Why you need a skills-first approach to resource management

Staffing projects has traditionally been a manual process based on spreadsheets and who you know. The new and improved way to enable staffing relies on an AI-driven, skills-based approach to uncover the best-fit resources for any project.

Why you need a skills-first approach to resource management

  • A skills-first approach can help you efficiently match talent to work, improving outcomes for firms, employees, and clients.
  • Talent intelligence can help you source scarce and valuable talent by widening the field of qualified candidates.
  • With an AI-powered resource management platform, you can gain real-time insights into availability and fit to get more talent off the bench and onto high-impact, best-fit projects.

When it comes to staffing projects at your company, what are your top challenges?

We posed this question to a recent webinar audience. Their answers included things like allocating resources, balancing workloads, and forecasting resource needs. Can you relate?

Why you need a skills-first approach to resource management

When it comes to managing resources, agility, productivity, and efficiency are like oxygen — necessary for survival. But maintaining these factors requires ensuring that your employees’ skills are being put to work in the best and most efficient ways. You also need to easily source the skills and talent you lack. This requires a definitive shift in thinking about staffing based on people-hours and positions to looking at the work that needs to be done through a skills-based lens.

I recently had the opportunity to talk about skills with Sally Fletcher, Head of Digital at SSON (Shared Services and Outsourcing Network), a global community of shared services, global business services, and outsourcing professionals. In the webinar, we discussed how resource managers can use a skills-first approach to dynamically match people to work and improve outcomes for firms, agencies, and clients. Let’s get into it. 

Related content: Ready to learn more about how a skills-based strategy can help your resource planning? Read our short guide, ‘The skills-based advantage to staffing projects with AI.’

What is a skills-based approach anyway?

Before we talk about how a skills-first approach can help your firm or agency, let’s define it. To understand what a skills-based organization is, let’s start with what it isn’t.

Historically, organizations have focused on the job, whether that’s for hiring practices, succession planning, or internal mobility. The typical recruitment process starts with defining that job or position. Then recruiters map out the hiring manager, job requirements, job description, region, compensation, and so forth. With everything in place, recruiters then advertise that job to as many people as possible.

A skills- and talent-based approach flips this model 180 degrees. Instead of starting with the job, recruiters start by defining a person in the context of work — understanding their skills and what they’re capable of doing today and tomorrow. 

Rather than exposing one job to as many people as possible, you take a person and apply their skills and interests to as many internal opportunities as possible — jobs, projects, mentorship programs, fractional work, and more.

The heart of a skills-based approach comes down to one simple concept — where a person’s skills fit best for the organization and for the individual. The latter part can’t be underemphasized. A skills-based approach isn’t just about improving outcomes for firms and clients, which it does. It helps employees match with the work they’re best at, the work that’s most fulfilling and beneficial to their careers and the organization. And that helps them and the business grow.

A skills-based approach to professional services

The world of professional services is already familiar with project-based work, but instead of looking at people-hours or positions, now resource and engagement managers can look at skills. 

For example, if you have a surplus of data-engineering talent, perhaps you could sell more projects that require that skill or staff more people with that skill onto existing projects. Or if you have a surplus of Python skills, it could be a sign you need to more efficiently allocate that talent.

Once you have a comprehensive understanding of the skills in your organization, including which skills are under- or overused, you can make strategic decisions to acquire the right skills, whether that’s through hiring external talent, upskilling, or employing contractors. This build, buy, borrow strategy ensures more efficient skills acquisition.

“A skills-based approach is a really innovative concept. It allows you to not necessarily just template people to this job or that job. People are wondrous; there’s variety. This approach is really allowing us to look at not putting people into a template, but allowing them to flourish based on their skills.” Sally Fletcher, Head of Digital at SSON

For your clients, a skills-based approach allows them to be more specific in their requests. And for your firm, if you have a better idea of what skills you have internally, you can place them in the most profitable places possible. Putting the right people on the right projects results in more efficient and effective results for you and your clients.

Benefits of a skills-based org for professional services

Research from Deloitte highlights several key benefits of skills-based organizations across industries, including effective talent placement, retention, and innovation. But perhaps the top benefit for professional services organizations is the ability to find and hire talent with competitive skills.

In professional services, there are specific skills that firms are looking to acquire — and competing for those skills can get fierce. To win this talent, there are different approaches you could take: switch up your sourcing tactics, tweak your compensation, poach talent from competitors, and so on. While those are great strategies, with the help of a talent intelligence platform, you can also dramatically widen the aperture of qualified candidates by looking at potential. 

Why you need a skills-first approach to resource management

The oil and gas industry is drastically changing and entering fields, like renewables, that require new skills. AI-powered talent intelligence platforms can help industries see the top and adjacent skills they need to succeed.

Our talent intelligence platform uses AI and billions of global talent data points to understand the skills and career trajectories of millions of people. These insights allow us to infer skill adjacencies. All skills are interrelated to others in intersecting relationships — and that’s what we refer to as potential — this laddering of skills. 

Take the oil and gas industry. There are only about 30,000 people in the world with the well-testing skill. Rather than compete for one of those 30,000, you can look for candidates with related skills, as they have the potential to quickly learn and master this skill based on the skills they have today. Looking at adjacent skills gives your organization the option to either directly compete for skills or hire someone with high degrees of learnability who could learn that skill quickly to help you acquire talent faster and cheaper than you otherwise could have. 

The other benefit for professional services is time to staff. Ultimately, you want to put the right person on the right job, but this task becomes incredibly difficult when you have to keep a roster somewhere in the back of your mind or on paper. Unless you’ve worked with someone before, it can be difficult to know if they’ll succeed on a project.

Talent intelligence gives you deeper insights into project fit based on a person’s skills. For example, you might be a staffing firm in Brussels, and you’re considering staffing a person who works in Florida. You’ve never met them in person, but they have eight of the 10 skills the client needs. They have the hours available, and they’ve worked in this industry before. They’re an ideal fit — and you might have never found them without the insights from AI.

At the end of the day, our goal is to give organizations more visibility into their resources. AI can surface those insights in real time, so organizations can use their talent more strategically and get more people onto best-fit projects for the employee and the client.

Get real-time insights for optimal staffing 

Many resource managers today still struggle with effectively hiring and placing their talent, balancing workloads, and managing turnover. Talent intelligence can help you fully understand the talent you have and their availability so you can get talent off the bench and improve outcomes for your firm, employees, and clients, while making your day-to-day life much easier. 

Watch the entire webinar It’s time for a skills-based approach to resource management, now on demand.

Conor Volpe is Director, Product Marketing, at Eightfold AI.

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