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Build a future skills framework

A future skills framework takes that one step further to identify emerging skills and help enterprises build new capabilities, as well as guide them on how to create comprehensive training roadmaps.

4 min read


Build a future skills framework


This post is sponsored by Adobe

A future skills framework is essential for companies to not only make smart decisions today about how to organize teams and hire talent, but to future-proof themselves as skills continue to become obsolete and evolve at an unprecedented rate.

Think of a skills framework as a common understanding across an organization of how to define and measure roles and skills. Once established, it informs nearly every aspect of managing talent: job descriptions, role expectations, goals, performance reviews, career advancement, skills development, hiring, onboarding, team structures and project allocations. A future skills framework takes that one step further to identify emerging skills and help enterprises build new capabilities, as well as guide them on how to create comprehensive training roadmaps.

“Creating and maintaining a good and progressive skills framework literally gives teams the ability to tackle team decisions and track skills growth down to a minute level of detail, consistently and transparently,” writes Ben Tregoing on the UX Collective blog.

Absent that, companies can suffer from organized chaos as they scale up. Goal setting becomes ad hoc or inconsistent, teams have no common definition of competence, and people lack direction or meaning as promotions are not tied to clear standards. Recruitment also suffers, as resources are wasted on vetting employee profiles that are a poor fit.

With nearly every industry facing unprecedented change as a result of the pandemic, having an agile workforce has become more important than ever. Companies must adapt, and that requires upskilling and reskilling workers quickly. Success at that rests on a foundation of a robust skills framework.

How to get started

The most important step in building a skills framework is to engage the people who are in the roles being evaluated in the process. This is crucial not only because it ensures the resulting framework is useful and relevant, but because, “People tend to get nervous about performance issues,” according to MindTools. “The more you communicate in advance, the easier your implementation will be.”

Understand the purpose of the framework from the onset and establish a team that draws from all parts of the business to evaluate and contribute to the process. Then, gather information by observing people in their roles, gathering their input and analyzing their work. While doing so, also consider how their role is evolving and what future skills will be necessary to excel in that role.

Once information has been collected, it’s time to build the framework. Group skills into categories and subcategories to establish a structure for the framework, and then name those groupings and the competencies they contain in standardized language that can be applied uniformly across your enterprise. This ensures that you can evaluate your workforce’s skills on a macro level and identify the gaps that need to be filled with training, upskilling or hiring.

“Every individual will have different ways of describing their skills,” writes Dan Tesjnak in The HR Director. “You must bring all of these together, find a clear definition and consensus for each skill.”

Finally, implement the framework and communicate how it will be updated and maintained over time, which is essential to the relevance of a skills framework. Begin integrating that framework into the organization by linking competencies to business objectives, rewarding the skills identified and providing training to help employees advance in their careers and adapt as their roles demand it.

A skills framework is like a roadmap for employees and the enterprise alike, offering a clear path forward to ensure success. It should be used to build excitement around mutually beneficial growth that helps everyone get to a better place, writes Josh Bersin and Marc Zao-Sanders in Harvard Business Review.

 “Use the framework to curate the experiences, people, courses, podcasts, videos, and articles that will spark learning joy,” they suggest. “Cull the rest.”

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