What People Get Wrong With Skills Mapping With Kelley Steven-Waiss of ServiceNow

Are you truly aware of what a skill is? Unravel the layers of complexity behind skills mapping with our special guest, Kelley Steven-Waiss, Chief Transformation Officer at ServiceNow. In this enlightening discussion, we’ll navigate the intricacies of skills mapping, examine common misconceptions, and understand why it’s vital to get the definition right. Grappling with the shift to a skills-centric operating model, we’ll shed light on potential hurdles and the importance of integrating skills into our career architecture.

We’ll also reflect on the transformation of work lexicon. As newer generations redefine work, we’ll explore the fascinating concept of a ‘jungle gym career’. This is where skills are seen as currency and career advancement is not merely about promotions. Kelley will share her valuable insights on how data and AI can empower employees to take control of their careers, and we’ll debate the shortcomings of traditional performance management.

Finally, we’ll scrutinize the potential for bias in the skills mapping process and how access to technology and education can level the playing field. Challenging the concept of skill expiration dates, we emphasize the importance of continuous learning and growth. The ever-changing job market underscores the increasing importance of skills mapping in the recruitment process. Tune in to this engaging conversation with Kelley Steven-Waiss and emerge with a newfound understanding of the complex world of skills mapping.

Listening Time: 26 minutes

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Kelley Steven-Waiss
Founder & CEO ServiceNow

Technology and business leader with more than 25 years of executive management and consulting experience in human resources, change management and corporate communications. Former Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) and Chief Human Resources Officer for HERE Technologies.

Co-Author of The Inside Gig: How Sharing Untapped Talent Across Boundaries Unleashes Organizational Capacity, a new book that will help companies unlock the hidden skills within their organizations to maximize their talent, increase agility and thrive. Released April 2020.


What People Get Wrong With Skills Mapping With Kelley Steven-Waiss of ServiceNow

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Kelley on from ServiceNow, and our topic or subject of the of today’s call is what people get wrong with skills mapping. We’ve been talking about skills for, I’m pretty much forever. We’ve called it different things, but I can’t wait to learn from Kelley and kinda get her take on how we’re doing it wrong, but also, and we’ll probably mix in some where we’re doing [00:01:00] it right as well.

Kelley, would you please do us a favor and introduce yourself and ServiceNow?

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Sure. My name is Kelley Steven-Waiss and I am a Chief Transformation Officer at ServiceNow. I was the founder and former c E O of Hitch Works, Inc. Which was acquired by ServiceNow last June, which was a B2B SaaS platform for internal talent mobility that used skills intelligence.

Prior to that was a C H R O for 13 years. So know the recruiting and talent acquisition space pretty well. And wrote a book in 2020 called The Inside Gig, which was about standing up a new operating model for talent. So very excited to be here.

William Tincup: Wonderful. All right. Let’s jump right into this, what people get wrong with skills mapping.

Let’s just start, let’s start with the we’ll start with the negative, of course. Like what where do you see, especially in transformation, where do you see

Kelley Steven-Waiss: where we get wrong? First of all, skills mapping is really complex because.[00:02:00] I’m not sure we all have even defined what skills mean in our organization.

So let’s start with the basics. Start with the basic because I think we all think skills are soft skills and hard skills, and we put these definitions around them, and then there’s competencies and what are the differences between competencies and skills. And then we have core values and other leadership attributes that we wanna combine.

So the first challenge is that, Defining it. There’s also challenges in skills mapping in, integration with other systems because every technology system from the ATS to the LX PS to the point solutions will say that they offer skills mapping, but they offer skills mapping. For a very specific intent, which might be hiring or might be learning, but those systems often don’t talk to themselves.

So skills management is often so siloed that employees and their managers really struggle with all [00:03:00] these disconnected point solution and fragmented processes, so it can be quite clunky. And impersonal.

William Tincup: So the first place to start is agreement on the definition of terms. So what is a skill? Versus, again, you and I grew up in a world of competency models and things like that. So it’s okay what is a skill today? And and again, defining the invisible, but making it visible and making everyone agree to what that is. Is that right?

Kelley Steven-Waiss: That’s right. Get the definitions right.

