May 16, 2024

Five Milestones To Achieving Success as a Skills Transformation Leader

Five Milestones To Achieving Success as a Skills Transformation Leader

You are a leading proponent in your organization and industry of the transition from jobs to skills. You have seen the research by Gartner, Harvard Business Review, Mercer, and others that describe the benefits of a skills-based approach to workforce management. 

“As skills increasingly become the currency for work, organizations are re-envisioning their work operating model to pivot from jobs to skills,” says Mercer’s Ravin Jesuthasan. “The skills transformation leader is increasingly the role responsible for enabling this pivot.” 

At some point, every skills transformation leader struggles with how to define and achieve success across a large organization, given the scope of a multi-year journey with significant change management. 

To help you, this article describes valuable lessons learned from SkyHive’s support of skills transformations at more than 100 large organizations including Best Buy, Baker Hughes, and Gainwell. 

If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to talk with SkyHive about your organization’s specific goals and challenges for transitioning from jobs to skills. 

As the leader in AI-powered skills intelligence, SkyHive supports your organization to hire, manage and retain people with in-demand skills and to upskill and reskill your workforce. 

Skills Transformation Leaders 

SkyHive data has shown an increase in the number of organizations that employ a “Global Head of Strategic Skills Transformation”. 

To serve as your organization’s skills transformation leader, an executive sponsor and organizational commitment to change are more relevant than your job title. 

You’ve experienced that for an organization to fully benefit from the transition to a skills-based approach, it requires more than just a software purchase or a consulting contract. It takes “intention, investment, technology, and change” (Forrester, “AI Skills Intelligence Is Now A Necessity, Not A Luxury”). 

At electronics retailer Best Buy, Jeff Johnson served as the senior product manager responsible for skills transformation. There, he helped evangelize the concept that skills are the underlying thread that empowers each employee as they move through their career journey.

Johnson advocated for building a multi-discipline knowledge set including talent acquisition, talent development & compensation. 

The skills transformation leader role is part science, part art. 

Johnson explains that the science part includes the governance of data. An organization will have job descriptions or other useful data as it begins this transformation, but they are often incomplete or outdated. 

The art part includes a heavy dose of change management. “We’re moving a lot of people’s cheese,” Johnson says, a reference to the change-management book “Who Moved My Cheese”. 

Executive Sponsors

The executive sponsor may be a member of the C-suite, board member, or other executive. At Baker Hughes, Best Buy, and Gainwell, the Chairman and CEO has served as the executive sponsor to bolster the transformation from jobs to skills. 

Lorenzo Simonelli leads energy technology company Baker Hughes. He started in finance for GE and worked through several divisions, eventually running the GE Oil & Gas business as it merged with Baker Hughes in 2017. His theme for the company’s annual meeting in February 2024 was “energizing change.” (Lorenzo Simonelli, “A year to energize change: My reflections from the Baker Hughes Annual Meeting 2024”, February 8, 2024). 

At Best Buy, former Chairman and CEO Hubert Joly viewed his goal to empower workers to “make magic”. He advocates that people are much more than a resource, they are “the creative engine of innovation and change that companies urgently need.” (Inc magazine, “5 Lessons for Leaders From the CEO Who Turned Around Best Buy”, September 29, 2023). He now teaches at Harvard Business School. 

Prior to leading healthcare technology provider Gainwell Technologies, Mark Knickrehm previously headed an Accenture global practice focused on helping C-suite executives develop strategies to transform their organizations. (Texas CEO Magazine, CEO Interview Series: Mark Knickrehm, March 20, 2024). 

Five Milestones To Reach in Your Organization’s Skills Journey

To kickstart your organization’s skills transformation journey and grow your organization’s skills maturity over time, SkyHive has identified five important milestones. 

1. Define your driving purpose: Identify your organization’s priorities for the shift to a skills approach. 

2. Build on top of a solid job architecture foundation: Adopt a dynamic, skills-based job architecture. 

3. Use ethical AI to minimize manual work: Automate sustainable practices. 

4. Evolve your organization’s skills maturity: Deliver quarterly progress in initial use cases while progressing toward wider adoption. 

5. Engage your workforce in the skills vision: Find practical steps to involve and excite your workforce. 

1. Define your Driving Purpose 

Skills transformation serves as a catalyst for meaningful change. What is a priority for your organization? 

Is it addressing a shortage of people with in-demand skills? Or improving retention and internal mobility? Retaining top talent? Upgrading employee training and development? Or other business drivers? 

In “Work without Jobs”, Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau outline five success metrics for the transition for jobs to skills (MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2021). 

  1. Reduced time to fill roles
  2. Greater talent visibility 
  3. Insight into emerging and declining work
  4. Increased labor productivity
  5. Speed and agility 

Five Success Metrics for the Transition for Jobs to Skills

In Work without Jobs, authors Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau outline five success metrics for the transition for jobs to skills: Reduced time to fill roles; Greater talent visibility; Insight into emerging and declining work; Increased labor productivity; and Speed and agility.

