Automation helps close key skill gaps

Now more than ever, HR and talent managers need real-time information on the growing gap between the skills available in their workforce and the skills needed to perform in-house roles. evolution or to drive changing business strategies.

As more and more workers quit their jobs or delay re-entering the labor market, companies are increasingly faced with recruiting inexperienced candidates, retraining existing workers for new tasks, or being promoted from ” high school level ”—promote employees to multiple levels of leadership. ladder — to help fill skills gaps in the workforce.

In other cases, a change in business strategy, such as a shift from an oil and gas company to green energy, requires employees to quickly acquire new skills or knowledge.

Identifying the new skills the workforce needs begins with knowing the skills and competencies they already have, and then working to fill those gaps. It is in the automated identification, categorization and assessment of these skills, as well as their link to top performers in a company, that the new skills management software can help.

Rather than using the age-old practice of requiring employees to manually enter their skills into a database, the software can automatically extract or infer skills from data such as job descriptions, resumes, courses. learning or completed projects and performance reviews, then compile this information. in an updated skills inventory. Some software platforms also include tools for checking skills and to help assess whether the value of certain skills is increasing or decreasing.

Filling the skills gap: a top human resource priority for 2022

A recent Gartner study found that the top priority for HR leaders in 2022 will be developing essential skills and competencies in their organizations. The study found that 47% of people surveyed in human resources said they did not know about the skills gaps of their current employees, while 40% said they could not create development solutions. skills quickly enough to meet their evolving needs.

Gartner research also found that nearly one in three skills required for a job in 2018 will no longer be required in 2022 and that the average number of skills per job is steadily increasing.

Another sign of growing concern over skills gaps, the 2021-2022 Sapient Insights Group HR Systems Survey found that skills management applications were among the top new talent management technologies that they are looking for. HR leaders planned to adopt over the next two years.

Many industry vendors have created new software tools designed to make it easier for HR managers to create a more accurate, real-time inventory of workforce skills – what some call an ontology of workforce skills. skills that deconstructs jobs into individual tasks that require specific skills – to automatically identify, categorize and assess the skills of a company’s employees.

Josh Bersin, HR industry analyst and dean of Josh Bersin Academy in Oakland, Calif., Said vendors across all categories of HR technology are now offering a software version that delivers new efficiencies and machine learning to the creation of competency ontologies.

Why the growth of these providers of skills management applications? “It is more urgent to create and use skill ontologies today,” said Bersin. “The pandemic has created enormous professional mobility, and there are more people than ever leaving their jobs or changing careers. As a result, more and more companies are hiring people in positions that have never done before. work before or who do not have experience in that specific role. And the work roles themselves are no longer clear as they keep changing. “

Bersin said that providers of skill management software include learning platform providers who have ranked and “inferred” years of skills data from learner activity; recruit technology providers who have extensive skills data based on algorithms that match candidate skills with job requirements; HRIS platform and technology suite providers that have versatile “skill engines” that span all of their talent applications; and new companies specializing in skills management software that focus only on helping businesses to build skills infrastructures.

Some of these vendors have the pulse of the skills that are currently most in demand because of their access to the actual job demands that recruiters create every day, Bersin said.

Using this software to create an ontology of skills is not without challenges, he noted, given the fragmentation of HR technology in many organizations. “If you’re a large company, you’re now dealing with multiple systems that capture skills data, and there’s usually no single record system,” Bersin said. “Some vendors are striving to provide this, but to date there is no mature end-to-end solution. “

Skills management software in action

One of the vendors offering skills management software is Workday, based in Pleasanton, California. The provider’s Skills Cloud product is an infrastructure for collecting, inferring and verifying the skills that are part of Workday’s human capital management system, said David Somers, Managing Director of the Workday Group in the Office of the Director of Resources. human.

The Skills Cloud uses an ontology that gives order and structure to unstructured skills data, resulting in a “universal skills language that learns and develops over time,” Somers said. The app’s “inference” capability analyzes data from all Workday platforms to infer and identify potential skills workers may have. This inference feature is based on data from current job descriptions, completed projects, learning and development records, performance reviews, resumes and more. The app’s data is provided by customers and also includes large sets of industry-standard training information, Somers said.

The software also has a “knowledge graph,” which Somers says includes the relationship between skills, prior learning content, and job profiles. “This allows the software to discover connections between things that would otherwise be imperceptible,” he said.

Bersin said elements of the latter ability can be invaluable in today’s tough hiring market, where worker shortages are forcing companies to search internally for answers to fill vacancies.

“If skill software can give you clues or inferences about people who might be good at a certain job, clues that weren’t obvious before, they can be extremely useful,” Bersin said. As an example, he said, one organization found that employees working in financial audit positions had skills that could easily be transferred to cybersecurity roles in information technology – a role with a shortage of workers – and these employees could learn other cybersecurity skills needed for this role through training.

“Most businesses won’t make these kinds of connections as quickly without these skill-matching software systems,” Bersin said.

Amy Mosher, HR manager for iSolved, an HCM platform provider in Charlotte, NC, believes it’s more important than ever to create an up-to-date skills ontology, given the urgent need to requalify the workers. “Not only is this development important now, but it will continue to be important in the future as it is so difficult to find qualified talent on the outside,” Mosher said.

Meeting the data challenge

Experts say the key to getting the most out of skills ontology software is accumulating the right amount and quality of internal and external data. “It’s not just a software issue, it’s a data issue,” Bersin said. “If you’re an oil and gas company getting into solar power, for example, and looking to identify the skills you already have and the skills you need to fill in the gaps as you go. make this transition, your system should be smart enough to know what new workforce skills will be needed to support the change in strategy. “

Bersin said a vendor’s skill ontology software cannot identify all the skills employees need, and HR managers should be able to capture additional external market data, such as aggregated data generated by job applications posted on Indeed or LinkedIn. This requires loading data into skillful software systems that will likely have to interact with other third-party platforms, he said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis.

Valerie J. Wallis