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What Are “Skills”?

In the realm of talent management, and especially in the new “skills economy”, understanding the concept of “skills” is paramount. 

Skills are the fundamental building blocks that define an individual’s capabilities, knowledge, and expertise in a particular field or discipline. They encapsulate what a person can do, how well they can do it, and the value they can bring to an organization. 

In today’s rapidly evolving job and talent landscape, recognizing and harnessing these skills is critical for making informed talent decisions across the lifecycle of an employee – from potential candidate to company alumni. As they become an important currency in talent management, quantifying and identifying skills is something businesses need to get better at. 

Thinking about skills 🤔

Skills can be broadly categorized into technical, or hard, and soft skills. Technical skills pertain to specific knowledge and expertise related to a particular job or industry. For instance, a software developer’s technical skills may encompass programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, while a marketing professional’s skills could include copywriting, building campaigns, or Search Engine Optimization. 

Soft skills, on the other hand, are more universal and relate to someone’s interpersonal abilities, communication, adaptability, and teamwork. They are often transferable skills, i.e. those that can be applied across various roles and industries, such as problem-solving or time management.

When we asked employees in the UK and US which skills they were currently learning, approximately 67% of the responses related to hard or technical skills, while 33% related to soft skills. Looking at what people were keen to learn, 78% of the desired skills listed were hard skills. 

Skills insights in HR & Talent Management 🔎

In talent management, understanding an individual’s skill set is a huge boon. Skills data – and a common language of skills in your organization – serves as a quantifiable unit of measurement; one that enables HR professionals, recruiters, and People Managers to make better informed decisions at every stage of the talent lifecycle.

Precise Talent Acquisition

When recruiting new talent, understanding the specific skills required for a job role is a crucial first step. By defining the essential technical, soft, and transferable skills needed, and then understanding the skills of the people in the talent pool, recruiters can identify suitable candidates effectively and efficiently. 

This precision in talent acquisition can significantly reduce hiring times and enhance the quality of hires – and, with more personalized outreach and nurturing, the experience for candidates is likely to be improved. 

Forrester reports that skills-first hiring criteria are 5 times more predictive of an individual’s future job performance than educational background, and 2.5 times more predictive than work experience. 

Effective Training and Development

Recognizing the skills possessed by employees allows organizations to tailor training and development programs, helping to bridge skill gaps effectively with reskilling or upskilling initiatives. This is becoming ever more urgent: WEF predicts that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years, while an EdX survey found that 49% of the skills that exist in their workforce today “won’t be relevant in 2025”, according to execs. 

Again, it’s important to see what you have, what you need, and thus work out what you are missing – so you can focus L&D efforts on the skills that will have the biggest impact on future business success. Once employees are equipped with the necessary skills to perform optimally in their roles, you will see improved job satisfaction and retention, alongside the boost in productivity. 

Agile Workforce Planning

Skills data facilitates strategic workforce planning by helping organizations analyze the skills present within their workforce – and where they have gaps. These insights allow for proactive planning to meet future business needs, ensuring that the organization has the right talent with the right skills to drive growth and innovation.

Ideally, workforce planning would be agile, powered by dynamic data about skills and jobs. When planning can be done in real time, you can quickly identify internal or external talent that aligns with emerging opportunities and challenges, and transform the speed and efficacy of talent-related decision making.   

With dynamic skills data and the power of AI, companies are able to ensure the right people are in the right roles at the right time, on an ongoing basis; enhancing their efficiency, reducing their costs, and giving them a competitive edge.

Better Performance Evaluation and Seamless Talent Mobility

Skill-based performance evaluations provide a comprehensive understanding of an employee's strengths and areas for improvement. Feedback based on skill assessment is constructive and actionable, meaning managers are better able to help in individual development and career progression.

Again, organizations are starting to deploy skills insights at scale (with help from AI) to recommend training courses, mentors, gigs, projects and new internal roles for their employees. This is helpful as an efficient route to better productivity in the business, quickly redeploying internal talent to where their skills are most crucial to meeting organizational objectives, but it also aids engagement and retention. 

more skills

Steering people in terms of the skills that would be most valuable for them to develop or harness, particularly in a platform that connects them to opportunities to do so, helps empower, engage and retain your most curious and agile employees. 

Identifying and nurturing high-potential individuals based on their skills is also essential for effective succession planning. Organizations can prepare and develop future leaders, by aligning their skill development with strategic business objectives.

Are you ready to embrace skills-based transformation? ✨

Skills are now a fundamental currency in the realm of talent management. Recognizing and utilizing skills as a unit of measurement empowers organizations to make informed talent decisions throughout the employee lifecycle.

Understanding and leveraging skills are vital for a successful and sustainable talent management strategy – which is why skills-based transformation is on the agenda for so many companies. 

Find out more about the steps for skills-based transformation, and how Beamery can help.