How to Implement a Transparent Skills-Based Talent Strategy 

October 17, 2022 by Elaine Pierson

US companies are shifting their hiring and talent management practices, paying closer attention to skills rather than just degrees. This is opening doors for a wider range of workers who may not fit traditional demographic or educational profiles, but who are more than qualified. For example, workers of color who are underrepresented among college degree holders can advance based on the skills they have rather than a diploma that imperfectly asserts their capabilities. And as finding talent continues to be difficult, employers can identify and reach previously overlooked but qualified candidates by focusing on skills. 

Together with Business Roundtable and Burning Glass Institute, Lightcast has released A Guide to Improving Recruitment, Retention, Advancement, and Equity. This guide offers recommendations to building a skills-based talent strategy led by these four pillars:

  1. Transparency: define and clearly communicate the specific skills required to perform in a role

  2. Transferability: provide greater visibility into how skills can apply in other roles and multiple settings

  3. Development: offer opportunities for education and training to enable worker transition and advancement

  4. Affirmation: signal commitment to a skills focus by making explicit changes to talent acquisition and management processes

Read the full report for detailed descriptions of each pillar with suggestions for taking action, benefits of adopting the pillar, and additional resources. 

For now, let’s take a closer look at the first pillar—transparency. Too often, current and prospective employees make assumptions about how their skills are valued. These beliefs are usually reinforced by observations of who they see in more senior roles and the candidates who get hired or promoted more often. Skills transparency helps to address these misconceptions, removes bias from the hiring process, and results in more successful hiring and retention. 

Three easy ways to begin developing a transparent skills-based strategy are:

  1. Catalog descriptions of roles and employee skills across the organization

  2. Gather insights from those closest to the work, including supervisors, internal and external customers, and most importantly the workers themselves

  3. Share catalogs of job skills and employee skills across teams, and with prospective applicants from inside and outside of the company 

Catalog descriptions of roles and employee skills across the organization

Creating a comprehensive catalog of all the skills, abilities, and responsibilities for each role within a company allows for complete visibility for HR and training staff, as well as applicants and current employees who can work to become qualified for those roles. When you have a common language of skills to communicate with, overlaps in roles and skill fit across departments becomes evident and actionable. Think of this like creating an index of a book, but for roles and skills across your organization. With transparency, employees in less senior roles and underrepresented groups gain the insight they need to build career pathways based on their skills—the skills they have, and the skills they build. 

Gather insights from those closest to the work

Important context can be collected when you ask the actual people who perform the job. Descriptions of skills and responsibilities in a job description are only part of the story. Those closest to the role can draw attention to aspects of the job that might be overlooked or underappreciated but key to the job as a whole. Invite employees to participate in surveys, interviews, or skill assessments to catalog their skills, including ones they bring to the company from prior experiences. Engage colleagues and supervisors in describing the difference between someone who can do the job and someone who is great at it.

Share the catalog of job skills and the catalog of employee skills

Once this information is gathered and organized, make it useful by sharing it across teams. Employees who can see where skills are applied in different roles throughout a company are better equipped to take steps to gain new skills and advance in their careers. Transparency shows them their value across the organization and empowers them to apply to jobs that they wouldn’t otherwise consider. And when looking to fill vacancies or develop current employees, hiring managers can look to this comprehensive index of talent.  

Transparency in skills enables employers to more effectively source, build, and retain diverse talent. 

When deciding to pursue a skills-based talent strategy, transparency is the first step. A clear and consistent language of skills is important across all levels and functions of an organization. This enables companies to identify potential workers who they might not have otherwise considered, and enables candidates to prepare for the jobs they want by building the specific skills that those roles require.  

Transparency is just one pillar for building a skills-based strategy. By using the four pillars—transparency, transferability, development, and affirmation—companies can meet their hiring needs and unlock new employment and advancement opportunities for workers from all backgrounds. 

Learn about each pillar and download the full report now.