Skills-based organizations are achieving better business results than those with a job-centric approach, according to Deloitte research. (Deloitte, Sue Cantrell et al., “The skills-based organization: A new operating model”, 08 September 2022). 

Learn more about SkyHive value case ROI at and in upcoming articles in this series.

2. Build on Top of a Solid Job Architecture Foundation

After defining your driving purpose of the initial economic benefits to achieve, the next step to kickstart your organization’s skills transformation journey is to upgrade to a modern, flexible job architecture. 

Julie Moore, Talent and Development Manager at Gainwell, describes the benefits of actionable data to see the top skills in demand, the top career paths people are taking, and the gaps in training or mentoring. (SkyHive “Unlocking Skill Insights” video with Julie Moore from Gainwell Technologies). 

In her role, she designs and delivers career development solutions that support the internal teams within Gainwell. 

Creating a skills-first job architecture is the foundational step to becoming a skills-based organization. Your organization’s job architecture incorporates external skills information from the labor market and helps automate the creation of job descriptions and skill requirements. 

Deloitte notes that “... job architecture serves as the blueprint that organizations use to structure roles to build clear career paths and define equitable and fair rewards. A well-defined job architecture is also essential to connect skills in demand and ultimately strengthen talent strategies.” (Deloitte, “Job Architecture in the Boundaryless World”). 

Here’s a summary how SkyHive works with you and your colleagues to build and enrich your organization’s job architecture: 

  • We partner with you in discovery sessions to gather data, customize the job architecture methodology, and map skill ontologies for your organization. 
  • Our AI engine does the heavy lifting to integrate data from your HR, human capital management (HCP), ERP, and other systems into your unique skills master view. 
  • Our AI maps job titles, job hierarchies, and required skills to create your new skills-based job architecture. 
  • We continually enrich your job architecture with real-time labor market data. 
  • SkyHive populates your new job architecture across your HR, human capital, ERP, and other software for a consistent approach to alleviate your skills shortage, save time, and make you the ROI hero.

3. Use Ethical AI to Minimize Manual Work 

The third step to kickstart your organization’s skills transformation journey is to adopt ethical and responsible AI to automate tedious, repeatable tasks.

In Forrester’s “You Need Skills Intelligence Technology To Master A Skills-Based Talent Practice” (June 26, 2023), future of work analyst Betsy Summers describes the challenges with skills-based transformation prior to the advent of AI-powered skills intelligence software such as SkyHive. Previously, HR and people teams: 

  • Spent months on manually building a static skills inventory spreadsheet and competency framework that missed important business nuances; 
  • Over-relied on current job descriptions, resumes, CVs, or LinkedIn profiles to the neglect of important skills not covered in those traditional sources; and
  • Wasted too much effort making manual updates as the organization evolved. 

SkyHive Skill Models are Armilla Verified as free of AI bias and meet the demanding standards set by the EU AI Act, New York City’s Local Law 144, and future regulations. The SkyHive AI-powered Human Capital Operating System™ includes Real-time Labor Market Intelligence (LMI), available globally, and Quantum Labor Analysis®. 

Learn more about SkyHive Responsible AI at and in upcoming articles in this Skills Transformation Leader series. 

4. Evolve Your Organization’s Skills Maturity

At Best Buy, Johnson defined quarterly objectives and key results within the People Technology Product Team for the skills ecosystem. 

Johnson piloted SkyHive and then expanded its use to create experiences where Best Buy employees are able to know their skills capability, identify skills that they want to learn and apply, and see where they could move in the organization. 

SkyHive partnered cross-functionally with Johnson and his colleagues in Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Enterprise Learning and Workforce Planning to help implement an organizational model to scale skills as part of the Best Buy employee experience. 

From our experience, we suggest that skills transformation leaders consider the following four-part horizons for your project planning. 

SkyHive Skills Transformation Horizons 

SkyHive’s Horizon process for skills transformation has four stages: (1) Connect your business (2) Optimize your workforce capabilities (3) Expand cross-enterprise and (4) Re-engineer the business to skills-driven.

According to Harvard Business Review, “A skills-first approach will yield the greatest benefit if organizations extend it beyond hiring and make it core to how they think about cultivating and retaining talent.” (Harvard Business Review, Colleen Ammerman et al., “The New-Collar Workforce”, March-April 2023.) 

As part of employee retention strategies to reduce the attrition rate, organizations are devoting greater attention on the employee experience to retain talent with in-demand skills. Gartner surveys note that more than 90% of the S&P 100 are fighting for the same talent. (Gartner webinar recording, Dion Love, VP of Advisory, “Shape your future workforce with skills-based talent acquisition”.) 

Baker Hughes has made significant strides through these horizons toward organization-wide adoption of a skills approach across the use cases to hire, manage & retain people with in-demand skills while providing employees with pathways to upskill or reskill. 