And then I’d say this, the second piece of it is that the way that skills can be leveraged is really important as well, because there’s skill to skill relationships. There’s skill to role relationships and role to role relationships. Now what do we care? We care because if we’re going to talk about career pathing and we’re going to surface.

People that are hidden figures that we don’t know, we have into non-obvious career [00:04:00] paths, not just the linear career paths. Then we need to really understand those skill relationships, which means we probably have to do some career architectural work in the background to incorporate skills. So there are definitely some foundational elements that we often forget.

We go, we get so excited about the shiny ball. Let’s implement this skills technology. But wait a minute, the systems don’t talk to each other. Wait a minute. We haven’t done our career architecture in the background. We don’t, because we haven’t even defined what skills means to our organization. Then I think there’s a third prong, which is what’s our strategy?

Are we gonna move our organization to a skills centric operating model versus a one based on jobs? So those are three major ones.

William Tincup: And what’s interesting about moving from skills to jobs is skills can be a a grouping for jobs, right? It can be different for different different recipe for different jobs.

But it’s gotta be [00:05:00] as you’ve already pointed out, it’s gotta be all the way through the organization. It’s gotta be from sourcing all the way to outplacement, which means that it’s gotta go through comp and performance management and succession, everything. It’s, there is no part of HR where it wouldn’t touch in if you’re, if youre transitioning.

So it’s really interesting to me cuz I hear a lot of people talk about skills-based hiring and I’m like, yeah, that’s better than not. Based basing your hiring on some skills, but then it drops off as you well know, like on in the onboarding process, we’re trying to connect some, career pathways or training modules, et cetera.

It’s okay, are those based on skills?

Kelley Steven-Waiss: That’s right. And not only, the it not all roles are created equal. And then if you think about a software engineer, You if that’s how you built the career architecture, there’s probably a set of skills for a front end, a back end, a data engineer where they have some sets of skills that are similar and they have ones that are very specific to that role.

So if you [00:06:00] haven’t done that work ahead of time. You’re gonna get tangled up in personalized, customized offers in the flow of work. It’s gonna be very difficult to do that. And today, there really isn’t a great solution for even applying skills in a way that enables leaders to take action. So you mentioned that co you know, cohesive ability to pull skills across, what learning and comp and everyone else is doing.

Skills mapping requires that. The technology connects employees and managers and the business leaders across departments with the same information. And the opportunities they need when they need it. And so with this, companies can be a lot more intentional about developing their workforce and talent solutions that they can be more customized and personalized, which we know the generations coming up through the workforce are going to demand.

And planning for the future. So now we talk about succession planning. That also has to, we used to sit in room, look at, org charts. Now [00:07:00] we’re


William Tincup: Yeah. Yeah. And circle the people that we really liked. I really like Tammy. She’s

Kelley Steven-Waiss: awesome. And that wasn’t biased at all, was it?

William Tincup: No, she, I like Tammy.

She’s awesome, really great. I have no idea if she’s gu or has the experience or even desires to do the job, but, I like Tammy. Let me ask you a question about what you’re, as you overlook how the profession of hr, when they say, or when when they hear skills mapping, is it mapping all the way to what we have and what we need?

Is it more from a workforce planning perspective or is it like what you’re, what you’ve been talking about where it’s okay, everything, if we’re gonna do this, Everything actually has to, it’s has to be from leadership from the board. It’s gotta be all the way throughout the org. It’s gotta permeate the entire organization.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Yes. I think it’s really starts with mindset. I think it, it’s also about understanding. Why it’s important, I think first is that, CEOs and leaders needed [00:08:00] to find a way to realize the full potential of their workforce, right? But if they don’t visibility to what the workforce is and then they’re in trouble.

I think employees, most, I think that one of the data points from SHRM was that 76% of employees say they’re more likely to stay. If they’re in a company that allows them to continue to learn and grow. I think the other thing is that skills are the new currency, live retention and business outcomes.

Whether you’re a leader, a manager, an employee, I. I think skills enable a lot more movement. And so to your point about workforce planning, yes. Better deployment of the right people to the right work at the right time. And then organizations need the technology to enable that. You know how.

