Skills-first HR: Mastering talent management in the digital age

9 minute watch
Organisations are facing a skills challenge due to the endlessly competitive skills markets, the pace of change in skills and the impact of technology on work, says David Collings, chair of sustainable business at Trinity Business School. The solution is for HR to take a skills-first approach, he believes

One in five skills requested for the average job is an entirely new requirement in that occupation while nearly three-quarters of jobs changed more between 2019 to 2021 than in any previous three-year period.

These figures from research by BCG, The Burning Glass Institute and Emsi Burning Glass, are why organisations no longer have any choice but to develop a skills-based strategy, says David Collings, chair of sustainable business at Trinity Business School at the University of Dublin.

“We’re seeing new skill sets in demand. We’re seeing different skill sets in demand. And the pace of change is really quick. So as organisations we are struggling with how we ensure that we have the skills and capabilities we need as we look forward to where our business is growing,” he says.

The answer he offers is what he calls skills-first HR – being more dynamic and agile in how we match people and work.

“What we're increasingly seeing is organisations thinking about skills as a currency. It’s about trying to link those skills with organisational strategy. It's an attempt to be more agile in that matching process,” says Collings.

In other words, breaking away from traditional job structures and rigid job hierarchies, thinking more fluidly in terms of how we align people and work. And what this does is to shift the conversation from qualifications and experience to skills.

This, says Collings, can lead to a more diverse workforce. He notes how Zurich Insurance moved from hiring graduates of elite universities to setting up an apprenticeship programme, which resulted in more diversity and effectiveness within their teams.

In this video Collings discusses why skills-first HR is vital to organisations today. He explains how this approach necessitates a proactive stance from HR, anticipating future skills needs. And he looks at some of the barriers and how to overcome them.

Like this? Then check out these videos in the series on how to deal with major disruptions and why HR leaders must drive strategic transformation.

David Collings is chair of sustainable business at Trinity Business School at the University of Dublin, and is presenting at the CHRO’s Idea Incubator event, a collaborative space dedicated to inspiring senior HR executives to develop innovative ideas that can transform the workplace. The event, organised by King’s Business School, Trinity College Dublin and the Center for Executive Succession at Darla Moore Business School, University of South Carolina, takes place at King’s Business School, King’s College London on 27 June 2023. For more information email Michele Gray

Published 21 June 2023
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