Elie Alam, previously Baker Hughes CTO and the leader of Baker Hughes’ skills transformation journey, outlines the transformative impact of skills analytics and the power of AI in identifying areas of over-vectoring and under-vectoring skills. 

He describes the surprise of discovering, for example, that a technical team has an overabundance of project management skill sets. This helps in planning what kind of hiring or training or redistribution of talent that Baker Hughes needs to fulfill the CEO vision of energizing change. 

Alam explains that “I find it very useful and insightful to get this sort of data” to inform intelligent decisions about workforce planning based on strategic imperatives.  (SkyHive video “AI-powered skill transformation” with Baker Hughes CTO Elie Alam). 

Global retailers Walmart and Unilever partnered with the World Economic Forum, Accenture, and SkyHive on a collaborative, cross-industry pilot program to figure out better, smarter ways of preparing people for new career paths based on their interests and skills.

As noted in the Accenture Future Skills Pilot Report, “Employers need to understand what people actually want to do, what is their purpose and passion, and then support them to embark on unexpected pathways.”

World Economic Forum Example of Reskilling Pathways

This World Economic Forum analysis shows how Machine Operators have transferrable skills that could lead to roles as Laboratory Technicians, Medical Technicians, or Solar Installers.

SkyHive provides an intuitive, enjoyable way for your employees to go beyond only resumes, CVs, or LinkedIn profiles to include education, hobbies, and credentials. 

SkyHive has found that when people self-report on their skills, they impose limitations. They don’t fully realize how skilled they are. On average, individuals identify 11 skills for their particular role. Using SkyHive, however, that number jumps to 34. 

5. Engage your Workforce in the Skills Vision 

Employee engagement strategies are an important part of your organization's skills transformation. 

“The journey of upskilling is not always intuitive for workers or for companies,” explains Walmart SVP of Global Talent, Workforce Strategy, and Organizational Development Amy Goldfinger, as part of the future of work pilot. “It’s not just HR and recruiters who don’t believe the path is real. The workers looking to change jobs don’t believe the path is real.” (Accenture, Future Skills Pilot Report, 2021). 

We have seen SkyHive customers undertake many innovative employee engagement ideas. 

Best Buy offers internships, stretch assignments, and a rotational assignment program called Tidal Wave to enable their workforce to develop new skills and grow their careers. 


Paid internships at Best Buy allow people at the start of their careers to go through an onboarding experience, gain hands-on experience working on real projects, grow their network, and explore career options. 

Stretch assignments

These assignments challenge Best Buy employees to use skills beyond their current level of expertise. They help employees develop new skills, explore different problem-solving techniques, and adapt their ways of thinking.

Stretch assignments and their contributions to Best Buy career development plans extend from store employees to the executive suite. In mentoring Corie Barry as his successor as CEO at Best Buy, Hubert Joly “gave her stretch assignments and she knocked them out of the park.” (Inc. magazine, “5 Lessons for Leaders from the CEO Who Turned Around Best Buy”, September 29, 2023). 

Tidal Wave program

This half year to one year rotational assignment program lets Best Buy employees develop new skills, meet new colleagues, and learn a different part of the business.

Julie Moore describes how once Gainwell employees began seeing ideas for their career paths in SkyHive, “People started really getting the word out. [Asking their peers] ‘Oh, you haven’t done that yet? You can see different paths in the labor market.’ That really helped people add more skills.” (Skyhive video “Boosting Employee Engagement with Skills-based Career Paths” with Julie Moore at Gainwell Technologies).

As part of employee engagement, Moore has posted “hot jobs” as a way for employees to build career paths to internal roles that are in greater demand. (SkyHive blog, “At Gainwell, Mentoring, Learning, and Job-profile Completion Have Risen Sharply”). 

Gainwell’s initial launch with SkyHive reached 10,600 enrolled employees with an average of 22 skills per profile. At that time, employees had already completed more than 600 courses. 

Several months later, Gainwell employees had 36 skills on average per profile. Employees completed 1,567 courses and 257 employees found mentors.  

Congratulations on Serving as Your Organization’s Skills Transformation Leader 

You are making an important impact for the success of your organization and workforce. By shifting the emphasis from jobs to skills, you are driving agility and innovation for your organization while addressing the challenge of a shortage of in-demand skills. 

It’s a big job but you and your team are not alone. We support our customers as your partner, not just your vendor. Upcoming articles in this series will drill down into the ROI of transforming from jobs to skills and cover compliance with the EU AI Act. 

We look forward to talking with you about your current goals and challenges to support your organization’s transformative journey from jobs to skills. 

About SkyHive 

As a mission-oriented certified B Corporation recognized by the World Economic Forum and Gartner for our contributions to the future of work, SkyHive enables organizations and communities worldwide from Best Buy, the Government of Canada, and Collège La Cité to Unilever and Zinnia transition from jobs to skills, backed by strategic partnerships including Accenture, SAP, and Workday and non-profits Opportunity@Work and JobsFirstNYC. Learn more about how to unleash human potential at

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