How can they hire the right people at the right, with the skills. That’s the agility side. How do they, ID the right people to the right work? That’s insights. Then there’s, growth dynamic career pathing, and then here’s the the cliffhanger is on equity. To your point [00:09:00] about I like Betty Sue or I like promoter is probably not leveraging skills.

Ha gives us the ability to be a lot more. Data driven. Yeah. Control and not biased.

William Tincup: It’s interesting because I’ve looked at skills for a long time. I’ve looked them at as small lake or even a river where there’s breadth and depth and there’s fluidity to skills. And I think a lot of people look at skills as finite.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: No, definitely not right. Organizations, people don’t stop moving and neither organizations and neither do roles. And I think one of the benefits of skills mapping is that it’s not static, the old of going into a conference room with a bunch of managers is like a dental exam, let’s.

Duke it out for what a software engineer one is across the entire organization and the loudest person wins to, Hey, let’s really effectively figure out what that [00:10:00] skills are going. People don’t stand still. We have to have a way to capture and visualize. How a human being can learn and grow and change, and if we believe that sort of Allah Carol Dweck at Stanford’s Growth Mindset, then.

People can move around and they can be reimagined. And so I think that is why I mentioned about mindset is so important because if we have the mindset, if we have the leadership alignment that you believed human beings are not fixed, and that by the way, the external roles, what a software engineer looks like, needs to know today is not what they’re gonna need to know tomorrow.

So we have to have a way to facilitate that, a flexible system to incorporate that.

William Tincup: So what’s your take on micro skills? I wanted you get your take on transferable skills and micro skills and things where it’s, like I was talking to somebody the other day and it was more of a, there was a marketing operations [00:11:00] role.

And I’m like, if you’re really good at marketing operations, you should look at recruiting operations, sales, operations, hr, operations, et cetera, because you’re looking at data and if you have the ability to look at data and tell stories, et cetera, some of the stuff’s transferable. That’s right. It blew ’em away.

It was like it really shouldn’t be that mind blowing.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: But there is, so the, I guess the constraint for human being there’s a constraint on how many people can, that’s the Dunbar number of 150, right? But also your own graph of the relationships you can make between one job and another.

And the reason why technology can empower that is because. Ai, when it comes to skills mapping, can graph all the potential relationships, non-obvious. Relationships between micro skills not let alone like skill domains. Okay. Counting, we can make assumptions of some things that you know, but there’s probably.

A correlation [00:12:00] between accounting and procurement that we don’t, we can’t graph in our human mind. And and plus allowing for the flexibility of how those roles emerge, how different skills and technologies emerge so that graphing capability is really empowered by ai.

William Tincup: I love that. I can see that because it’s gonna, it’s AI done well.

It, it reveals things that we can’t see. That’s right. So I lo I love that the lexicon of jobs is troubling. I almost think it’s almost outdated with most millennials, if not all of Gen Z, because they don’t say jobs. They say gigs. Oh.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: No, and think about if you were to describe your everybody, and I can to a person say, does your job description just describe your job?

And people are like, what? I’ve never even read that. There is one. Wait a minute. There is one. So I think that people it’s real. A job is an [00:13:00] amalgamation of projects generally, right? Who ask somebody. And I think the generation that’s coming up is going to want. A jungle gym career, it’s gonna be more about progression versus promotion and hey, what are the top skills that are important to this organization?

And skills being the currency. If I’m willing to upskill or reskill and progress by putting those tools in my toolkit, will you pay me more? Will I pr, will I progress here? And I think that’s gonna enable this jungle gym idea versus going up a ladder. And so jobs will be passe, resumes will be passe.

And honestly, the people that are go-getters that build a muscle to learn, unlearn, and relearn will be the most powerful part of the most powerful people in the workforce.

William Tincup: That flexibility and adaptability. And some of it’s just people also taking in that, that you [00:14:00] don’t I think I used to have this bit where every five years you have to just tear down what you know and you relearn.

Just, okay whatever you thought you knew, throw it out the window and just move on. It’s probably much, much smaller than five years now. So I love that. I love the. Putting it on the employee and a candidate to a certain degree of saying, part of this career progression is you wanting to progress, which means you’ve gotta want it, it’s there.

