Standardization of Data on Skills in the HR Space

  • Achieving standardization in the way that skills are articulated for jobs as well as for people could result in massive gains in efficiency in HR
  • Standards help in moving of information from one pool of information to another and in creating the platform for rich analytics
  • Technical standards govern how data needs to be transmitted between systems so that each of the systems can use it well
  • Content standards involve reconciling different words used to mean the same thing
  • Format standards are important to ensure that data created in different but connected scenarios can be correlated with each other

Insights from our participation in the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas

A gentleman in his late 60s walked in. For forty years he has been in the Learning (or Knowledge Transfer as he prefers to call it) space. For the last few years he has been visiting the HR Tech expo. He feels that HR has a huge need for standardization. The lack of it, he said, was resulting in poor yields on talent development efforts.

While he talked more about the Knowledge Transfer space, the problem of standardization affects everyone – including individuals, businesses and governments – in the results they achieve in recruitment (talent acquisition), talent development and talent deployment.

What do we mean by standardization?

There are standards in communication protocols, standards in engineering, standards prescribed in healthcare industry such as ICD10… the list goes on.
Standardization of Data on Skills in the HR Space

Standards help in moving of information from one pool of information to another and in creating the platform for rich analytics. In the case of healthcare, for instance, standardization supports a common understanding between doctors, insurers and others.

Standardization in the HR space should provide benefits to individuals, businesses and governments. Individuals should not have to express their talent in different forms and templates as required by different job boards. A standard format used by all job boards would benefit both individuals and employers. Yes, these job boards may lose out in short term, but everyone will benefit eventually as has always happened with standardization in other industries.

Types of Standardization

There are different kinds of standards. One is the technical i.e. how data needs to be transmitted between systems so that each of the systems can use it well. JSON is a data format that helps systems use data from other systems.

Then there are content standards i.e. using same words. For example, I live in Chennai which was earlier called Madras. The same is the case of Bengaluru (previously Bangalore). But people still use the current name, Chennai, as well as the previous one, Madras.

In order to ensure standard names are used for crunching information, systems force the user to use drop down menus and others to make them use the same terms. This helps because a seller of handicrafts in Madras (i.e. the way he refers to the city) can also be found by someone searching for a seller of handicrafts in Chennai.

Standardization of Skills Data

In the talent space this is a frequently faced problem – for example, Digital Marketing = Web Marketing = Internet Marketing = Online Marketing.

Apart from content standardization, what HR most urgently needs for maximising productivity is the standardization in the format of skills.

Resumes, Job Descriptions, Performance Appraisals, Interview Forms, Training Plans and others contain information on skills of people and jobs. But given that templates used for the different functions as well for the same function by different systems are different, information is not in a form that can be crunched easily and effectively. Information from interview forms cannot flow into training and so vital information is lost. Job Descriptions need to be modified for different job boards.

The benefits of standardization

We should ideally be spending time analyzing data and putting it to use for better recruitment, training, people development and such, rather than spending time transforming the same data into different formats or re-creating same data again and again.

Today, data standards have made it easy for systems to talk and use/re-use data between systems. In HR we need standardization on the content format immediately so that skills data can be used and re-used effectively for the benefit of individuals, businesses and governments.

skills ontology AD

The Skills Profiler by It’s Your Skills is an attempt at creating such a standard for everyone in the HR space.

The gentleman who had walked into our booth was very happy. He said he finally sees a possibility for an universal standard on skills, one that can be used by everyone (he said waving his hand across the stalls in the expo).

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