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Industry Insights | 4 minute read

Moving to a skills-based hiring model: The skills ontology starting line

April 11, 2024

Talent acquisition tech, generative AI, return to office (RTO) policies and skills-based hiring were the topics of discussion at our recent roundtable featuring talent leaders from across the UK. Sailesh Hota, practice director at leading global research firm Everest Group, also joined us for the interactive debate. Here’s what we learned during the session: 

Why a skills-based transformation is a marathon rather than a sprint 

What we heard: Many talent leaders are under pressure from the board to implement a skills-based organisational approach as soon as possible. 

What we understood: Talent leaders agree with their boards and are very much in favour of taking a skills-based organisational approach, but the finish line is still a long way off. 

What is required: First and foremost, talent leaders must manage the expectations of key stakeholders to let them know a skills-based organisational approach won't happen overnight and that companywide collaboration is required for skills-based success. The first step (of many) is to develop a skills ontology and/or a skills taxonomy. But this isn’t something talent leaders can do in a silo (or overnight!). Instead, they need to partner with stakeholders across the entire business to identify how skills are organised, where they are located, the skillsets required for roles within the business in the short and long term and potential skills gaps. There are way more elements that go into skills-based strategies, but we don’t have the space for that here!

Tech overload: Why the “shiny, fun stuff” comes after the core platforms 

What we heard: Tech spend is no longer viewed as discretionary by the board – it’s a business imperative (finally!). But even though it's easier than it's ever been to get tech spend signed off, talent leaders are overwhelmed with the sheer number of options in the market. 

What we understood: Talent leaders understand the importance of having the right tech stack, but many don’t have effective tech stacks in place or regular reviews to ensure their tech stacks are still meeting their business needs. 

What is required: Getting the table stakes solutions (the core tech platforms that are essential) right, is imperative before embarking on specialised offerings. Once core platforms are finalised, you can then buy and implement the “shiny, fun stuff” but make sure you test it to ensure it generates the ROI promised by vendors.  

Generative AI strategies: Slow and steady wins the race 

What we heard: Talent leaders are being prompted to use generative AI to drive efficiencies by key stakeholders, but many boards don’t realise that most of the generative AI pilots out there probably won’t make it into production.  

What we understood: Talent leaders are using generative AI within the recruitment process, but many are taking a cautious approach until providers can prove they’ve mitigated the risks associated with the tech.  

What’s required: A slow and steady approach to generative AI is needed. The main risks (privacy & security, hallucinations, ownership and ethics & bias) need to be mitigated before platforms are fully implemented into tech stacks. Talent leaders must also manage the expectations of stakeholders to ensure they understand that generative AI is a value add, rather than a replacement for humans.  

RTO is still a hot debate 

What we heard: Return-to-office (RTO) is still a divisive topic. A lot of boards in the UK are very much advocating for RTO, but this doesn’t align with what employees and candidates want. 

What we understood: Many executive teams are citing collaboration as one of the key reasons for RTO and don’t seem that concerned about the impact it will have on talent acquisition and employee experience. 

What is required: Talent leaders should advise their boards on what RTO means from a talent perspective and the risks it has on talent attraction and retention. Outlining the benefits of a hybrid approach is recommended too.  


About Craig Sweeney

As executive vice president, global strategic talent solutions, Craig leads WilsonHCG's growth strategy and new partnership cultivation across the globe. Alongside the trusted consultants at WilsonHCG, he builds market-leading, scalable and customisable RPO solutions. Craig's relationships span all industry verticals and geographies with expertise in technology, business services, financial services, engineering, manufacturing, retail, and media.