Human Resources

Skills-Based and DEI: Supporting the Employee Journey

July 18, 2023
5 minutes

Skills-Based and DEI go hand in hand

Both skills-based and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been on the rise as a focus of workplaces over the last several years, and for all the right reasons. Creating workplaces that foster a sense of belonging for all people from all walks of life improves all the important metrics. It fosters more creative problem solving, it welcomes diversity of thought and opinion, and it is quite simply, the right thing to do.

A skills-based approach naturally supports DEI in workplaces. A skills-based approach reduces barriers to entry based on race, gender, education, socio-economic status, culture and proximity to professional networks. It also equips people with skills to succeed over the long term. 

Let’s dive into the intersection between a skills-based approach to managing people operations and DEI. Let’s look at some practical ways to implement skills-based practices through the employee journey that promote greater DEI and ultimately create stronger business and organizations where people actually want to work.

What is a skills-based approach?

Skills-based is most easily defined in contrast to a job-based approach, which is the traditional and longstanding approach. 

Job-based is a predefined set of functional responsibilities assigned to a particular worker. How this manifests is essentially in every crevice of the organization’s structure and the employee’s experience there, including:

  • Hierarchy
  • Reporting structure
  • Employee’s position
  • Potential next role(s)
  • Salary bands

Skills-based is a model that places skills, not a job, at the centre of how work is assigned. The full definition from Deloitte is a system where “People can be freed from being defined by their jobs and instead be seen as whole individuals with skills and capabilities that can be fluidly deployed to work matching their interests, as well as to evolving business priorities.”

The intersection of skills-based and DEI

When the focus is on the presence of a skill, and not where or how that skill was acquired, it supports a system that naturally lends itself to addressing those barriers to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

When we focus on the presence of a skill, we remove artificial barriers, like

  • Requirement for degrees
  • Preferences in past employers like Google, Shopify
  • Gaps in resume

More deeply embedded under the surface of these are forces that create obstacles based on socioeconomic class, cultural upbringing and values.

A skills-based approach, at its core, considers skills from everywhere

  • Skills developed in other places (countries, parts of life)
  • Transferable skills
  • Skills obtained from non-traditional post secondary education (micro credentials, bootcamps, certifications)

Applying the Skills-Based Approach to the Employee Journey

Knowing that a skills-based approach supports DEI by removing, or at least lowering, some of the barriers that keep people from employment opportunities or from developing skills that allow them to secure better employment opportunities in the future, this ought to be motivation to look at the employee journey and identify opportunities to implement some skills-based practices.

Overhauling the entire People Operations strategy may not be realistic. And that is OK. But there might be some low hanging fruit or points in the journey where it is possible to make some changes that create meaningful results.

Let’s look at each stage of the employee journey and see where and how a skills-based approach can be applied to it.

Talent Attraction

The hiring process may be the step in the employee journey where there is the lowest hanging fruit to immediately adopt skills-based approaches to promote DEI. 

In a skills-based approach, the steps in talent attraction may look like this:

  • Step 1: Talent acquisition and Manager create a job description based on the needs of the organization and the team. 

    This step could include a market scan to ensure that the skills being sought are in-demand by the market and keeping with the pace of change in the industry, as well as addressing any external forces like technology advancements or policy changes.

  • Step 2: Prioritize the skills. Once the skills have been identified, there should be some agreement around the skills that are most important to the organization and which are nice to have. This could be based on skills gaps or general requirements for the role.

  • Step 3: Identify the skills proficiency. Not all skills need to be possessed equally. Some skills require a high level of mastery while others may only require some basic exposure or working knowledge. That should be identified and documented.

The common proficiency scale for skills is a five point scale. At tilr, we believe in making that proficiency scale clear statements of fact, not rooted in judgment and with clarity about the difference between the different scales.

This is an example of what that framework could look like:


When it comes to assessing and prioritizing candidates, by having a disciplined and laser focus on the candidates’ skills and how tightly those skills match to those that are required for the role can lend to a more DEI process.  