And again, if that company doesn’t provide it, another company will. And in way you’ve described it, it reminds me of the the old books Choose Your Own Adventure. Where you get to a certain point and you’re like, eh, I wanna go this way. Which I’m envious of both millennials and Gen Z for that because they look at a company differently than I did.


Kelley Steven-Waiss: right. And I think that one of the things we have today that we didn’t have 30 years ago is that we can give employees, Along with the [00:15:00] company, better insights. So we can use data or AI to say, Hey, did you have this, capability you’re probably not even thinking about that relates to this opportunity.

And you can either take that and do something with it in a project applied in the flow, while you’re working. Or you can go in this direction or that direction. W would you like to connect with this person who might be interesting to you? And so this almost consumerization of these solutions and giving people better insights can give them ultimately a better experience at work.

William Tincup: That’s what I wanted to ask you. Per performance management in general fails, in my opinion just me fails because it’s company centric. Meaning the real reason that we have performance management that was created was to get more yield out of employees. Very little of it has to do with actually making employees better now.

Yeah. That might anger some folks when they hear that, but [00:16:00] that’s just been my experience, that it’s a tool to make leadership and management understand how to get more. Now what you’re describing, What I think might be really interesting from an organizational perspective is make skills mapping employee centric so That’s right.

So that they’re bought in. It’s not one monitoring the other and maybe and giving them insight, et cetera, all that stuff. But it’s like they’re doing it for their reasons, which is That’s right.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Fine. But you have to give them exchange of val I’m not gonna share my data with you unless there’s exchange of value.

And much so what’s shifted is that we’re not saying, It’s not a one to many system and okay it you’re just a mess. All of you are just a big mess, right? It’s now about who are you, what do you want to do, how can I make you productive? And the exchange of value is while you’re here.

Our new contract, our new [00:17:00] deal is that you get to learn and grow. And that is a complete pivot from the way it used to be. But we had a leadership model that fit the work at the time. We had a hierarchy that fit the work at the time. What has happened in Industrial Revolution 4.0 is that and the pandemic, thank you as a tailwind is we went, oh crap, that doesn’t work anymore.

If we’re gonna attract talent to our organization, the new deal is it’s gonna be personalized, customized, we need to know who you are, what you like, where you wanna go And then our job is to give you the tools and resources to do that. And in return we get your gracious productivity and that we’re lucky to get.

That’s right.

William Tincup: And it’s fast. That was the only other thing I would add to that is it’s ill, oh, by the way, it’s in seconds and minutes, not days, weeks, hours, all that other stuff. One of the things I wanted to ask you was about competency models and the reason I wanted to ask you about this is, When I studied [00:18:00] competency models at companies, they were gorgeous.

Like the people that actually really invested in ’em, wonderful models, but never really fully implemented. Like it was like I make this joke about the Communist Manifesto, but it’s like when you read the Communist Manifesto it’s gorgeous, but you add humanity to it and it blows apart.

And like I would see competency models. I can’t name the companies, but when I see company models, I’m like, this is gorgeous. This is absolutely gorgeous. But I didn’t see it in practice.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Think about it this way, like this is a very common HR problem. My point that to go full circle the beginning of our conversation, nobody can defines these the same way.

The way I think about it is that skills are more transferable. So skills like programming or project management or transferable between companies or roles or projects or tasks where competencies are loaded with factors. Related to roles like performance [00:19:00] expectations, attitudes and behaviors, making them non-transferable between jobs or collaborative projects.

So it’s, I think skills open up a lot more flexibility for us. I think they open a lot more inclusivity for us. And they’re also not fixed. Somebody can throw a pro in a proficiency, in one skill, they can also grow a cluster of skills. And so I think it just gives us a ton more flexibility.

William Tincup: Two things. One, one is, oh, a hundred years ago I owned a web development company. It was at the beginning of kind of the commercialized part of the internet. And when I’d do a project for somebody, I’d say, okay, so this is. This is what we’re gonna do. And they’d say, cool. And then at that point it’s gonna be done.

