Putting comprehensive skills and performance data to use

Mike Bollinger

VP, Strategic Initiatives, Cornerstone

The skills revolution accelerated overnight — and it's now on all of us to figure out how to use all the skill and performance data to better our people and organizations.

In a global research survey, Cornerstone identified a serious confidence gap between employers and employees about their ability to consume skills development. Developing critical skills in a way that’s effective and meaningful for employees is a challenge, and these challenges exist across organizations, industries, and the globe. This series will examine how leaders can enable skills development and empower their people and their organizations to thrive in the future.

When it comes to preparing for the future, employees have less confidence than talent leaders in their organization’s ability to equip them with the skills to succeed. According to Cornerstone research, 90% of business leaders are confident in their ability to develop their employees’ skills, while only 60% of employees feel the same.

Clearly communicating your L&D efforts to your employees while incorporating learning into your overall organization strategy is a great way to start closing this skills confidence gap.

Another tool organizations can use — data.

Today only a fraction of organizations are using data for decisions about learning, development and employee skills: According to an Association for Talent Development report, only 35% of development professionals report that their companies evaluate business results of their learning programs.

When trying to close the skills confidence gap, data is an important tool to ensure you’re allocating skills investments in meaningful ways. Organizations need to have a comprehensive picture of their employees' skills — and what skills their employees need. Armed with this information, organizations can help boost employee confidence that their futures are being invested in and that they’ll be able to adapt faster to new challenges.

Create a skills taxonomy to identify areas of opportunity

One way to use data to help close the skills confidence gap is to develop a complete skills taxonomy of your organization: a structured, continuously updated list of skills that are relevant to what your organization does. To create this at scale, AI tools such as the Cornerstone Skills Graph can help identify emerging skills, develop existing capabilities, increase engagement and empower career growth.

Cornerstone research also shows that 46% of high-performing organizations actively work to identify adjacent skillsets to better inform reskilling programs. Having a complete inventory of what skills your organization has and what other opportunities those skills can easily translate to can help you make informed decisions about where to direct investments in learning, training and reskilling operations.

Using employee performance data for benchmarking

Data can also be an effective tool for assessing if your organization is meeting its goals. Harvard Business Review cites one example from an engineering company. The company was having a hard time developing managers, who often contributed to a “sink or swim” culture that went against the company’s goal to provide an inclusive environment. Data analysis revealed that managers who spent at least 16 minutes one-on-one with their direct reports had 30% more engaged employees. Having a specific data benchmark got managers’ attention, was a proof point with leadership and ultimately helped contribute to a cultural shift around manager/employee relationships.

Data can also be a useful tool for managers to help develop personalized career paths with their employees and understand the progress their employees are making toward their goals. Managers are busy, juggling a lot of responsibilities. Skills data provides an easy way for managers to find complementary skills that would otherwise require their time and ability to identify. Using the data in skills profiles, managers can better understand their employees’ interests and aspirations and have meaningful conversations about future growth.

Employee skills data can help build a flexible workforce

Many employees are worried that they don’t have the skills necessary to succeed in a changing future. According to PWC’s 2019 Upskilling Hopes and Fears report, 77% of adults would learn new skills now or completely retrain to improve their future employability.

So how can data chart future growth for employees? Being able to show employees proof points of exactly where they stand empowers them to add to their own skills profile: enhancing their strengths and developing skills in areas of weakness.

Providing skills development and training aligned with employees’ existing capabilities and interests can help employees more easily and quickly transition from their current roles to emerging positions within their organization. This can boost their confidence in their ability to gain the skills to stay relevant and grow in their careers — and enable both individuals and organizations to remain flexible.

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