HR: How to make skills the foundation of your organization?

In 2024, organizations will be based on skills, or they will not exist at all. This is essentially the belief of many leaders worldwide who see this model as a way to support societal transformation by promoting adaptability, equal opportunities, and diversity, at a time when automation and the reduction of structural unemployment necessitate the initiation of a new era in talent management.

In its latest report listing the top 5 priorities for HR leaders in 2024, Gartner has placed career management and internal mobility at the top of the agenda for the new year. And for good reason, in 2023, more than half of French companies reported having difficulties in recruiting according to a survey by the Bank of France, hence the need to increase talent retention by offering stimulating internal career paths. At the same time, the lifespan of skills in companies is only accelerating: according to the OECD, the average lifespan of a technical skill (or know-how) is now 2 years, compared to 30 years in 1987. The evidence is therefore clear: we have no choice but to move towards a self-learning organizational model. And to do this, a skill-based organization seems to be the right answer.

What is a skill-based organization?

A skill-based organization emphasizes the abilities and talents of its members rather than their titles or traditional career paths. It values personal growth, encouraging everyone to develop and use their skills to innovate and adapt to changing needs. “It’s an environment where continuous learning and flexibility are the norm, fostering a culture of agility and collaboration,” explains Jérémy Lamri, CEO of Tomorrrow Theory and co-founder of the Lab RH. The expression of this model is found throughout the life cycle of an employee in a company, starting with the recruitment phase.

A skill-based organization is…

– An organization that prioritizes skills over degrees

– An organization that allows employees to continually self-train

– An organization that deeply thinks about its internal mobility paths

It is not…

– An organization that recruits similar profiles

– An organization that does not anticipate the risk of internal skill disruption

– An organization that does not offer personalized career paths to its employees

Forgetting the CV to break the paper ceiling

Recruiting based on skills introduces a new way of reading a candidate’s profile. “We move away from the traditional recruitment reading grid (the trio of school-degree-experience), to focus on an aptitude, abilities, ease, talent,” highlights Anthony Babkine, co-founder of Diversidays, the national reference association for equal opportunities in France. In the United States, large companies such as Boeing, Walmart, or IBM have committed to implementing skill-based practices. For example, they have removed degree requirements from some job postings. In France, similar initiatives can be found in CV-less recruitment, like that of France Travail (formerly Pôle Emploi), which has implemented recruitment interviews by simulation. The principle? To immediately put the candidate in a work situation to observe their ability to manage.

“Some companies are just discovering this method of recruitment, yet it has existed for more than 20 years and allows for the discovery of unsuspected talents,” continues our speaker. A fervent defender of diversity, Anthony Babkine is particularly touched by the “paper ceiling” that automatically excludes some candidates. “The good old degree is sometimes used as an excuse and constitutes a real barrier to employment for some competent profiles who will also self-censor, not thinking they have the level because they did not attend the right school,” he adds. He points to the study by AFEV and Article 1 which shows that 60% of rural youth from lower socio-professional (CSP-) families do not feel capable of obtaining a degree.

The importance of soft skills to diversify recruitment

“Diversifying the profiles present in a company is fundamental to reversing the curve of social reproduction when we know that it takes 6 generations to change social condition according to the OECD,” asserts the founder of Diversidays. That’s why committed organizations can and should set an example by recruiting creative and ingenious minds before degrees. A significant number of successful entrepreneurs show us that another path is possible. “What was often reproached to bad students, we appreciate in entrepreneurs: creativity, initiative, self-overcoming, determination, risk-taking. I think of Laurent Vimont, the late President of Century 21 France, who humorously said he had a level of Bac -5!” illustrates Anthony Babkine.

At the talent recruitment and management firm Morgan Philips, Samuel Tamagnaud, Deputy CEO, is also convinced of the relevance of a skill-based approach: “Our vision is based on an innovative approach focused on the valorization of transversal skills, the soft skills of employees, without prejudices related to their social origin, academic background, gender, age, or training.” One of the levers is then to use tools like personality tests to assess a candidate’s ability to develop skills and learn.

