The Language of Skills — Foundation for FutureOfWork

Moses Sam Paul
Jun 7, 2019 · 8 min read

Work is evolving at an ever-accelerating rate, posing equal challenges on employers and employees. There is an incredible opportunity if we can move to a place where people can in a verifiable, tested way signal for the skill and capabilities they have.

Table of Contents

  1. Why do we need a language of skills?
  2. Perception of Education in today’s World
  3. What type of education and skills a corporate look for?
  4. Transformations from Primary model to new-age model
  5. Methods of Skill Identification
    5.1 A needed shift in a company’s job
    5.2 What defines a good learner?
    5.3 Learning in a Corporate Model
  6. The Concept of Skill Quotient

1. Why do we need a language of skills?

Work is evolving at an ever-accelerating rate, posing equal challenges on employers and employees. Workers looking to change jobs may not know which skills they need or which skills they will be credited with having. It is difficult for employers to understand the actual capabilities of the workforce and how to equip that workforce for success in the future. The market is hungry to speak the language of skills, but it can’t.

Source: www.skillset.co.uk

We don’t have the language, we don’t have the credentials that signal skills. Credentials can be defined as a form of currency, they hold and store values and they unlock transactions for us in our lives. The world has historically had only one universal currency when it comes to credentials. There are a lot of credentials in there but the called “degree” is the only one that is universally understood and accepted. In the broader world of credentials, it helps in gaining employment and find new jobs.

Example: A professional designation like a CPA is doing a very different job from that a college degree does. It is the gates through which you enter a professional field. It is a threshold through which, one can signal a minimum level of competence in the field.

Like this, there are a lot of other jobs that can be filled by credentials.

2. Perception of Education in today’s World

Source: www.uft.org

In today’s economy, if we ask someone about their education, the only answer we have is the college degree, or whichever university that individual went to or “I didn’t go” (As 60% of the US population does not possess a college degree). People still relate their education to the college degree obtained. But the fact is, that the capabilities, the knowledge in one’s head at present is not influenced by a degree obtained several years ago.

The people who do not possess a degree, fail to understand the above mentioned and thus tend to refer themselves as “Uneducated”, irrespective of the experience they might have. These people are left out because of the lack of language that can be used by them to signal the skills and capabilities they might possess.

Thus, there is an incredible opportunity if we can move to a place where people can in a verifiable, tested way signal for the skill and capabilities they have. We need to move to a point, where when a question regarding your education is put, you can answer that with the skills and experiences that are relevant at present.

3. What type of education and skills a corporate look for?

Source: topdistancemba.com

David Blake, founder and Executive Chairman of Degreed says that Degreed has a lot of multinational and global companies as their clients. When they interacted with them about the talents of their employees they came across that employers do care about what you know, but they care more about what you can do. They emphasize most on the applied expertise or mastery of the people.

At Degreed, people can be certified in any skill by bringing forward evidence of their applied mastery, and then it goes through the process of peer and expert review. That allows employers to start to have a uniform and quantified way to see the skills of all of their employees across various fields inside the company. Doing this at a continual basis without the aid of any tools is not practically feasible. Thus, Degreed offers the tools to make this easier for corporates. It gives the company an internal language to look at everyone’s applied mastery.

4. Transformations from Primary model to new-age model

Source: www.eduvationnet.co.za

Primarily, in a world where education and information were scarce, The model was, learn and then apply. We feasted on learning and then applied it for the succession for our career. Now, we live in a world where information is abundant, this shift has changed a lot of things. Since the information is abundant, one needs to keep on learning all the time. During the period, when learning was feasted on first, people could use the degree as a meaningful signal of the accumulated skills one has. But now, in the time of all time- learning, no such signaling mechanism exists.

PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) says that 92% of the global CEOs worry that they don’t have the skills to meet the needs of the future. The same study states that 77% of the CEOs believe that the biggest threat one has is the lack of knowledge of the skills possessed, yet 0% of those CEOs could tell about the skills they need to win.

The world has been relying on proxies ( The degree one possesses, the previous job title held) for understanding a person’s abilities. These proxies are less and less valid because of the rapid changes around.

