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Growth Strategy

How To Transition Your Organization to Focus on Skills Instead of Roles

January 18, 2022
5-minute Read
Emily Vo

Emily Vo

Growth Hacker
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January 19, 2022
Growth Strategy

How To Transition Your Organization to Focus on Skills Instead of Roles

5-minute Read
Emily Vo

Although the ways we work have changed, how we view skill management hasn’t. With the growing challenges in attracting and retaining skillful people, organizations need to start rethinking their people development processes. Because putting more focus on personalization and offering employees the possibilities that fit an individual’s needs, skills, and goals, companies are creating better competitive advantages and preparing for the future.

The formula to build a skill-based organization and break from the norm is finding ways to transition away from a role-focused strategy and pivot toward new approaches. Along those lines, a recent survey by the thought leaders at Gartner painted an exciting picture of which HR trends will have the most impact in 2022. Mainly, Gartner identified five noteworthy trends that you should include in your employee management strategies over the next year – and much sooner if you want to accelerate growth to meet next year’s challenges.  

Nevertheless, the top five HR trends Gartner pinpointed include:

  • Building critical skills and competencies  
  • Organizational design and change management
  • Current and future leadership bench
  • Future of work
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion

But before we move on to discuss how to transition, let’s briefly go over each trend to give you a clearer idea of what lies ahead in 2022.

people working in an office and having discussion together

Top five HR trends in 2022, as identified by Gartner

After conducting their survey, Gartner revealed what most HR professionals believe their main challenges will be as they build a skill-based organization, and some of them might be surprising when you consider that they're not new problems.

Building critical skills and competencies  

One of the most interesting findings from the Gartner survey was that 47 percent of respondents didn’t even know what skills gaps their company currently lacks, so if this sounds like your organization, you’re not alone. Today, the need for a continuous learning and development culture is clear.

On the other hand, other respondents reported the problem is that they can’t develop skill solutions fast enough to meet their particular industry’s evolving requirements. As a quick example, consider the pace of changes in the cybersecurity industry with the proliferation of ransomware at a scale few imagined; a modern workforce needs to keep up with the speed of innovation by building critical skills and competencies.

Organizational design and change management

Another exciting find was that change management and the design of an organization had a significant impact on how well workers adapt to a changing environment. Specifically, Gartner discovered that minor difficulties like changes to processes or hiring a new manager are actually more stressful and tiring than large shifts. In other words, a series of small disruptions can eventually cascade into more extensive troubles unless your organization meets the challenge.

Current and future leadership bench

Along those lines, there's the issue of your current and future leadership bench. While you may have a line of succession already established, it's a good idea to ensure that your leadership evaluation also includes empathy as a dimension. Gartner's survey discovered that HR managers who show genuine empathy with their employees could have three times the impact on performance, a significant increase by any measure. The general idea is that you'll have the most significant effect on productivity when you create a culture of transparency and genuine trust through empathy.  

Future of work

Surprisingly, 49 percent of survey respondents essentially confessed that they don’t have a clearly defined future of work strategy despite an increased focus on hybrid and remote work technology. Indeed, the two are mutually exclusive because changes to the workforce could last well beyond the pandemic, so it's a mistake to assume that a hybrid work environment will suffice down the line. Nowadays, preparing for changes in technology, society, and the labor market is more of a priority than in previous years.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Lastly, Gartner's survey discovered that 33 percent of respondents still can't hold business leaders accountable regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion –  or lack thereof. Unfortunately, a substantial proportion of the workforce negatively perceives their potential to earn leadership positions, and who can blame them? According to Gartner, collective accountability needs to give way to consequential accountability, which forces leadership to take diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously as they relate to a productive workforce.

So, having said that, what can HR leaders do to overcome and prepare for what 2022 has in store? Regardless of how the labor market ultimately swings, your organization will need to lean on sound strategies to strengthen the workforce, including improvements to learning and development at work.

Five ways to begin the transition to a skills-based organization

Without a doubt, one of the worst things you can do is try to reimagine HR management as a long-term strategy. Businesses are still trying to determine which work trends won’t last beyond the pandemic and which ones are here to stay; however, the real question is, how do you prepare for changes while staying as agile as possible? Here are 5 ways that you can apply to your organization

Define critical skills your organization needs to achieve business' goal.

