HR Transformation: It’s All About the Skills

By Chris Lamb

I was fortunate to attend the recent UNLEASH America HR conference in Las Vegas where a common thread across many presentations was “transformation.” HR leaders like Josh Bersin (Deloitte), Yvette Cameron (Next Gen Insights), Tim Gregory (Corning), and IBM’s own Amber Grewal all spoke about transformation: how HR can help a company transform, how HR processes need to transform, or how artificial intelligence (AI) technology is transforming HR.

One topic absent from the discussions was the recognition that any transformation can be a scary proposition. Stakes are high, there are many unknowns, and there is always the risk of failure. However, there are ways to mitigate the risk of an HR transformation project. One key approach is to focus your investment on well-defined and current skills needed for your industry.

Here are some examples:

Focus on skills to transform for growth

To take advantage of the growing economy, many organizations are giving the green light to hire new employees. However, to be successful in competitive markets, organizations must be mindful that skills that were required ten, five, or even two years ago have shifted. Marketing talent needs digital and analytics skills. IT staff needs deep cybersecurity skills. Banking employees need skills related to mobile banking.

To acquire the right skills, however, you should ask yourself a few key questions. Do your job descriptions include these skills? Would your hiring managers know the right interview questions to ask to verify these skills? How would you define proficiencies levels for these skills to make sure you offer a competitive salary? Having a rich, frequently updated jobs and skills library is the best way to ensure your talent acquisition process is optimized for new skills required for your industry.

Focus on skills to transform employee development

While many organizations are growing, others must rely on their existing staff to fend off “disruptors,” which requires a transformation in employee development. These organizations are looking for ways retrain employees on new skills with limited or even shrinking training budgets. In this scenario, identifying the critical skills by job role and mapping those skills to efficient micro-learning assets is more important than ever.

Another important driver for focusing on new skills is the retention of top performers. Unfortunately, it is often easier for top performers to find jobs externally than it is to discover an attractive career path in their current organization. An updated jobs and skills library can serve as a map for top performers and highlight how their existing skills can be applied to new roles for bigger impact on the business.

Focus on skills to transform HR with AI

At UNLEASH, the buzz around AI was palpable – especially with early adopters confirming real results across the employee lifecycle. While AI can be a complex topic, foundationally, it has something very simple in common with “traditional” computer applications and even human decision making: it requires reliable data in order to produce results and decisions you can trust.

If you are thinking of using AI to augment or transform your HR processes, start by ensuring you have data on the critical skills for your industry. AI models require clearly defined skill descriptions, proficiency levels, and behavior statements, which must be mapped to current job definitions common across your organization.

Skills are an essential part of any HR transformation project. Having a clearly defined understanding of the skills needed to transform can help you meet, or even exceed, expectations for your next big HR initiative.