Purposeful Talent Development: Many Hats, Many Skills, Many Opportunities

many hats
Lesley Sears Photo
VP/Consulting Services

3 minutes

A skills taxonomy can help you think about what each of your team members could do and help them—and your credit union—reach their fuller potential.

I love the commercial that starts with the line, “Polly Pratz wore many hats.” While the commercial is for an online university, the many hats idea is a wonderful illustration of the many skills a person might have based on many life experiences. And it points to the idea that organizations that care about talent development can benefit from having a skills “taxonomy.”

A skills taxonomy is like a biological taxonomy that classifies plants or animals into kingdom, phylum, class and so on. The difference, of course, is that a skills taxonomy organizes people’s skills. Organizations can use a skills taxonomy to deeply understand the skills of each employee as well as the skills of the organization overall. 

Having a skills taxonomy can help your credit union think broadly about what each of your team members can or could do, not just what they do now in their current role. For example, thinking of a person solely as a “teller” likely limits their potential to the tasks a teller currently does. This mindset may get in the way of them being their full selves at work, learning and developing new and useful skills, and even delivering a higher level of performance. 

Skills taxonomies can be structured in a variety of useful ways. For example, you might look at skills based on what is needed for success in your organization for leaders, managers or individual contributors. Another way to organize a skills taxonomy is to consider your organization’s overarching vision, mission and goals—and determine what skills will help you achieve them.

Developing a skills taxonomy might seem overwhelming at first. But fortunately, talent development research has illuminated a set of common skills that your organization might have—or might want to have. So, it’s just a matter of discovering what skills your team currently uses.   Research also has helped refine effective ways to dig in and find out.

I get excited when I can talk with an organization about establishing a skills taxonomy because I’ve seen organizations find success when they shift from a role-based mindset to one based on skills. I could go on and on about the benefits but here are two more for your consideration.

1. Skills-based talent strategy built on a skills taxonomy can help streamline people processes, saving both time and money. This is the way to get your CFO on board with the importance of talent strategy. You’ll be able to hire, train and retain people using a clear, beneficial strategy, not just cast a wide net and hope for the best. You’ll be aligning people with the right skills to work on the right parts of your strategy, so everyone in the organization can pull together effectively to help the credit union reach its goals.

2. A skills taxonomy helps remove unconscious bias. When you look at a person’s skills, you’ll be making decisions based on objective criteria, not your unconscious prejudices. This makes skills-based thinking a unique, strategic and effective way to approach diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

I’m here for you if you want to talk more about this.

Stepping into the gap between corporate complacency and organizational excellence is where Lesley Sears strives to be. Now VP/consulting services for CUES. In her role at CUES, Lesley leads CUES Consulting, which provides talent strategy support to credit unions of all sizes. Lesley is passionate about helping leaders find their company’s superpowers in talent development through a holistic approach: identify–develop–document-repeat. She’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a certified executive leadership coach and has over 20 years of experience consulting with organizations across many industries to strategically develop their talent’s best selves. When she’s not working to help organizations maximize their potential, you can find her digging in her flower beds, reading or watching classic movies. Maybe, on a good morning in the spring and fall, you’ll find her running—really slowly.

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