How ServiceNow Leverages AI to Scale Their Employee Skills Strategy

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp VP of Research Lorrie Lykins, and i4cp senior research analyst Tom Stone, facilitated a conversation with special guest Sarah Tilley, SVP of Global Talent Acquisition at ServiceNow. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • ServiceNow was founded in 2004 and has grown to now have 22,000+ global employees. Their 7,700 global enterprise customers includes 85% of the Fortune 500, and their ecosystem includes over 1,500 partners.
  • Like many organizations, for the past few years ServiceNow has been pivoting to a skills-centric approach to their talent processes. Tilley shared the following provocative industry numbers as part of their "case for skills":
    • 2.5 years is the half-life of technical skills; other skills it is still only 5 years
    • 53% of organizations believe that insufficient data about current skills and capabilities impacts workforce readiness
    • 80% of CEOs say skill gaps threaten their organizations’ growth
    • 43% of organizations already have or are building a skill-based approach to internal mobility
  • A challenge many organizations, including ServiceNow, face when starting such an initiative is that employee skills data has been “built for purpose," and most of the relevant systems (HCM/HRIS, LMS, ATS, etc.) do not talk to each other very well. So creating uniformity is critical for HR leaders to have a single source of truth and accurate reporting. 
  • Tilley emphasized how important the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) for the pivot to treating skills as the new currency in the organization was important for three distinct groups: Employees, Managers, and Leaders.
    • Employees often find it difficult to know what is next in their career at the company; they don't know how to get optimal training/experiences; and are sometimes unaware of relevant skill gaps. What employees need is to be able to clearly see roles that fit their current and future skillset; view training plans/experiences in the flow of their work; and see exactly what skills they have and skills they need.
    • Managers often don't know the skills makeup of their teams; hire talent blindly; and are unable to move talent with agility. What managers need is to be better enabled in building and developing their teams for the future; to hire more effectively; and to move faster in delivering quality for customers.
    • Leaders often don't see skills in today's talent ecosystem; aren't able to readily measure/assess important skill gaps; and have access to narrow and less diverse candidate pools than is optimal. What leaders need is to be able to accurately conduct workforce planning; build out talent with an effective talent development strategy; and leverage a stronger skills foundation to support their DE&I goals.
  • To address these needs and goals, Tilley described the work they have begun at ServiceNow, beginning with establishing their skills taxonomy, skill profiles (including aspirations), and data governance. They can leverage the ServiceNow Skills Intelligence engine and a growing set of apps available to skills-enable all of their talent processes.
  • All of this is in service of employee growth and development, and includes a wide range of elements such as enhanced learning/exams, employee recognition, projects/gigs/mobility, gamification, coaching and mentoring, feedback, and growth plans.
  • It is important for organizations on a journey similar to what ServiceNow is doing to make sure they connect skills with their job architecture. Tilley described four key steps they are undertaking:
    1. Streamline jobs. Clean up, consolidate, and update job families, jobs, and associated job descriptions in Workday, ensuring future-readiness.
    2. Map skills to jobs. Map future-ready skills to job families and jobs.
    3. Build governance model. Define the criteria and cadence to add/update/remove job families, jobs, skills, etc.
    4. Align with business. Validate talent architecture aligned to skills with key business stakeholders.
  • Tilley also shared a maturity curve including where ServiceNow is now, and where they plan to be at the end of 2024. See the downloadable slides above for these details.
  • AI is of course used in many aspects of the above, such as the matching of employees based on their skill profiles with available learning opportunities, mentoring and coaching options, and jobs, gigs, and projects. But Tilley noted many other use cases of AI, including generative AI, in talent acquisition:
    • Generate targeted job descriptions
    • Draft recruitment communications
    • Identify passive candidates
    • Connect candidates to chatbots to find roles
    • Suggest interview questions, and assess them for bias
    • Analyze social media
    • Recommendations for responsive job ad placement
    • Write offer letters

Links to resources shared on the call:

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This series provides a forum for HR leaders to come together, discover, and advance cutting-edge human capital practices. Each week, you’ll hear from executives from some of the largest and most respected organizations in the world.

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