I’m like, oh no. Oh no. There’s, there is no done. It just keeps going. We just, we’re just gonna keep reiterating every, nine months, 18 months, whatever the bid is. But no, it’s, there’s, there is a, no, [00:20:00] there’s a, there is no relentless pursuit of, you’ll never get there. And it was, I knew, like when I was saying it, I could tell in people’s faces like they’ve been used to these projects where there was a beginning, middle, and end.

And I fear in some level that skills mapping is like that for a lot of folks in recruiting and in HR where they think there’s a done there and I don’t perceive, I perceive that this is you’re, there is no done, but you’re the expert. What’s your take on that?

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Yeah, I think I think that human beings are never done.

I. We go to infinity and beyond to use buzz, light ears. Love it. A great phrase, right? I think we need to start thinking about ourselves that way. I thought, I was gonna die in the C H R O job. That was the end for me, because that would be typically the end, right? You’ve, you’re in a career for 13 years.

You rose to the top of that game. You’ll change industries maybe cuz you can, cuz you’re in [00:21:00] a function, but you’re at the end, right? And in truth, I don’t think people’s careers, I think people will have second acts and third acts. And if they’ve developed the muscle, as I say, to learn, unlearn, and relearn, which will be the new deal, the people will have very different, what we call today, careers.

They’ll have a portfolio of careers and I think about my dad who he was, he grew up in sort of the nursery and hardware business, but then he went into like film or my mom, who was in a sedentary job, a bookkeeper, and later went into law enforcement, like something totally different.

People, I think we just need to be our human and realize that we can grow and change, and now our org structures and operating models need to account for it, and our technology needs to enable it.

William Tincup: To infinity and beyond. I’ve I’ve had this argument with a couple of [00:22:00] people. It seems in, it seems redundant because infinity is never ending.

So how can there be a beyond infinity? But, s aside from that and I’ll let you kind noodle on that for a little bit. Skills and bias, the relationship between the two. Can skills be I remember years ago, a hundred years ago, when people would say they’re colorblind. I’m like yeah, that’s actually offensive.

To actually say that you don’t see the person in front of you is it’s actually offensive. And so I don’t think you can, I don’t think humans can be colorblind and in the sense of race or other things. Do you see this being a problem with skills? Can we rid, can we rid ourselves of bias by using skills?

Can we lessen the bias or do you see

Kelley Steven-Waiss: the bias? You can open up more opportunity to see people you wouldn’t have seen before. Cause you can level the playing field by containing the requirements, right? Where I think bias comes in is [00:23:00] access to education to actually achieve some of those skills. May inherently bias the process because somebody may not have been able to have the access to the type of education or options to be in STEM or something else early on.

I think that world, the world is changing, however, because for example, when I was sitting in a car and the guy driving me to the next location was teaching himself to code. And he didn’t have the education to be a software engineer, but the access now had been leveled, like where he could just learn online and in combination with a lot of companies saying, yeah we don’t really need the degrees, cuz with the talent shortage is so high and we’ve gotta lower the barrier to entry.

I think these next, generations, there’s gonna be greater access when it comes to AI and bias. So actual matching [00:24:00] process. Yeah. Our models are essentially trained by humans, right? Human input. So I don’t think we can amp it out. No,

William Tincup: it’s, we not for years. And maybe never forever.

It’s just I wanted to get your last question is do, should we think about skills and expiration dates? Should we think of somebody’s accomplished a skill or gotten a skill or whatever, reached a skill level, let’s say, should we like, like there should be a death clock on that.

Okay, that skill that you’ve learned, it’s already starting to deteriorate.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: It’s like my coach said in track you can always get better.

William Tincup: Ah P. There always pb. Okay? Okay.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Yeah. There will always be somebody better. There will always be somebody that’s slightly behind you, but this constant never ending improvement in combination with what today’s AI is tomorrow.

It’s gonna evolve and change the shelf life of skills is gonna be like three to five years max, right? So there might be a micro skill [00:25:00] attached to it that you already know, but you got to really learn and you gotta be willing to learn and grow all the

William Tincup: time. Oh, I love it. I love it. So first of all, I could talk to you forever but.

Turns out you have a job. Kelley, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Kelley Steven-Waiss: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Truly enjoyed

William Tincup: it. Absolutely, and thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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