How Mercer and Standard Chartered Bank drive skills-centric transformations

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Skills-based organizations in practice: the tools, learnings, and steps to drive transformation

Lewis Garrad, Chitralekha Singh, and Nina Santana-Sweeney explore the frameworks leaders need to bring skills-centric strategies to life.

As companies strive to do more with less, HR leaders are being asked to recalibrate talent management plans. The companies that move away from the status quo and embrace skills-based work assignments are reaping unparalleled results—just ask Nina Santana-Sweeney, Global Transformation Head at Standard Chartered Bank.

User experience, communications specialist, social media specialist, agile coach, scrum master, data scientist—those aren’t the typical roles you have in banking. So we needed to do a significant transformation,” she explains. Rather than relying on external hiring processes that were costly and time-consuming, Santana-Sweeney describes how her organization “…looked at the skills we already had and how to shorten the time for our employees who had some of those skills, so we could deploy them into more sun-rising roles.”

As an Associate Principal at Mercer who focuses on talent transformations, Chitralekha Singh emphasized the wisdom behind Standard Chartered Bank’s skills-centric approach. In her words, “It’s becoming more important to think from a skills-based lens about your learning and development and hiring practices. The way you give work to people is becoming more about deconstructing work into tasks and then flowing skills to these tasks to unlock greater agility and flexibility.”

Her colleague, Lewis Garrad, is quick to point out that skills visibility and talent mobility are the means to unlocking the level of agility that so many organizations are eager to achieve, noting, “We’ve talked about workforce agility for years. But it’s becoming apparent that what we mean is, how can we get talent where we need it to be, when we need it to be there?”

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How Standard Chartered Bank prepares for the future of work

Want to read more about Standard Chartered Bank’s transformation? Check out their case study, which breaks down how the leading financial services institution embraced skills-centric strategies powered by a talent marketplace. 

‣Top takeaways

“The talent equation has really shifted. We’re starting to see organizations take seriously the idea that we should think of organizations like organisms. And the way that they grow and develop and learn is this much more organic model, and that requires a very different leadership and management mindset, but it also requires a different set of HR practices.”

“Today, we can’t solve a problem with one business function alone. We need to start thinking a lot more horizontally. So our responsibility as HR is to take the business on that journey. Having a talent marketplace allows us to do a lot of things with the data we produce. If we make a case that we don’t need to be hiring all of these people because we have a lot of people we can quickly upskill in order to get the job done, it changes the conversation.”

“So what we really need to do is access a skills network from within and sometimes outside of the organization. But to do that we need a new system to be able to organize that because it's really difficult for one person to find the right skills, especially from outside of their immediate network. And so we're starting to see AI and automation playing a bigger role to help make that connection.”

“It’s not just about the technology. Of course, technology is a very important component. But it's also very important to think about, ‘What are your use cases? And what is your broader perspective and vision of why you want a talent marketplace in the first place?’”

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