It may be the case that the CIO and CHRO don’t have to fight about whether talent attraction or retention or productivity is most vital. A holistic solution will support the entire talent lifecycle: offering a candidate experience that feels truly personalized and matches people to roles based on skills and potential; an employee experience that shows people what skills they actually have, tracking those as they embark on formal and informal training, and highlighting the opportunities they have to develop, grow, or seize new internal opportunities. 

And, for managers and leaders, analyzing where engagement is dropping and why; showing them how to best develop their teams based on the skills they have and need; giving them insights about where their team members could be developed or reskilled. 

Then there’s insights to support workforce planning: what skills will we need in the future? Do we have the right people in our business today to meet those needs tomorrow? What can we infer about the potential of our current workforce? 

With automation (perhaps even AI) supporting all of this, the HR team is freed up to focus on people – repositioning the whole human resources function.  

Connecting the dots

Successful collaboration between IT and HR requires: 

  • A common data strategy 

  • A common language around skills 

  • A connected, total view of talent

  • Joined-up workflows, in a single system

  • Connected insights to in order to meaningfully track ROI

Skills data is not useful in a vacuum, so needs to be related to the job architecture of the company in question. It’s also helpful to look at people’s interests, proficiency and aspirations as well as skills, and bring in external labor market data, to ensure the data set is as rich, contextual and useful as possible. Skills taxonomies are hard to keep on top of manually, and that’s where AI can come in – automating much of the work in keeping the data up to date and relevant. 

Within a Talent Lifecycle Management platform, candidate, employee and alumni data can exist in one place, so that all parts of HR (and managers) can get a shared perspective. This helps build relationships between, for example, TA and L&D. (The skills you need for a particular role could be within the organization already, or accessible through contingent workers, or easily gained by upskilling a portion of the workforce.) 

Managing change, together 

The CIO also needs support from HR – not least in their own talent management, leadership development, and workforce planning requirements. One big area is in change management and transformation. 

As large scale technology projects often require significant changes in work processes, tools, and even organizational structures, the CHRO can play a vital role in managing the “people” side of change, ensuring effective communication, good stakeholder engagement, and addressing any resistance or concerns among employees.

Could the HR team also help technology colleagues with quelling some of the fear and uncertainty around rapid developments in, for example, generative AI? 

If the CIO and CHRO can really collaborate, the journey to skills-based transformation becomes a lot easier.

To learn more, watch our webinar The Ultimate CIO and CHRO Partnership: Fostering Workforce Agility with Technology and Innovation.