Drive Organizational Success With a Skills-First Approach to Hiring and Employment

By taking a skills-first approach to job roles, organizations can unlock much more agility, ingenuity, and performance in their workforces and create more inclusive job and career advancement opportunities.

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Given a growing digital skills gap worldwide, companies are having to match both existing workers and new hires, many of whom come from non-traditional backgrounds or are later in their careers, to new digital skills roles. 

In response, they’re using a skills-based talent model to tap into the potential of their current people resources. And when it comes to new hires, they’re taking a skills-first approach, which focuses on a person’s capabilities, competencies, and relevant experiences and gives less weight to their formal education or number of years in a previous job.

Skills-driven people practices involve much more than just updating job descriptions and changing talent acquisition practices.

Utilizing these skills-first employment practices, organizations can unlock much more agility, ingenuity, and performance in their workforce, and create more inclusive job and career advancement opportunities.

Shifts That Are Driving Skills-Based Hiring and Employment 

In a recent webinar entitled “Optimize Talent Through Skills-Based Employment,” Mary Kate Morley Ryan, principal director at Accenture, shared insights on the rising importance of skills-based hiring and employment practices. According to Ryan, three focus areas are driving this need:

1. Compressed transformation. The disruption of the pandemic pushed every industry to quickly pursue digital transformation goals, as well as deliver innovative customer service amid unprecedented circumstances. 

Organizations had to rethink not only their technology and customer service goals, but also how to mobilize latent skills of their employees to support new initiatives. She noted that governments and public sector agencies have dual challenges. “They're not only serving their own employees, but also having to evolve how to look at the skills and the future of work strategy for citizens. The pandemic has definitely accelerated this,” she said.  

2. Humanity and inclusion. The pandemic also opened the door for unique partnerships among companies, especially their human resources (HR) organizations, to work toward creating new technology and ecosystems for skills-first hiring.

Accenture’s People + Work Connect initiative, for example, is a free, online, employer-to-employer platform that enables organizations to quickly identify and fill job vacancies. Since its launch in April 2020, more than 270 companies from 94 countries have joined the initiative, with more than 380,000 roles available. “That’s one example of many that have occurred over the last 12 months that have really reoriented and prioritized a focus on humanity and also inclusion,” Ryan said.

In addition, heightened awareness and commitment to fight racism has prompted companies to reprioritize global inclusion and diversity. Citing Accenture’s 2020 report, “Care to do Better,” Ryan said employees identified an organization’s focus on dismantling racism in the workplace as a relational factor in building trust.

3. Rise of resilience. Companies are exploring how they can drive resilience both internally and across the ecosystems they work in, Ryan explained. A skills-first focus is key in building that resilience. Companies must analyze the overlap of skills between emerging and declining roles, and then create scalable and repeatable skill pathways to fulfill the roles needed for the future.

Embedding a Skills-First Mindset at Every Level 

Skills-driven people practices involve much more than just updating job descriptions and changing talent acquisition practices. It’s a skills-first philosophy and mindset that starts at the board and executive level. 

Ryan sees the chief human resources officer and the entire HR team acting as both strategists and catalysts around talent acquisition and development—with HR driving the right philosophy and the right commitment, as well as having “the insights around people and around their skills” to enable business strategy, Ryan said. 

Of course, technology plays a role. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing can help identify diverse candidates based on skills, but those same tools could perpetuate bias and “old philosophy or mindset,” such as hiring based on pedigree. “So it's really critical that we're aligning the technology configuration and our technology decision to drive inclusion, to drive a skills-based approach,” Ryan said.

A skills-first approach to hiring and the entire employee lifecycle can help deepen the talent pool internally and externally, while boosting diversity, improving retention, and building a culture of continuous learning. Ultimately, a skills-first employment approach can future-proof an organization—making it more inclusive, agile, and resilient—so it can respond to profound challenges, such as disruptions caused by the pandemic, and capitalize on emerging market opportunities.

To learn more about skills-based organizational approaches, check out the Workday webinar, “Optimize Talent Through Skills-Based Employment.”  

All mentions in this document by consultants at Accenture are intended as general guidance. It is not intended to provide specific advice on your circumstances. If you require advice or further details on any matters referred to, please contact your Accenture representative.

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