5. Methods of Skill Identification

Source: www.cognology.com.au

Degreed takes up all of a company’s job titles and helps them in identifying which skills are required for each job in the entire company. This is done in a leveled way. Identification of not just skills, but which skills are required at different levels. This allows transparency to set in an organization regarding the skills and abilities required by any job at any level of a company. As an employee, this allows the measurement of their skills which then helps them map where are my personal skills gap.

Degreed also maps all of the resources of an organization which may help an employee to bridge the existing personal skill gaps. It has also attempted to map all the informal learning resources for skill enhancement. Informal resources include articles, videos, podcasts, etc.

5.1 A needed shift in a company’s job

With the rapid changes, the companies need to shift their jobs too. Earlier when the information was scarce, the employee expected the employer to expend the energy in the scarce world for collecting the right information then. But today, the employee might just be able to collect a better amount of information just by googling it. When the company was training an employee, it was meant for the company’s betterment. Now, employees are demanding training for their personal development. Greatest companies that have a good learning culture environment have an empowerment model.

Example: GitHub gives it’s employees a learning budget and let them pursue whatever they wish to learn in that budget.

This method is different from the one in which training was employer-centric.

5.2 What defines a good learner?

Can a person learn to be a learner? It is a skill set. Some good learners create systems, deliberate and set goals. As Consumers of education, learning for us involves a lot of tasks like setting up a syllabus, content to be learned, teachers, peers, etc. While true learners deconstruct everything that takes to learn and they set up those systems for themselves.

5.3 Learning in a Corporate Model

In most companies, learning is seen in a very negative light rather than with excitement, people find difficulty in confronting things they don’t know, thus what can be the way to incorporate learning as part of the work culture? Like Exercise is contagious, if people around you exercise, you are more likely to develop a habit of exercising and so is learning.

In most of our professional lives and experiences, there is no line of site or transparency to what the people one cubical away from us are learning. If the transparency on this front is created, learning can be made contagious. When an employee is asked to attend a certain program for training purposes, the permission for learning is granted. But when it comes to “informal on the job learning”, in most cases permission is not granted. This factor needs to change.

Source: peopleleaders.com.au

Ensuring Psychological safety that it is okay not to know something is important. In most cases, the opposite is observed, people are expected to know things prior. A culture like that has knowers, not learners. Leadership makes an enormous difference. The best companies are led by people who are great informal learners.

Example: Bill Gates, Elon Musk independently have gone on record saying that they read the entire encyclopedia as children.


The Concept of Skill Quotient

David Blake has introduced a concept known as “Skill Quotient” to help certain issues of this front. Skill Quotient is a simple, straight forward framework for any organization to be able to answer in a universal, quantifiable manner about the skills of a person, team or the entire organization. Mathematically,

Skill quotient = (sum of aggregate skills you have/sum of aggregated skills you are expected to have)*100

There are various kinds of skills. In simple words, we can categorize them as hard skills and soft skills. Of the two, the one that provides a competitive advantage is the set of soft skills. Even among technologists, the employers are saying that some of the soft skills come under the most demanded skills. Leadership and interpersonal side of skills seem to come out as important. Without good data, we can never have answers to these questions in a meaningful way. To have data, we must be able to quantify skills in a way that it means universally the same to all.

With the #FutureOfWork in focus across the global it’s of paramount importance that we understand the nuances of it and it all starts with comprehending the value of skills and hope this post has shed some light into the same!

Until next time,

Moses Sam Paul


FutureOfX

Future of People, Premises & Work. A community of Researchers & Doers interested in Human Resource Management, Office Space Management and Work itself. FutureOfX will to be the torch bearer to effectively think and create solutions for a positive future.

Moses Sam Paul

Written by

Bachelor: Information Technology; Master: Public Policy; Now: Growing www.heptagon.in; Building #SkillsChain; Curating @OpenHouse332

FutureOfX

FutureOfX

Future of People, Premises & Work. A community of Researchers & Doers interested in Human Resource Management, Office Space Management and Work itself. FutureOfX will to be the torch bearer to effectively think and create solutions for a positive future.

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