Workday creates universal skills translator


An often-cited problem in business is incomplete information about employee skills. If HR doesn’t know all the skills of its employees, that might make it harder to assemble teams or find internal candidates for open positions. It is a problem Workday says it has fixed 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 examine someone’s background, experiences and training, and extract from them an employee’s skills.

But training providers, which can be third parties and internal training programs, might use ontologies that define and group skills differently. This could result in siloed information, preventing a cohesive picture of employee skills, said David Somers, group general manager of product for the chief human resources officer at Workday.

Somers said Workday has developed a way to automate skills mapping so that neither party has to change ontologies. The upgrade provides “one centralized place where now everybody’s talking the same skill language regardless of what applications you’re using or where that skill data is coming from,” he said.

Skills data and talent issues

The new functionality isn’t just about moving skills into the Workday platform, but also enables outbound use — for instance, by a third-party labor market intelligence platform. The company outlined the tools at its just-concluded Workday Rising conference.

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

Companies are struggling with talent issues.
Jon ReedCo-founder, Diginomica

Several trends are driving the need for better skills data, including a tight labor market, historically high quit rates and many reconsidering the value of a college degree. College enrollments have 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, a computing industry analysis firm. Employers can “hit a roadblock quickly” when translating skills into a development plan that will solve problems for the company if they don’t know what skills they have or don’t have, he said.

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

Another part of the learning story

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

For instance, Skillsoft recently integrated with learning provider Coursera, adding its business training to the Skillsoft Percipio learning management platform.

Skillsoft provides training courses on many topics and technologies, such as AWS. Still, customers might want to offer broader training along with an AWS course, such as a university course on networking fundamentals. This broader, university-type training is something Coursera has, said Apratim Purakayastha, chief product and technology officer at Skillsoft. Employers can provide training to employees from multiple providers on Percipio and “create custom learning paths,” he said.

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

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He’s worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.



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