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The Talent Marketplace: A Skills-based Revolution in HR

April 08, 2021 Learning and Development
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By Sarah Fister Gale

Do you know exactly what skills your employees have? Probably not.

Employers have long tracked employees (and job candidates) based on education, job title and past position. While these are all "skills adjacent," they don’t tell what employees actually know how to do. And that’s a gap that makes companies less adaptable to change.

“Skills are the new currency of our world of work,” said Amy Borsetti, senior director of LinkedIn Learning. The World Economic Forum predicted employees will need a new set of skills to be successful in the future and half of them will need to be reskilled in the next four years to get there. It is a trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic’s shift to remote work and the acceleration of automation.

In this environment, companies need to know what skills are in high demand, who in their workforce has them, and where training or new hires are needed to stay relevant. That kind of information can’t be found in conventional workforce management systems. So the HR tech industry created a new tech category to fill the gap. 

Related Article: Boost Organizational Resilience by Expanding Your Knowledge of Employee Skills

Enter the Talent Marketplace

Skills management platforms, sometimes also called talent marketplaces, promise to (once again) transform the HR tech marketplace. These emerging platforms, including Degreed’s Career Mobility, Visual Workforce, and Gloat, capture and share data about employees’ current skills and make it easy to update profiles as employees complete training, participate in projects, and develop new abilities at work or at home. 

Talent marketplace platforms make it easier to match people to projects, overcome bias, and create a more inclusive workplace, said Bryan Bostic, CEO of Visual Workforce. “Instead of managers only picking people based on who they know, it lets data drive those decisions,” he said.

The insights gleaned from these profiles also foster a more robust internal mobility program, because hiring managers can find the talent they need in the existing workforce. And when those skills don’t exist, companies can use the data to prioritize training resources and focus their recruiting campaigns. 

“This is not necessarily a new idea,” said Kelly Palmer, Degreed's chief learning officer. Companies have tried in the past to track employee skills via spreadsheets or existing HR management systems. “But nothing was integrated and the data wasn’t there.” 

That all changes with a talent marketplace. These platforms were built specifically to capture, track and share employees skills across the organization. They allow employees to create skill profiles and update them via their own 360-degree assessments.

“People can’t just say ‘I’m empathetic’ or ‘I’m collaborative’,” Palmer said. They have to share examples, from any aspect of their life, and include corroboration from their peers. This makes it possible to vet so-called power skills like leadership, problem solving and collaboration, which are less likely to have certifications attached to them, but will be vital in the future of work. 

When leveraged effectively, managers can use these platforms to find internal candidates with the perfect skill sets. Learning and development staff can figure out what skills are most demand, and employees can seek out experts and share updates when they’ve added a new skill to their repertoire.

The skills marketplace can also identify where there is a skills surplus, Bostic said. He noted that Visual Workforce recently helped a client save $200,000 in six hours by identifying redundant in-demand skills in their workforce, which allowed them to reduce head count.

And because most of these platforms are designed to integrate with other HR management systems, including recruiting, workforce management, and learning management systems, they create a single source of information about end-to-end workforce skills that is updated in real time.

Related Article: Workday Debuts Talent Marketplace, PeopleGoal Puts Low-Code in HR's Hands and More HR Tech News

Rethinking Your Workforce

As with all new technologies, a talent marketplace platform will only add value if companies also adapt their culture and workforce processes to prioritize skills as a measure of performance. That requires changes across the organization:

  • HR needs to help managers rewrite job descriptions to be more skills focused.
  • Recruiters and managers need to rethink job posts, screening tools and vetting steps to judge applicants based on skills and not their alma maters.
  • Learning leaders need to link career paths and training content to specific skill sets, use platform data to decide what skills require the most attention, and to track training outcomes on candidate profiles.
  • Employees need to be willing to create and update their skill profiles, and to honestly assess their own skills and the skills of their peers to create an accurate picture of who can do what. 

It requires a lot of change but the companies that can make it happen can create a more resilient, more inclusive and internally mobile workforce. And HR can lead the way.

“HR is the hero in this environment," Bostic said. “It gives them a data-driven way to show how maximizing the skills in the workforce can drive better business results.”

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