Building a Strong Foundation: The Power of Skills-Based Job Frameworks

17 Oct, 2023 •

Building a Strong Foundation: The Power of Skills-Based Job Frameworks

Defining, Assessing, and Preparing for Talent Management in the Modern Workforce

We hear about skills-based hiring, skills-based learning, and skills-based organizations everywhere. But what does it really mean, and how can organizations harness its potential effectively? As HR and talent acquisition professionals, the transition to skills-based practices can be a game-changer, promoting clarity, consistency, and fairness in talent acquisition while also strategically benefiting the organization. In this series of five deepening blog posts, we will explore the journey towards skills-based HR practices across various stages of the talent cycle. To kick things off, let’s start by unraveling the concept and taking a closer look.

Defining Skills: The First Step

To embark on the path of skills-based HR practices, organizations must first define what they mean by “skills.” This foundational step creates a common language for communication and sets the stage for success. What constitutes a skill, and what doesn’t? What challenges may arise when defining skills within your organization? What types of skills exist, and which ones are crucial for your specific needs? The answers to these questions are essential for both the present and the future, as they help identify which skills are currently present within your organization and which ones are needed. By creating skills-based job frameworks, organizations lay a solid foundation for implementing skills-based practices in the future.  To establish skills-based job frameworks within your organization, here are three key steps you can follow:

  1. Define and Categorize Skills: Begin by defining the skills that are relevant to your organization and industry. Identify both hard skills (technical competencies) and soft skills (interpersonal, communication, leadership, etc.) that are essential for various roles. Categorize these skills into different groups or clusters based on their relevance to job functions. For example, in a technology company, you might categorize skills into programming languages, project management, teamwork, and problem-solving. This categorization helps create a structured framework for skills assessment. Connecting your framework to job databases such as O*NET and ESCO helps to build a solid and data-based foundation.
  2. Conduct Skills Assessments: Once you’ve defined and categorized the skills, implement skills assessments as part of your recruitment and talent management processes. These assessments can take various forms, including written tests, practical exercises, behavioral interviews, or even cognitive assessments like those provided by BrainsFirst. Assessing skills systematically allows you to objectively evaluate candidates’ capabilities and match them with the skills required for specific roles. Moreover, it helps identify gaps in the skills of current employees, enabling targeted training and development initiatives.
  3. Regularly Update and Refine Frameworks: The job market and industry requirements are constantly evolving. To maintain the relevance of your skills-based job frameworks, regularly update and refine them. Stay informed about emerging skills and trends in your field, and adapt your frameworks accordingly. Seek input from employees, hiring managers, and industry experts to ensure that your frameworks align with current and future needs. Additionally, consider technology solutions that can assist in tracking and managing skill data efficiently, making it easier to keep your frameworks up-to-date.


By following these three steps, you can establish robust skills-based job frameworks that not only aid in talent acquisition but also contribute to strategic workforce planning and development within your organization. Such frameworks provide clarity, consistency, and fairness while ensuring that your workforce remains agile and adaptable in an ever-changing business landscape. This framework is the most crucial part. Skills can be nothing more than words. You need to assign meaning to them. You can have the most amazing skills-taxonomy or skills-management platform, but one thing will never change: If you put trash in, you get trash out. No technology or software can help you with that.

Brain Skills: A Unique Approach

At BrainsFirst, we’ve developed a unique approach to defining skills that can be a game-changer in this context. We identify and classify the cognitive building blocks that underlie human performance, which we refer to as “brain skills.” These cognitive skills are fundamental for tasks ranging from making a cup of coffee to executing complex recruitment campaigns. What sets our approach apart is that we’ve linked these cognitive building blocks to vast job databases like O*NET and ESCO, which encompass thousands of occupations and their corresponding skills, competencies, interests, and knowledge fields. In essence, we provide a comprehensive language for discussing skills, bridging the gap between cognitive abilities, an individual’s potential, and their actual skills.

Hiring for Performance and Potential

When it comes to hiring, candidates often list a variety of skills on their resumes, but verifying these claims can be challenging. This is where skills assessments become invaluable. If you want to ensure that a candidate possesses specific skills essential for excelling in a role—especially hard skills like Java programming—utilizing skills assessments becomes crucial. This approach is referred to as “hiring for performance.” However, it’s equally important to assess a candidate’s potential for acquiring new skills on the job, particularly if there’s room for growth. In this scenario, an individual’s cognitive profile plays a pivotal role as it reveals their natural talents and predicts which skills they can easily acquire and which might present more significant challenges. Here, we’re talking about “hiring for potential.”

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Skills

At BrainsFirst, our expertise lies in helping organizations prepare for the skills they’ll need tomorrow, not just today. By assessing cognitive abilities and potential, we assist organizations in identifying candidates who not only possess the skills required for immediate performance but also exhibit the capacity to adapt and acquire new skills as the business landscape evolves.

Embracing Skills-Based Practices

In conclusion, building skills-based job frameworks is a crucial step toward enhancing talent acquisition and organizational effectiveness. By defining and classifying skills effectively, organizations can foster transparency, consistency, and fairness while making strategic decisions based on current performance and future potential. With tools like BrainsFirst, organizations can navigate the skills-based landscape with confidence, ensuring they’re prepared for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s job market. Embracing skills-based practices is not just a trend; it’s the future of HR and talent acquisition.

Interested in learning more about our approach to skills-based talent management? Book a meeting with our brain experts and stay tuned for the next blog in our series, where we’ll delve deeper into the practice of skills-based selection.