The idea here is not to decry the importance of school and university education, but simply to diversify the skills present in organizations to avoid the “clone” effect and thus stimulate innovation and creativity. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile in terms of social diversity were 36% more likely to have profitability above the median of their sector. Similarly, those with gender diversity were 25% more likely to have financial returns above the median.

Different paths to a skill-based organization

Because it is based on the development of its employees’ skills through their soft skills rather than their diplomas, this new organization tends naturally to approach a self-learning structure. By continuously training employees, and especially by giving them the means to do so themselves, the company intends to “allow employees to navigate through different functions or projects according to their skills and aspirations,” points out Jérémy Lamri. Furthermore, this type of organization can adopt a matrix structure, where teams are formed around specific projects, bringing together diverse skills to meet specific needs. The advantage is that this allows for efficient resource allocation according to current needs, to foster cross-functional collaboration. A good way to adapt to market reversals.

In this sense, talent management based on skills can include “regular skills assessments, individual development plans, and training programs tailored to the specific needs of each,” affirms Samuel Tamagnaud. For Jérémy Lamri, the skill-based organization thus joins the learning organization, “where the focus is on the continuous development of skills through training and mentoring programs, promoting innovation and adaptability.”

Finally, the skill-based organization will also modify the way performance is evaluated. “Rather than focusing solely on quantitative results, the organization can assess and reward employees’ performance based on their skills and overall contribution to the company,” affirms the Deputy CEO of Morgan Philips Group.

Avoiding the "Talent Bomb": the breakdown of internal skills

As the future seems to be heading towards a form of programmed obsolescence of skills, it is now more crucial than ever to adopt a proactive approach in managing these skills. At stake? The ability to learn, adapt, and innovate to remain relevant in the job market. AI and advanced technologies will transform many jobs, automating some tasks and creating new ones, requiring skills that have not been needed before. “In this context, a dynamic and flexible approach to talent management, focused on the identification, development, and valorization of current and future skills, will be vital for organizations wanting to maintain their competitive edge,” Jérémy Lamri emphasizes. By continuously developing their skills, talent can thus ensure their long-term employability.

One way to avoid the “Talent Bomb,” a phenomenon described by our speaker which represents the risk of a skills breakdown internally. “This concept refers to situations where an employee’s skills, while impressive on the surface, may turn out to be obsolete or unsuitable for the changing needs of the organization, somewhat like a candy that entices with its external appearance but whose core does not deliver the expected substance,” he explains.

The 4 benefits of a skill-based organization according to samuel tamagnaud

  • Improved Recruitment Quality: By focusing on skills rather than degrees or past experience, companies can identify candidates who possess the essential skills to succeed in the role, thus promoting more relevant and effective recruitment.

  • More Targeted Internal Training: A better understanding of the skills required for different positions allows the company to design more precise training programs tailored to the real needs of its employees, thus fostering their professional development.

  • Easier Identification of High-Potential Talent: By regularly assessing the skills of its employees, the company can more easily spot employees with significant development potential, thus offering them opportunities for advancement and growth within the organization.

  • Increased Internal Mobility: Transparent management of skills allows employees to better understand the career opportunities available within the company and facilitates their internal mobility by identifying positions that best match their skills and aspirations.

A stepping stone to the liberated company

Ultimately, the skill-based organization is a true gateway to the liberated company, in that it “focuses on roles, which in turn serve the processes that deliver the strategy and the raison d’être of the company,” analyzes Luc Bretones, founder of NextGen and expert in new governance. In this move towards greater agility, employees become the main actors of their employability, having developed a learning ability that allows them to navigate all waters, including the most troubled. “As in a company with shared governance, it’s a big day every day, meaning that skills must be constantly updated,” he adds. A good way to come full circle by demonstrating once again the importance of the employee’s posture, who, beyond his titles and degrees, remains competitive and innovative because he is driven by a deep thirst for learning.

Via Healthy Business by Alan