  • Identify candidates skills - When reading resumes, really focus on the skill, and at every opportunity, identify the transferability of those skills onto the skills for the role. Where a skills gap exists, question whether it can be addressed with on the job training and mentorship or whether it disqualifies them for the role.

  • Remove artificial barriers and reduce bias - Those artificial barriers can take different forms, like requiring specific education or frowning upon gaps in the resume. Really consider how those impact a candidate's capability to do the job.


People join organizations with ideas of how they can grow their careers and skills. However, this isn’t typically highlighted during the recruitment phase because candidates are promoting themselves for the position. Once the employee is being onboarded into the organization, this is the time to identify those aspiration skills. 

Additionally, new employees likely have hidden skills, skills that the organization was not made aware of during the recruitment cycle. These are skills that may not be related to the role or industry. They may be skills that were developed from previous roles or careers, or even areas of life outside the professional realm like hobbies or life goals.

Uncovering those hidden and aspirational skills, and finding ways to align them with business goals can be key to supporting an employee's long term growth and development earlier in their tenure. 

Engagement and Development and Career Mobility

High-performing organizations know how to move talent around well. Delegation of work is based on skills rather than job focus, allowing employees to move to leverage their skills. This can take the form of building an internal skills marketplace that reflects every employee. Thereby delegating work based on skills, not jobs and job titles. Moving from a fixed to fluid structure to engagement and mobility will build an internal skills marketplace that reflects every employee. 

This is best supported by a skills inventory that is searchable, including the aspire skills. For this reason, housing the skills inventory in a modern system that can be socialized across the organization and kept up to date makes it more usable and therefore more valuable over time.

Development and Career Mobility and Retention

Skills transparency can be a powerful tool for unlocking development, mobility and retention. By making it clear and known what skills are expected for which roles, employees are empowered to discover and navigate their career path within the organization. Employees have the information to identify their skills gap and, if coupled with the right resources, can discover relevant mentors and self-drive appropriate training and learning. 

This approach lends itself to personalized and targeted training programs. Abandon the one-size-fits-all approach and acknowledge that different training methods work for different people. And that different skills have more and less ideal training solutions. By the lubricant underpinning this movement is an embedded culture of continuous learning, whereby skills are constantly being addressed and learning is the solution for the gaps.

Skills transparency also supports a performance management program that is rooted in metrics and is stripped of some subjectivity. By evaluating employees to the skills required for their role, it can make areas of improvement apparent. It can also open a more constructive feedback discussion while offering clear career paths and trajectories within the organization.

Offboarding / Exit

The two moments that matter most during the offboarding experience are:

  1. Knowledge transfer
  2. Exit interview

But moving from a knowledge transfer model and to a knowledge gained focus, it can improve these moments. Integrate a knowledge gained offboarding assessment to capture tacit knowledge acquired during their employment tenure. This assessment allows the employee to reflect on the skills they have gained and the organization to identify skills that it is losing. This can also be an important feedback cycle to inform the first step in the employee journey - talent attraction. Knowing which skills are being lost can inform what skills the talent acquisition team searches for in the next candidate.


Former employees with positive experiences can become the greatest brand ambassadors and sources for storytelling. Build the organization’s brand by telling stories about the impact your organization had on former employees’ careers and their growth and skills gained. The benefit of a skill-based focus is that existing employees are more likely to be happy alumni if they feel supported and have opportunities to grow within your organization.

The future of Skills-based and DEI

The integration of skills-based practices and DEI in workplaces is not a fleeting trend - it represents a powerful and necessary shift in how we approach people operations and build thriving organizations. By prioritizing skills, it not only opens doors for employees from all backgrounds but it equips people with skills to succeed over the long term. 

Similar posts

Read more great content from the tilr blog!

Get a live demo of tilr!

See what has leading business and talent leaders raving!
Get a Demo!
circle check box
Live 1:1 demo
circle check box
No pressure