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Career experience is enhanced through skills

By Ruchi Arora , Alexa Beazer and Stephanie Rudbeck | November 20, 2023

Skills play a critical role in the determining a market-leading career experience, where the twists and turns of career opportunities can lead to greater engagement and stronger employee retention.
Future of Work
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In this article we explore how a skills architecture can help organisations deliver an engaging career experience for employees.

People previously built a “career for life” by traveling down a straight road, starting when you are hired and finishing when you reach retirement, with known expectations -- and little of the adventure that people seek today.

 

Now, a fulfilling career is associated with the “joy of the journey” throughout a career — with choices and opportunities and a sense of empowerment along the way. This journey is the career experience — a maze of twists and turns — and, when accompanied by a “map of the maze” and perhaps a compass, it means people can choose to go different routes and make informed decisions to keep building individual skill sets and specific experiences, creating personal enjoyment and fulfillment in work.

One career journey, different routes

Our latest flash survey focused on careers and revealed that over 50% of organizations have strong foundations in place when it comes to job leveling and job architecture, but little is being done about skills architectures. This is despite 93% of respondents saying implementing a career ecosystem would have a visible and tangible impact on skills.

93% of respondents saying implementing a career ecosystem would have a visible and tangible impact on skills

We define a skills architecture as knowing what skills you need to get the work done to achieve organization goals, against what skills you have available — where people are your biggest asset and often most costly acquisition, and knowledge saves you money.

Skills have grown in focus through efforts to digitally transform organizations, being a definable part of knowledge. Does a person know how to build a SQL database? Can he or she write code for your products and is he or she in digital marketing? Can he or she adapt to the use of artificial intelligence? Each of these skills can be quantified in terms of the pay needed to attract specific talent, but the question remains: When development opportunities and career empowerment are such high drivers for retention, how do you keep critical talent engaged? In the end pay for skills is one aspect, but what about the value, purpose and career development that engage them further?

Some of this means not just upward momentum but also an easily navigable journey across an organization.

Building on strong job foundations

Organizations have had job architecture and leveling in place for a long time, but organizing by skills is starting to become a differentiator when structuring career paths. And it’s a fast-moving and evolving landscape. When moving to a skills architecture, organizations can achieve big gains by simplifying job architecture and promoting greater mobility of talent internally, reducing the cost to hire, because the skills are already there.

When organizations have a clear picture of the skills they need to be successful in achieving their business strategy, they can then ensure that certain skills and skill sets are emphasized across the career trajectory. Organizations can communicate to employees as to how these skills sit with career advancement and, in so doing, encourage certain behaviors, as employees are clear on what it takes to progress.

This progression is not always linear. Sometimes it can take employees to other areas of an organization, where their skills can develop and become unlocked in new applications. The organization can then, in turn, benefit from retaining “must have” talent in the areas where they are needed the most. Here we see the benefits of employee mobility.

Empowering employees with choice

Choice is an important factor in a career experience, particularly when it comes to skills. The ethos is around empowering employees to build their own skills, and in so doing, the organization sends a strong message that nurturing the ongoing development of skills, capabilities and experience is at the forefront of its values. This is attractive to talent looking for an enriching employee experience.

Not only does this contribute to the growth of talent in an organization, but it also creates a positive and empowering culture where people buy in to their purpose at work, which acts as a market differentiator for the organization.

In our previous article on career experience, we used a house as an example of how to build an organization’s view on “skills” and, combining with culture, focused on the importance of the experience the individual has inside the house: how easily a person can move from room to room, and how this provides a level of comfort and inspiration that brings out a person’s best. This creates a desirable organization — one that attracts, retains, and engages the people inside it — making the organization itself even stronger.

Technology makes the connections

Having an awareness of the skills you have is good, but what if only HR knows about this? How do you empower people to own their careers? How do managers find the skills they need and know where the skill sits in the organization?

Technology is the connector here, with talent marketplaces providing visibility across the organization and helping people see where their skills match business needs; this puts opportunities into the hands of employees and provides the ability to “make it happen” for individual career progression. Similarly, it gives managers and leaders the visibility to see where the skills sit in the organization, so they are not always defaulting to recruit externally.

Employees can now take control of their own development in a way that without technology would take much longer. Not only this, but managers can also play a more active role in supporting career development by having access to these tools. Managers can also be more effective in identifying talent across other parts of the business with the right skills to build stronger teams.

Technology can also play a role in helping design a skills architecture in the first place — understanding the skills in the market and designing an architecture that is relevant and fit for purpose for the business. This is where technology —such as WTW’s SkillsVue and WTW Talent Intelligence reports — helps you build an architecture balanced between internal needs and external awareness of what’s out in the market.

Embark is an engaging and interactive way for your people to access their career experience as well as information on their pay, benefits, learning and development and to see where internal opportunities exist.

Engage, empower and retain

For HR, this means that it is now more about what your people can do and where you need them to be. No longer does this mean you have to always look outside your organization to fill certain skills gaps. You may find you already have all the talent you need; it just might need to be deployed and targeted slightly differently. With skill-based roles becoming more common, talent can be more flexibly targeted in the right places.

Understanding what skills you currently have starts with a skills architecture, leading you to be able to build a more engaging, more empowering, and more rewarding (and effective) career experience for your employees. Attract and retain your talent with a career path that is easy to navigate — a varied tapestry where each experience is as valuable as the last, not just to employees, but to the organization.

What can be more powerful than aligning employee passions around work pursuits with an organization’s greatest strategic and operational needs?

5 questions you can ask yourself today:

  • Do I know where my organization needs the most skills, and what they are?
  • Is it hard to attract the skills our organization needs?
  • Do I have visibility of what the skills of my current workforce are?
  • Are we building skills internally or seeking them only from the talent market?
  • What do our employees know about it all?

Whether you know the answers to these questions or not, we can help you work from foundations through to building a full career ecosystem, moving from jobs to skills to what a career experience means in your organization. Talk to us today and begin transforming your tomorrow.

Authors

Work, Rewards & Careers Practice Leader

Director – Work and Rewards

Senior Director – Employee Experience

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