Thriving in the Era of Skills-Based Talent

January 8, 2020

Thriving in the Era of Skills-Based Talent

The 2019 Autumn Two-Day Meeting of Chief Talent Officer 250 brought 19 global heads of talent together to learn from one another, challenge each other, and elevate the strategic impact of their work. 

Members discussed common challenges and detailed what is working within their organizations as they pursue strategies to prepare their organizations for future growth. 

As with all CTO250 meetings, we dedicated the bulk of our time to structured and free member conversations. A separate members-only summary includes details on the member presentations described below, as well as outcomes from a co-creation workshop led by BTS addressing the impact of major workplace trends. The second page of this briefing includes insights from our thought leader presentation by Dr. Anna Tavis.

Peer Presentations: Skill-Based Talent Strategy, Modernizing Career Development, and Making the Shift to Skills-Based Talent

Three members shared new approaches within their organizations, leading to robust dialogue around what is working and where they’ve overcome pitfalls. Identified in the members-only summary of the meeting, these global heads of talent represent three distinct industries and over 400,000 combined global employees.  

Member presentations and conversations focused on: 

  • Establishing a baseline: Building the business case for change; Identifying current skills and needed future skills; quantifying gaps and targeting supply for future skills; Identifying units or functions to target first. 
  • Building the cultural case for change: Effectively communicating what skills the organization is prioritizing; Candidly communicating which jobs will “go away;” Aligning leadership behaviors; Building momentum behind re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives; Cultivating a culture of continuous learning.
  • Making the Shift to Skills-Based TalentLaunching internal skills-focused talent marketplaces; Adopting agile teams at scale; Re-structuring compensation; Establishing new early career roles and pipelines. 

Thought Leader Presentation: The State of Talent in 2019
Dr. Anna Tavis, Academic in Residence, CTO250; Academic Director, Human Capital Management Programs, New York 

Dr. Anna Tavis opened the meeting with a “10,000 ft. view” of the state of Talent in large organizations, drawing on her field research and work as editor of People + Strategy Journal. She identified four “Workplace Paradoxes,” traditional ways of working that will no-longer apply in the future, that form the institutional resistance to a skills-based talent structure: 

  • One role means one person
  • One workday means 8 hours engaged in a specific role 
  • One worker means one full time employee 
  • Obtaining a new skill means hiring a new person 

Taken together, these paradoxes continue to hold back productivity gains even as organizations slowly break them down in favor of more dynamic, skills and teams-based ways of working. 

Coupled with these major changes in employee experience is an AI-led wave of new automation and a burgeoning societal demand that CEOs and Boards pursue much longer-term shareholder value strategies that  include the interests of a vastly broader collection of stakeholders. 

Dr. Tavis pointed to a pair of multibillion-dollar Asian companies that have built agile teams at scale, eliminated traditional hierarchies and cut middle management as harbingers of an expansive global trend.  

The larger, global companies “aren’t there yet,” Dr. Tavis stated. Collaboration and diversity are essential to making skills-based team approaches fully scalable—and remain poorly addressed by the HR community.  

 What’s holding companies back? 

  • Challenges with diversity: Despite research, effort, and lots of investment, few organizations are building truly diverse teams and the ones that are often aren’t seeing promised gains. Dr. Tavis pointed to recent TrustSphere research demonstrating that the longer tenured an employee is, the more narrow and exclusive is that person’s personal network within the company.  
  • Evaluating teams: HR is still not able to measure collaboration well, and teams are poorly understoodAs a result, we still generally focus on individual high performers.  
  • New skills needed in HR: Dr. Tavis believes future challenges require HR to de-couple from finance and more closely align with customers and customer experience. New skills and backgrounds already emerging in global talent COEs include neuroscientists and social anthropologists.  

About this Briefing

This is for HR leaders who are not currently members of Chief Talent Officer 250, the largest peer group for global heads of talent from the world’s 250 largest organizations. A detailed meeting summary is provided to members and their teams. To request a member list, please contact EN.

2019 Fall CTO250 Meeting Recap Blog

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