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Create a Data-Informed Workforce Strategy in the midst of Uncertainty

If your plan for the Future of Work or Return to Office is up in the air again, you are not alone. While the world has re-opened, organizations are now facing one of the most challenging planning season in history. Inflation and economic uncertainty have put pressure on industries to rethink their workforce strategy. The headlines are full of layoffs and it appears that a harsh winter in tech has arrived. If you were to speak to a recruiter in tech, they’d tell you it hasn’t become significantly easier to hire for the vacant roles. Why the disconnect? Because there’s still a mismatch between the roles in high demand and/or requiring rare skillsets and the talent who possess such skills.

My key takeaway from LinkedIn Talent Connect 2022 is that there is renewed excitement around skills. We can see the HR technology market has quickly responded to this excitement and there is no shortage of solutions offering to measure, capture, and analyze skills of employees. My other takeaway is that most organizations are stuck in early stages of either debating whether to and how to capture skills data, and few have successfully created a skills-based workforce strategy at scale that translate into quantifiable business impact. In my talk at LinkedIn Talent Connect, I shared how organizations can leverage skills data to predict who the rainmakers will be in their sales function, create recruiting and upskill strategies using such data, and how to get started without a massive HR tech budget.

As the economic uncertainty continues, organizations will have to get creative in solving talent challenges. Another benefit of using skills relates to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) outcomes. There will be additional attention on DEIB in 2023 with investors continuing to demand transparency and progress. It is no longer about going to as many recruiting events and conferences or partner with specific universities to hire diverse talent, especially as hiring slows in an economic downturn. There is much untapped potential in increasing internal mobility to improve retention of top talent.

The latest LinkedIn Talent Trends Report shows that employees who made an internal move have a 75% chance of staying at their company after two years, compared to 56% for employees who haven’t. Given the documented gap in advancement at work, women and people of color are also more likely to quit than their counterparts (CNN summary, McKinsey Report).

How is having data on employee skills helpful with internal mobility as part of your workforce strategy? It plays a critical role because you want to first consider what skills your organization needs in the future to successfully execute the business strategy. You can then proactively create strategies to retain your employees who have such skills and a plan to upskill or reskill others in the organization who have adjacent skills. You can also create new hiring strategies based on the skills analysis. Ask yourself questions such as:

“Are we hiring in locations with abundant talent with the skills?”

“Do we offer competitive compensation packages for these candidates?”

“If we need to go after a new or niche skillset that exists in markets where we don’t operate, should we offer remote as an option?”

“Are we an attractive employer for diverse talent in the markets we are recruiting or are we competing against another company with a stronger employer brand?”

My recent talks and workshops have focused on internal mobility and skills. Ultimately, having skills data may still not be enough to create a roust talent strategy. There are individuals who have the skills but cannot apply to the role. I’ve been thinking a lot about the linkage between skills and tasks and roles. I’ve certainly hired data scientists who had no experience modeling with people data, and it does take time for them to understand the nuances with employee data. I’ve found those who have modeled sensitive data such as patient data are able to get up to speed faster, so having easily translatable experience certainly helps. I’d expect more organizations to invest in ways to assess the proficiency of critical skills and ability to perform required tasks for candidates during the hiring process, especially as many have started to remove the minimum requirement of bachelor’s degrees. I’ll be writing more on this topic and discussing how to best leverage technology solutions. Reach out if you are interested in a discussion in the next few weeks.

What skills are you developing this year as we approach the end of 2022? What skills will you be working on next year?

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