Alison Ettridge Jul 30 7 min read

A Global Talent Market calls for a Global Approach to Skills

In the new ecosystem of work, businesses need to be global as well as local, remote as well as physical. In a skill-driven market they’ll need to base their people strategy on skills supply and demand - rather than on people or jobs in a location. But there’s a major hurdle here. The way skills are described by employers and candidates across markets and industries vary massively, creating what we call ‘noisy’ data.

This noisy data about skills, as described by individuals all over the world, makes it difficult to get a really clear picture of the skills supply chain. This has been the downfall of many previous attempts to sensibly categorise skills into a standardised ‘skills taxonomy’ that’s useful for decision-making. But, if we don’t have a full understanding of skills, we are making our organisations less resilient, more vulnerable and open to recruitment challenges. So, we’re working on a new skills taxonomy without the shortcomings of traditional categorisations.

What’s the issue with skills taxonomies?

There are a number of places where past skills taxonomies have led us down the wrong path:

  1. Basing them on job vacancy data which is looking at skills demand and not supply
  2. Basing categories on education data, which is looking at what’s being learnt, not what employers need
  3. Bias towards blue collar occupations and lower-level hard skills
  4. Not taking into account the fast-moving and disruptive nature of skills demand
  5. Not updating the taxonomy frequently enough, or at all, meaning the static model is soon outdated for emerging skills
  6. Neglecting to take into account soft skills which we know are now highly valued
  7. Overlooking niche industry specific skills
  8. Failing to address transferable skills

Same name different skill set

“There will be a further breaking down of tasks. What needs to be done by who, where and how? Data will inform how we do this”

Linda Kennedy, Former Chief People Officer, The AA

Take ‘financial analysis’. People with this skill in London are typically traders and investment bankers. People with this skill in the UK but outside London are more likely to be accountants. Same skill but the nature of the company, the industry, the job being done, and the location mean it’s not like for like. ‘Software engineer’ has skills in common with ‘software developer’ but less overlap with ‘software architect’. Same words, different skill set. ‘Time management’ is needed by an HR Manager and by a Java developer but that’s not to say there are enough transferable skills between the roles!

What is the difference between sourcing and sourcing? It depends on the job you do, who you do it for and where you do it. Easy right? Well, no. Sourcing in the world of talent acquisition is about identifying sources of talent to engage and build a relationship with, with a view to hiring them. Sourcing in the world of procurement is about sourcing and then using suppliers to gather all the materials you need for your products, services, and indirect costs.   Are they the same skill? In short – no. Are they cross transferable – maybe? You have to consider the skill, the job title, the function, the job title, the make-up of the surrounding industries and companies and then language differences.

To design a skills taxonomy for the new world of work, we’re building an approach unlike any other. We’re still experimenting with measuring skills in different ways, but our data science team will have our updated taxonomy ready to launch later this year. This addition will add yet another powerful dimension to Stratigens.

Decoupling people from the job

“Organisations are networks, but they allocate work poorly. It’s hard to know what that work converts to when it’s a person. What do I need people to do? and how do I decouple what needs to be done from the person that is doing it?” 

David Balls, Group Retail Human Resources Director, The Rank Group plc

In a future in which skills will be decoupled from the person doing a job, it’s essential that we understand the work that needs to be done and the skills required to carry it out – without bundling it up into a traditional job profile. This is a discussion we’ve been having long before COVID-19. But the global pandemic has accelerated that conversation and the need for businesses to understand skills supply and demand.

To see a demo of Stratigens, our platform that helps you manage the skills supply chain, book in with our team here: Book a Stratigens Demo. The demo can be based on questions about skills from your organisation.