The key is to evaluate your business objectives and identify which critical skills you will need, especially if you don't have a wide margin of error. A critical skill could be a skill that is important to your organization to grow or particular skills that are hard to find and attract or one that takes a long time to build.


As an HR leader, you need to understand current strategic plans, priorities, changes, and key initiatives that will ultimately affect the workforce. Also, don't forget to ask line managers and employees for their perspectives on the required skills to carry day-to-day work.

Analyze the availability of skills to make an inventory

Finding and tracking skills within an organization is a challenge faced by many CEOs and HR leaders. Whenever you need to assign a project, it can be difficult to search for the necessary skills in your current workforce if you don't have a system in place. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to start building one.

Look into a new way to capture your team's current skills set and categorize the level of those skills, from novice to expert, for example. An alternative is to have your employees evaluate their current skills and set those they wish to learn. This helps you and your employees gain insights into where their skills are the strongest, what skills they have that they may not be using, and where they need upskills or reskills. Hence, the skills portfolio you have that are actively developed and updated will enables better resources redeployment and skills learning agility.

Ask yourself:

  • Which trends are most likely to affect the workforce that doesn’t have to do with the pandemic? 
  • Where is your business heading towards? 
  • How will your existing team help you with that?

That's really where you can find synergy and analyze markets for those particular skill sets.  

Creating a skills inventory cannot be a one-time exercise or a static project. It needs to be updated with time because your team's skills might evolve or change happens inside the organization. However, you can start visualizing your employees' skills now and update them in the future. A simple Google Spreadsheet will do the trick if you don't have the budget to onboard a high-tech solution.

Or consider using an employee development platform like Talbit. The platform gives you clear insights into the skills levels, skills distribution, competencies, certifications, employees' learning and development progress, as well as skills not being developed. The data is automated update and ready for you to build high skilled and adaptable workforce

Screenshot of Talbit Platform in action

Mapping employee career path and improving internal mobility

The benefit of matching opportunities and skills allows highlighting internal career paths. This matching allows linking the profiles of the employees with opening positions within the company where their skills can be utilized or developed strategically.

Many big companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and PwC are investing in their workforce by providing structured upskilling training to their employees. If your company is unable to support a learning program, encourage managers to find out what areas of the company or projects their employees are interested in learning about and help them participate in cross-functional meetings or projects. Allowing employees to spend 15% of their time on a part-time project is one approach.

Build a continuous learning and development culture

Continuous learning helps to ensure that the employees are always equipped with the latest knowledge to run processes. There are various way to empower your employees to continuous learning and growing. You can provide training opportunities for your employees such as offsite activities, third-party training, and in-house training. You can offer sales training, management training, monitoring programs, and apprenticeships. 

However, putting money and efforts in skills development and training will be wasted if companies don’t know which critical skills, they need to scale the business. Or the employee doesn’t want to grow in that career path. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the organization's business objectives to identify critical skills needs.

Guide business leaders

As you already know, HR professionals must constantly prioritize strategies, and finding the right combination will be critical in 2022. One way to do it is to train your leaders to step away from dividing work according to the job description and start to break roles and projects into bite-sized tasks. Breaking down which tasks go into which job role and match skills accordingly allow leaders to tap into different types of talent and leverage non-traditional talent across the spectrum.

In addition, the role of people leaders today is to ensure their employees' success. You can achieve this by helping employees to focus on their career and development rather than promotion and role. Helping them to understand what skills and experience they need to prepare for the role or career that they want is a key to successful workforce planning.  

The bottom line

Besides, sticking with a roles-based HR strategy won't suffice in 2022, as outlined by Gartner's survey. Moving forward, you can expect more disruption as organizations reposition their value propositions to attract and retain skilled workers. Those employees are not only workers who can fulfill a particular function and only that function.

Hence, to strengthen your employee development decisions in a recovering economy, HR leaders should understand their organizations' specific needs and then determine which strategies will best address those needs.

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