Workday Creates a Universal Skills Translator

An often-cited problem in companies is incomplete information on employee skills. If HR doesn’t know all of their employees’ skills, it could make it difficult to build teams or find internal candidates for open positions. It’s a problem Workday says it’s solved with tools that can translate skills.

Workday created a skills cloud in 2018 that standardizes and organizes skills in a common dictionary. It includes a machine learning capability that can look at a person’s background, experiences, and education and extract an employee’s skills.

But training providers, which may be third parties and in-house training programs, may use ontologies that define and group skills differently. This could result in siled information, preventing a consistent picture of employee skills, said David Somers, group product general manager for Workday’s chief human resources officer.

Somers said Workday has developed a way to automate skill mapping so that neither party has to switch ontologies. The upgrade provides “a centralized place where everyone is now speaking the same skills language, regardless of what apps you use or where that skills data comes from,” he said.

Skills data and talent issues

The new functionality is not only about transferring skills to the Workday platform, but also enables outbound use, for example, by a third-party labor market information platform. The company showcased the tools at its just-concluded Workday Rising conference.

Skills Mapping will expand as Workday adds organizations to its “Skills Partnership”. The company described the mapping process as an ongoing effort. It worked with three vendors in its pilot deployment to translate skills: Degreed, a learning platform; Aon PLC, a multinational financial company; and Skyhive, a labor market information platform, which also received funding from Workday Ventures.

Companies are struggling with talent issues.

Jon RoseauCo-founder, Diginomica

Several trends reinforce the need for better skills data, including a tight job market, historically high quit rates, and many people reconsidering the value of a college degree. College enrollment has declined during the pandemic, dropping by 1.4 million students, or 9.4%, the National Student Clearinghouse reported in May.

“Companies are struggling with talent issues,” said Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, an IT industry analytics firm. Employers can “hit a roadblock quickly” when they translate skills into a development plan that will solve business problems if they don’t know what skills they have or don’t have, he said.

Reed said there’s a growing realization that a siled approach to skills data doesn’t work, which puts pressure on Workday to build the skills data integrations.

Another part of the learning story

Workday’s ontology automation and partnership development only tell part of the story of what’s happening in learning. Training providers are also extending their platforms through integrations.

For example, Skillsoft recently integrated learning provider Coursera, adding its commercial training to the Skillsoft Percipio learning management platform.

Skillsoft offers training on many topics and technologies, such as AWS. However, customers may wish to offer broader training in addition to an AWS course, such as a university course in networking fundamentals. That broader college-like background is something Coursera has, said Apratim Purakayastha, director of product and technology at Skillsoft. Employers can train employees from multiple vendors on Percipio and “create personalized learning paths,” he said.

Skillsoft has 24 partnerships with other vendors, including Udemy, and many niche vendors, such as security training providers. Using its Percipio platform, users don’t have to switch from one system to another, Purakayastha said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He worked for more than two decades as a corporate IT journalist.

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